TiVo, clock slew, and the margin of error

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If you use your TiVo a lot, you may have noticed that the clock doesn't always line up exactly with the schedule that the broadcasters use. If they're off by a minute or two, you tend to lose a minute or two at the front or the end of the program. TiVo has a sort of sloppy mechanism for dealing with this: you can tell it to record a few extra minutes. Unfortunately, it does this globally for that season pass, which interferes when there is another program that you want to record afterward--even on the same channel. It's particularly annoying when the next program is on the same station. You end up having to watch the next episode of Law & Order to get the last 2 minutes of the previous episode.

Without loss of generality, let's consider the situation at the end of a program. There are basically three situations:

  1. The TiVo isn't recording anything afterward.
  2. The TiVo is recording something on the same channel afterward.
  3. The TiVo is recording something on a different channel afterward.

Now, the first case is easy: have the TiVo automatically record a few minutes extra at the end of the program. Then, if the clock is a bit off, the rest of the program is just there. This chews up a little bit of disk space, but a 5 minute buffer would consume less than 10% on hour-long programs, which seems like a small price to pay. And of course you could make it an option for people who are really space conscious.

The second case is only slightly more difficult. The last 5 minutes of Law & Order episode 973 (from 10:00 to 10:05) is being recorded as the first 5 minutes of episode 974. Now, if we were recording onto tape or something, this would be difficult, but the TiVo is basically software. There's no reason that it can't treat that 5 minute segment as both the last 5 minutes of one recording and the first 5 minutes of the next, thus giving you the same effect as in case (1).

In the third case, of course, there's nothing you can do without having a second tuner and you just have to live with losing the few minutes that run over, but this case only occurs a relatively small fraction of the time.

Anyone know why TiVo doesn't do this? If my experience is typical, a lot of people are losing the beginnings and ends of programs and they don't have It could just be the additional implementation cost, but it seems like it ought to be pretty easy to code up. Or is this feature hiding somewhere and I don't know how to activate it?

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4 Comments

While this doesn't answer your question, the clock shift is actually intentional on the network's part.

See this story

"TV Networks Shift Times, Run Longer Shows SAN JOSE, Calif. - Television networks are lending new meaning to time-shifting: TV shows don't necessarily start or end right on the hour or half-hour anymore, screwing up some viewers' video recordings.
More programs are running an extra minute or two longer to keep viewers from switching channels. Shows recently padded include CBS's "Without a Trace," Fox's "Renovate My Family," ABC's "The Bachelor" and NBC's "ER," according to Nielsen Media Research.
The tactic has been used on and off for a few years but has grown more popular as competition in network television stiffens.
As a result of the overruns, people who use VCRs and digital video recorders like TiVos end up clipping the beginning or ending of a show. For some, the time conflict could also prevent a later show from being recorded.

I think you're right with case 1. Maybe they could make an option like "Buffer recordings without conflicts: x minutes" although I'm sure the UI wizards at TiVo could come up with better wording.

Case 2 is harder, because the TiVo would have to know that the show ran over. If they knew that, they would just put it in the guide data and it would work like it does now. On my NBC affiliate, Conan O'Brien starts at 12:37AM, and TiVo compensates for that.

If I were to record Leno (11:35PM - 12:37AM) and Conan, it would get both at the correct start and end times, so it wouldn't need to assign the time from 12:30AM to 12:37AM to both Leno and Conan. So how would TiVo (the company or the box) know that the network ran over with the first episode of Law & Order?

With (2) I was just expecting that they would simulate 1. I.e. They would just make both that 5 minutes part of both shows.

The software could treat each program title as an index into a general time based stream stored on disk, which would allow you to start a program, and if it started early, sort of "stretch" the program start backwards by just altering the start of the index. Handling the UI for when channel changing event happened would be the only problem.

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