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How DVR, video on demand, and streaming video averted a TV disaster

How DVR, video on demand, and streaming video averted a TV disaster

The other night, I nearly missed the nail-biting finale of “The Americans.” But a trifecta of TV-watching features and services saved me: Here’s how.

My DVR is programmed to record every new episode of the show, which usually runs for 60 minutes. But last week’s recording ended in the middle of an exciting scene. Uh-oh: It turns out this episode actually ran 67 minutes long, but FX hadn’t alerted TV providers. So the DVR stopped recording at the usual program length.

Fortunately, the episode was available—and in HD—in my cable company’s video-on-demand listings. I started pressing the fast-forward button to speed to the end of the program, only to discover that fast forward was disabled. I would have to sit through the 60 minutes I’d just seen to get to the missing finale. No, thanks.


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Plan B was to record the VOD episode—but no, recording was also disabled. Then I thought about PIP (picture in picture). I could put “The Americans” in the small window and watch live TV in the main window. Strike three—PIP was disabled as well.

Then I had a brainstorm: Leaving the VOD playing, I used my TV remote to switch to the HDMI2 input connecting my Roku set-top box, which streams video from services such as HBO Go over my Wi-Fi network. I watched an hour-long episode of “Boardwalk Empire,” and as soon as it ended, I switched back to HDMI1 for my cable-box connection. “The Americans” had been streaming from my cable service in the background while the HBO program was onscreen, and it had advanced to exactly the point where my recording had ended. So I was able to see the last few minutes, which were worth the wait.

It turns out that FX made all 67 minutes available free on its website to help viewers who were left hanging. But I was lucky that the program was available on demand, so I could watch it on my big-screen TV—and that I had something else to watch while it progressed to the point I wanted to see. If you don’t have a streaming device, you could also watch a Blu-ray disc or even read a book (what a novel idea!).

The moral of the story: Entertainment options have expanded considerably over the past few years, so make sure you take full advantage of them.

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