Long Tails, TV, and DVR

Apparently Chris Anderson (author of the Wired article I posted last week) has a blog in which he comments regularly on the long tail concept.

In one post, he speculates how the long tail relates to television programs, DVRs and the internet. In short, he proposes a browser plugin that you could use when you see a reference to a TV show that you are interested in and want to record. You would simply need to highlight the show title and right-click, where a new option would be available called "Record to DVR," at which point you could go about setting up your DVR to record the show.

I don't have a DVR, so perhaps I'm not the best person to comment, but it strikes me that if you're reading a recommendation for a show, you might want to go back and watch all the previous shows as well. For instance, a lot of people have been recommending Lost to me recently. If I had a PVR, I might set it to record the show, but I'd have missed a significant portion of the show (I don't know how important that would be or not). What I'd really love is to go back and watch the series from the beginning.

Comcast has a feature called "On Demand" which would be perfect for this, but they don't seem to have much in the way of capacity (though if you have HBO, I understand they sometimes make whole seasons of various popular shows available) and they don't have Lost. Evan Kirchoff recently posted something that put an interesting twist on this subject: other people are his PVR. When he finds a show he wants to watch, he simply downloads it via torrents:
What I really wanted all this time, it turns out, is just the assurance that somebody out there in the luminiferous aether is faithfully recording every show, in case I later decide that I want it. Setting a VCR in advance is way too much work, but having to download a 350-megabyte file is an action that's just affirmative enough to distill one's preferences.
It's certainly an interesting perspective - a typical emergent property of the self-organizing internet (along with all the warts that entails) - and it's a hell of a lot better than waiting for reruns. I don't have the 400 gigs of hard drive space on my system that Evan does, but I might check out an episode or two. Of course, there's something to be said about the quality of the watching-tv-on-a-computer experience and, as Evan mentions, I'm not quite sure about the legality of such a practice (his reasoning seems logical, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything). Perhaps a micropayment solution (i.e. download an episode for a dollar, or one season for $10) would work. Of course, this would destroy the DVD market (which I imagine some people would be none to happy about), but it would also lengthen the tail, as quality niche shows (i.e. the long tail) might be able to carve out a profitable piece of the pie.

The best solution would, of course, combine all the various features above into one application/experience, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.