Will picture-in-picture ever return to DIRECTV?

The DIRECTV DVRs have had a long history full of features that have come and gone. Beginning with the R15 DVR in 2005, DIRECTV’s own engineering staff have packed the DVRs with features that appealed to every conceivable niche. Within the last several years they have been taking out features, though, and the goal is simple: provide an easy-to-use, friendly experience for mainstream users that keeps the hardware stable and fast.

In past years they took out MediaShare, which was a simple system for sharing content from other sources that never worked right. They took out YouTube support when it started to require a whole new decoding scheme. They took out the rarely-used bookmarks feature which let you set a custom point in a recording and jump to it with one button press.

And cards on the table, they’ve taken out picture-in-picture and they’re not bringing it back, period.

Picture-in-picture debuted with the DIRECTV HR34 Genie DVR in late 2011. That was sort of the heyday of PIP, where it was being built into many TVs as well. The only issue from day one was, PIP worked with the Genie DVR but none of the clients. If I had to guess why, it was the vastly underpowered HR34 processor.

Keep in mind that unless you’ve opted out of DIRECTV’s tracking, they know every button you press and how often. It was very obvious from day one that PIP wasn’t going to be a solid performer and therefore the cost to code it into the clients didn’t make sense.

With the release of the Genie 2, which is now DIRECTV’s default choice for new installs, it looks like picture-in-picture is permanently gone, since the Genie 2 itself does not output video — only the clients do. While there were some cases that I used it, I have to admit it was no more than a few times per year and I probably won’t miss it. If I want to watch two sources at the same time I can always pop one of them up on my tablet since the DIRECTV app streams pretty much every channel anyway.