Comcast blocking fast forwarding ?


Staff member
Looks like it is finally starting to happen. Lost Remote is reporting that one of their users was unable to timeshift (forward, etc.) during a HD broadcast of American Idol (using a Comcast HD-DVR). Other people have reported that they had similar problems as well during several episodes of 24. The screenshots seem to indicate that this is 'by design' and not a bug.

It's only a matter of time before all Cable companies will tell us what we can or can't do with our equipment, so enjoy timeshifting while it lasts.
Having not used a PVR I have what may be a dumb question but are you saying if they didn't block it you could fast forward through the whole show as it's airing?
To timeshift live TV, you tell your PVR (Replay, TiVo, cable box DVR, PC) to start recording a specific channel. Many of them will do this automatically if you are watching the channel through the PVR. If it's automatic, some have limitations like keeping only the previous 30 minutes. Others will fill the hard drive if necessary.

One thing you can do with this is pause live TV. Say you need to go do something away from the TV. You press pause. The PVR continues to record the program for you. Then, when you return you press play. The PVR will play from the recorded video instead of the live program. You can then fast-forward through this. Want to watch that crucial play in the game (or moment in the halftime show) over again? Just rewind.

Many people use this to watch normal TV. You start the PVR going when the program starts. But, you don't start watching for 15 minutes or so and then, when you do start, you watch from the beginning of the program. You can now fast forward (until you catch up to real time) or rewind to your heart's content. It makes it really easy to skip commercials (especially if you have a Replay with commercial advance).
yeah what smee said :) Timeshifting is one of the biggest reasons PVR's are doing so well, just do the math. Imagine being able to skip all commercials whenever you watch a TV show, you are talking about not spending thousands of hours of your life on watching ads.
As an aside, I personally rarely ever timeshift live TV the way I've described above. Aside from PCs which can do it, I also have a Replay so it's very easy for me to do. Even though I don't use it very much, I do think it's a really useful technology (so anything that limits the ability to do it is not good).

I do, however, record programs and watch them later. When I'm doing that, I will certainly fast forward through commercials (if I'm not busy doing something else while watching, then I let the commercials run :) ).
So if Comcast is blocking fast forward and you pause the live show you can not fast forward back to the current action, this in essence make the whole time shifting nearly useless other than the ability to pause right?
From what I can tell, they are blocking any timeshifting functionality during these shows, as you can't even pause the live TV feed.
Ouch. I;'m guessing it's only in the HDD/PVRs so far. We live by time shifting, especially with a baby in the house that may need attention at anytime during a show.
I've read over at AVS (and maybe here too, can't remember) that some shows are flagged so you can't record them - I thought that just meant recording to save for later, but Iguess - in some cases - it means no recording at all, not even the "cache"-like activity that pausing/skipping around "live" TV invovles.
It would be more benificial to all - us and the greedy hollywoods - if they just put an expiration date on the HD broadcasts... You can record whatever you want on your D/PVR, but you have to watch it within X time or it deletes itseld (X will be different for each program and determined by the broadcaster).

Anyway, I think I'll go read the "HD Flag" thread here that I haven't had a chance to read yet.
JR brought it up and I guess I'd like to discuss it further, but is this the result of the HD flag that's been causing such a buzz?

If so is there any word from people using other PVRs or PC based PVRs not having this same problem because their hardware doesn't support the flag?
This is a choice made by Comcast, and it can only be enforced if the software/hardware supports this (which is why only their HD-DVR is having this 'problem'), in most cases, the broadcast flag is still ignored.
I haven't seen this on my DirecTivos yet. Or maybe I haven't been watching/recording shows that are effected? IAC, I does defeat the purpose of having a PVR. You know that after one network or show does it the others will quickly follow.
It looks like it is Comcast telling its HD-DVR equipment to do this, don't think this affects anyone else.
I sure hope this dosent continue on the path thats started! The whole reason I love my Tivo so much is being able to forward through the commercials!

Rupp, to try to make it a bit simpler to understand, Whenever I have a show thats gonna be on that I know I am going to watch, I will schedule it to record. I will wait till its been on at least 15 minutes, then start watching it from the beginning. In the mean time, you can channel surf, catch up on CNN ect, all while it is recording in the background. Then when I start to watch it, When a commercial comes on, just simply FF through it.

Of course the real power is not "Live TV", but telling the Tivo all of my favorite shows. Then they are there when I have the time to watch them. Theres no more "It's Thursday night, I cant go do "whatever" because I will miss a favorite show. I have gone a few days many times, without watching TV. When I do get a chance to sit down and watch, I have all of the programs that I like there and waiting. Its typical for me to sit down on Saturday morning, and watch Star Trek Enterprise, BattleStar Galactica, Discovery Magazine and CSI, back to back, with no commercials. It has completely stopped the "Gee! Theres nothing on that I want to watch" problem :angry:

As a backup, I schedule season passes for all sorts of tech shows, stuff on TLC and discovery. So no matter when I sit down to watch TV, there is ALWAYS something that I would like to watch, commercial free.