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Making TV jump through hoops

New technology lets you dictate when and where you watch your favorite shows.

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Brrrinng!!! My alarm blares Sunday at 8 a.m., just in time to watch "Meet the Press." I glance up at the TV and notice the red light of my TiVo box is on - Tim Russert's news program is recording. I drift back to sleep, knowing I can watch it later.

But I end up oversleeping and then stay out until late that night. How will I fit the show into my schedule? Those ubiquitous ads for the Apple iPod Video, telling me I can now download my favorite television shows commercial-free, got me thinking: Can I really watch what I want, when I want, where I want? Are the days of rushing home from work for "Must-See TV" a thing of the past? Or remembering to set my VCR so I don't miss "CSI"? Or even having to plant myself on the couch for an hour straight? I'm about to find out. Over the next seven days, I'm going to try viewing TV on my own timetable, not the networks'.

"TV on demand" is a hot new buzzword. Between iTunes, digital video recorders like TiVo, cellphones and PDAs that play movies, and countless streaming options over the Internet, it's becoming a reality, wresting the power of TV programming from network executives, putting it squarely in viewers' hands.

Consuming TV shows in this way takes a bit of effort, as it turns out. And, by Day 7, the experience gives me pause as to whether it's truly a good idea. Nonetheless, I'm clearly at the forefront of a major trend in media consumption.

"Time shifting is the big thing at the moment," says Mark Glaser, who runs the PBS MediaShift online blog. "It's being able to watch what you want, when you want it, beyond just what we have now, but having complete demand to watch any show possible."

Turning my cellphone into a television

On my first day, I search the Internet and discover that I can load my TiVo files onto my Windows-based mobile phone. I buy the software (Pocket-DVD Studio, $39.95) and dive in. First, I move the TiVo recording onto my desktop with Tivo's own program, called "TiVoToGo." It runs in real time - meaning an hour show takes that long to copy. So I get ready for bed and answer a few e-mails.

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