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Customers look back with cable

Nov. 12, 2010

By Dorian Davis

Time Warner has introduced a new feature to its Central Texas customers called Look Back, which allows customers to view television programs that have been aired in the last three days. The new feature, released Monday, gives relief to those dependent on digital video recording (DVR) or anyone who has ever missed a television show.

Customers of Time Warner's digital cable service won't require any new hardware other than the receiver box already issued to them, an electronic device that connects to the television and is used to receive digital cable. Customers will not be charged more to receive the service or be required to subscribe to Time Warner's DVR service.

According to a Time Warner Cable customer service representative, the feature is currently available on 22 channels, with a select number available in high-definition format. The list of channels is expected to grow in coming months.

Josh Wucher, a journalist for Waco's KWTX-TV, says Look Back will be a nice complement to his DVR service, which he feels is not always dependable.

"Sometimes I may forget to record something," Wucher said. "Occasionally it will malfunction, doesn't record or something may go wrong with the station or channel to where I don't get it anyway."

Wucher said that with all the shows he records, he often has to perform maintenance on his DVR to clear out unwanted or old content in order to make space available for new recordings.

"If I can watch other shows without having to record them and take up space, then that would help," he said.

Time Warner Cable is instructing customers to use the service by operating the receiver's remote control and hitting the "select" button to bring up the enhanced menu.

From there, selecting Look Back on the television screen will bring up the required menu. Shows are categorized by the date they were broadcast.

Time Warner Cable is hoping customers do not confuse Look Back with Time Warner's OnDemand service, a library of more than 10,000 shows and movies available anytime to customers with a receiver, with some content requiring a fee.

"Some of the OnDemand programming has a cost associated with it. A lot of the time, it doesn't have the episode that played today. So this would be a more immediate feature," the representative said.

Unlike DVR, customers will be unable to fast-forward through programs, forcing them to watch advertisements. However, it still retains the pause and

rewind functions.

Galveston senior Oscar Boleman appreciates the ability to fast-forward through shows he's recorded using his DVR, citing the time he saves for other tasks.

"It allows me to watch in a more study-friendly fashion," Boleman said.

Critics believe Look Back is Time Warner's response to the growing alternatives to their digital cable service, which is listed at $55.99 for the Waco area.

While it's still a more expensive choice over online subscription based services such as Hulu and Netflix, it will offer instant access to content instead of having to wait a select number of days for it to become available.

"I can't imagine how much ad revenue and audience Time Warner and cable companies are missing out by people going to Hulu and services like that," Boleman said.

Boleman said cable companies like Time Warner are becoming desperate to compete with online subscription services, so they're looking to add new features such as Look Back.

"I don't see cable as having that much of a future five to 10 years from now. It's going to evolve into the same thing as land-line telephones that a few folks will still use as a backup," he said.