How viewers are taking more control of their televisions

August 12, 2004|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN STAFF

On Demand, which is available only to digital cable subscribers, gives viewers access via the internet to a library of 1,500 hours of programs, ranging from episodes of HBO's The Sopranos, to Pilates workouts and local newscasts. Many programs are available at no charge, with access to certain programs from premium channels priced from $2.95 to $4.95.

Netflix subscribers, for a monthly fee of $21.95, have access to a library of 20,000 movies and TV shows on DVD. Customers go online to order titles, and the DVD is mailed to their home or office. Unlike renting DVDs from a video store, there are no late fees, and one need never leave home.

TiVo is the brand name for the best-known digital video recorder. With one click, TiVo can be programmed to record a whole season of a series. It also automatically records and stores 30 minutes of whatever program is on the screen. This allows viewers to pause the set, leave the room for up to 30 minutes, and return without missing a beat. New TiVo boxes start at about $99.00 plus a $12.95 monthly subscription fee.

The DVRs being offered by such cable giants as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications are intended to provide the same recording and storage capabilities as TiVo for $9.95 a month.

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