Cablevision Blurred

When I'm as sick as I have been this week, I really depend on recorded TV. It's the movies; I end up watching them in the wee hours as I hack and wheeze my way through another sleepless night.

Sometimes I'm lucky: Crimson Tide, one of my favorite flicks, happened to be showing on a preview channel Wednesday morning. So, when I was battling sore ribs and a powerful cough at 3 a.m. the next night, the crew of the Alabama was there to comfort me.

More often than not, however, I'll suffer though bad reruns, paid programming, or a flick that could put a hyperactive monkey to sleep. And that's why I wait breathlessly for the advent of video on demand.

Unfortunately, it may take a while. Earlier this month, Cablevision (NYSE: CVC  ) decided to delay the rollout of a system that would allow content to be recorded remotely, on its system, without the need for a set-top recording device such as those made by DVR pioneer and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) .

At issue is a lawsuit brought by a consortium of Hollywood's heavy hitters. Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , Vivendi's (NYSE: V  ) Universal Studios, Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) Paramount Studios, and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) 20th Century Fox argue that the system amounts to video on demand. If so, they believe additional broadcast fees must be paid to distributors.

For its part, Cablevision has fired back with a countersuit. Who's right? I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea. But I consider the characterization of Cablevision's planned approach -- which, essentially, moves the TiVo from your living room to a server room -- as video on demand to be utterly ludicrous. Real video on demand means buying and watching whatever you want, whenever you want it. Cablevision only wants to help you record what the broadcasters air so that you can watch it when you want.

My fear in all this is that VOD, as video on demand is known, has been dealt a crippling blow over the short term. Yet that may be good news for TiVo shareholders. The DVR maker has yet to book a deal for video on demand, though such an arrangement has long been rumored. (Remember the budding partnership with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) ?) More time could help management craft a workable strategy for catering to VOD-hungry consumers like me.

It had better. Cablevision may be stalled now, but that won't last. And once consumers realize that they can get everything they want without owning a TiVo, they'll stop buying. Time to get on the go, TiVo.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks video on demand really is the Next Big Thing. But he's been wrong before. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out which stocks he owns by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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