Why isn't my DVR smarter?

When a live show runs long, why can't the network, cable company , and DVR put their giant brains together to figure out how to offset my DVR recording time?

Having spent Tuesday evening in New Jersey attending a big Acer/Gateway press event at the Liberty Science Center, I arrived home to find the first back-from-hiatus episode of Fox's sci-fi (or is that " syfy "?) show, Fringe, waiting on my Time Warner Cable DVR (hey, that's far from the nerdiest thing that goes on in the CNET halls).

Here's the problem, you've got this DVR set to "evil."

Unfortunately, the preceding program, a purportedly popular show called American Idol, ran long (once a relative rarity on network TV outside of sports broadcasts, but becoming more common with live episodes of reality shows), meaning the DVR recording was offset by about 9 minutes. The end result -- the episode cut off early, and right in the middle of a dramatic door-opening reveal. Several Twitter and Facebook updates from other viewers confirmed this was a widespread problem.

The question naturally arises: Since my cable company has access to all this TV show schedule metadata, why can't Fox push through an update when a live show runs long (something I'm told has happened before on Idol), allowing my cable provider to update its program guide, so that a DVR will know to offset its recording time?

Fortunately, the last few minutes of the program were only a Hulu click away, but it's telling that I find it easier to keep up with programs on Hulu than to cross my fingers and hope the DVR works correctly. I'm curious -- has anyone else had similar problems with their TiVo, PC-based PVR setup, or cable provider?

Update: A reader who says he works for Time Warner cable offered this explanation of the problem:

I work for Time Warner in their technical department. Guide data is published 14 days in advanced so there is no way to publish an update to lets say about 100,000 set top boxes (stb), and successfully push it out to all STB's, especially on late notice. You can configure your recordings to run longer via the recording options from guide(highlight the show and hit ok/select) and change the end time.
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About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.

 

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