MobiTV is releasing a network digital video recorder solution for service providers. This allows viewers to record and store television programming in the network rather than in the home. Previously only available as part of the MobiTV platform, it will be offered to other network operators and service providers. Legal and rights issues have hitherto hampered the deployment of network digital video recorders, although they seem to be a technologically inevitable development.

MobiTV has implemented two modes of operation to cater for different rights scenarios.

Master copies allow continuous recording of a single copy of all channels offered by a service provider, meaning that viewers do not need to initiate recordings and only a single instance is stored.

Personal copies allow users to record individual programmes to a cloud-based storage area of designated capacity.

The MobiTV nDVR allows network operators to implement the appropriate model for a particular territory and rights regime. If and when rights issues change the system can seamlessly shift policies.

In other words, an operator may initially need to store personal copies of programmes for each user but could move to a master copy model in the future.

“Rights management has long been a difficult process for service operators to navigate on an international scale,” said Charlie Nooney, the chief executive of MobiTV. “The MobiTV nDVR removes barriers for operators and provides the solution for a true TV Everywhere experience.”

From its origins as a mobile television and video company in the United States, MobiTV is building on this to offer solutions to deliver television everywhere, on any screen. In Europe, MobiTV is working with Deutsche Telekom to deliver a multiscreen service.

Legal provisions and contractual arrangements between operators and media rights holders have tended to limit the deployment of network digital video recording.

New York cable television company Cablevision faced legal challenges from studios when it first introduced its remote storage digital video recorder or RS-DVR in 2006. As with a domestic digital video recorder, this only stored programmes as specifically requested by the viewer, which the company argued constitutes fair use and the courts ultimately agreed.

Network digital video recorders have been launched in a number of European countries, generally with the agreement of programming providers.

The legal status of network video recording has yet to be established in the United Kingdom. Since the advent of the videocassette recorder, timeshifting, or the recording of broadcasts for the purposes of listening to or viewing at a more convenient time, is generally permitted under fair dealing, providing you make the copy in your own home.

Service providers have yet to offer network video recording as a service. YouView, the joint venture platform from public service broadcasters and broadband service providers, comes close. It offers seamless links to most programmes transmitted on the main public service channels over the previous seven days.

Some have suggested that YouView would have been better off providing a network digital video recorder, rather than relying on a combination of local storage in the home and network-based services.

However, bizarrely even broadcasters do not have the rights to record for later viewing some of the programmes they transmit, which is why some programmes are not available on their catch-up services.

The benefits to consumers of a network digital video recorder are that they are not limited in how many programmes they can record at once, and they can theoretically view them anywhere, inside or outside the home, on various network connected devices.

As networks become more capable and reliable, storing programmes in the cloud, rather than the home, will make increasing sense for operators and consumers alike.