With so many streaming options, do you even need a DVR anymore?

The other day, there was a local channel outage and I missed one of my favorite shows. I asked some questions of some friends at AT&T. They told me it really was a local issue, not a satellite one, but that doesn’t change the fact that I missed a show. But not to worry, I went to Hulu on my streaming device and boom, there it was in full high definition. Which raised the question, why did I bother to record it at all? Let’s take a look at how we got here.

1950s to 1970s

There was a time that if you didn’t see it live, you didn’t see it, period. That’s the time that people first welcomed TV into their lives, back when a prime-time broadcast could be seen by as much as 80% of the viewing public on the date it aired. But back then just like now, people had lives. If you weren’t home when Happy Days was on, you missed it. TV shows were simple because people did miss episodes, so most of the time nothing happened that really made you worry that you missed something.

1980s to 1990s

The first VCRs came out in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that people could really afford them. When the VCR hit, it was like a magic time machine. For the first time you could record, watch and even save something you saw on TV. It wasn’t gone forever. This was unbelievable. But keep in mind the VCR was a simple creature by today’s standards … it recorded one item at a time, on a schedule set by the clock. If the show ran late, you missed it. If it changed dates or times, you missed it. And if you were recording, you couldn’t stop and rewind.

2000s

DVRs were born in 1999 and took the world by storm in the late 2000s. The DVR lets you record multiple shows at once, let you pause live TV and rewind recordings as they were happening. They aren’t based on time and date, but on the show you want to record, so if the show moves, you don’t miss it. DVRs changed everything far more than VCRs did because finally, by about 2010, you really didn’t have to care when anything was on because you could watch it on your schedule. But honestly… the 2010s belonged to another device just as much as they belonged to the DVR.

2010s

It wasn’t until about 2013 that the average person had enough internet speed to stream Even though Netflix and Hulu had been streaming since about 2008, and YouTube had been out there even longer, there wasn’t really a streaming ecosystem until the 2010s. The 2010s were really a sort of wild west for streaming. Different kinds of apps were created, and for the first time it was possible to watch something live using streaming. Toward the end of the decade we even saw some 4K.

Today

Today you have unlimited options. Record something, find it online, or use a streaming device to watch it at the same quality level on your TV. The choice is up to you. Most new devices offer some sort of “universal search” which means you can find a program no matter what streaming service it’s on. It’s easy and doesn’t take a lot of planning.

So… why bother with the DVR?

For me, there are three reasons I still record things. First of all, streaming services are cheap individually, but add up Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Disney+, Discovery+ and every other “Plus”  and you’re talking about more than a basic satellite package. I have all those great channels on DIRECTV so why should I pay for them twice? Most of the shows I want are available on demand right through my satellite receiver (I’m willing to bet that the one I wanted wasn’t because of the local channel outage.) So why should I worry about that other stuff?

The other thing I like is a playlist that’s all set up, full of stuff I want, and ready to go. Sure it’s fun to go browsing for new things, but I already know a lot of the shows I want to watch and with my DVR, they’re all in one place. It makes it a lot easier that way.

This is where the streaming boxes still haven’t caught up. Younger folks don’t really care about a self-organized playlist. They’d rather just find stuff to watch. They aren’t as focused on shows that come out once a week and would rather binge a whole show in a weekend. That’s their choice and I don’t judge. I like a nice list where I can see what’s available and what’s coming up.

Come on streaming don’t let me down…

Finally, you may want to think about the fact that your internet may get clogged up just when you want to watch something. I sat down to stream a show last Saturday night and even though I pay for good internet… everyone else in the neighborhood must have been using it at the same time because the best I could get was jerky SD. That’s just no fun.

So yeah, you may not record everything, because you know that a lot of it will be available online. But at least for today, I think the DVR is a necessity, and you can have mine when you can pry it from… well you know the quote.

Oh, and when you’re ready to upgrade your satellite DVR, be sure to shop the great selection at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.