Streaming video DVR explained

Streaming video DVR explained

One question I often get about cord cutting is whether it’s possible to record streaming video, like you can with cable or over-the-air television.

This might seem like a straightforward question, but the answer is complicated. Some streaming services do offer DVR, but with some notable differences from traditional cable DVR. Others, such as Netflix, don’t allow you to record shows, but offer all their content on demand anyway. And while a workaround exists for streaming services that don’t offer DVR, this brings its own set of trade-offs.

In the interest of having an article to reference whenever someone asks me about streaming DVR in the future, here’s a rundown of all your options:

Which streaming services have DVR?

If we’re talking about live TV streaming services—that is, those that provide a bundle of cable channels over the internet—then yes, DVR is available with all of them. Instead of saving shows to your device, these services store their recordings in the cloud, so you can access them from anywhere. Still, not all services have the same idea of what an online DVR should be.

Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, and FuboTV all take an approach that’s similar to cable: You get a certain number of recording hours, and those recordings are stored indefinitely.

  • Sling TV offers 50 hours of recording time for free, and charges $5 extra per month for 200 hours.
  • Hulu + Live TV provides 50 hours of recording time, and charges $10 per month for 200 hours.
  • FuboTV provides 250 hours of recording time, and charges $5 per month extra for 1,000 hours.

YouTube TV, AT&T TV, and Philo approach streaming DVR differently. They allow you to record an unlimited number of programs, but you can only store them for a limited time. YouTube TV saves shows the longest, at nine months, AT&T TV stores them for 90 days, while Philo stores programs for 30 days.

directvnow1 Jared Newman / TechHive

Live TV streaming services such as AT&T TV Now all offer cloud-based DVRs.

In the early days of live TV streaming, most of these services had restrictions on how their DVRs worked. Some wouldn’t allow recording on certain channels, while others prohibited ad skipping for certain recordings. Those restrictions have mostly been lifted, with one notable exception: The DVR in Hulu’s $65 per month live TV package doesn’t allow you to skip commercials. For that, you’ll have to spend $10 per month extra on Hulu’s expanded DVR, which also includes more storage.

What about DVR for Netflix?

Outside of those live TV services, DVR generally isn’t available. You’re not allowed to record shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu’s on-demand service, for instance, and if you download apps from individual networks such as NBC and Fox, you won’t be able to record those programs, either.

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