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Where is the Prius of DVRs?

The DVR is a fantastic invention. I’ll admit that I have three DVRs in my house and they have transformed how and when my family watches TV. Imagine my alarm when I read this article in the New York Times that says DVRs are ridiculous energy hogs – a typical home consumes more energy for its DVR set-up than for its refrigerator. Really? Why have manufacturers and service providers hit the pause button on innovation in this area?

What a golden opportunity for Creating Shared Value—companies could create a competitive advantage by designing and selling energy efficient DVRs that offer significant cost savings to the consumer and reduce carbon emissions. The leading manufacturers and service providers could transform the DVR market to competing on the “greenest DVR”—the Prius of TV watching, if you will. This original report by the National Resources Defense Council estimates $3 billion annually is spent on energy for DVRs and it lays out a number of suggestions for innovation across the industry.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘lazy,’ but they have had different priorities, and saving energy is not one of them,” said a scientist referenced in the article. Unfortunately, as we see in other industries, companies often fail to recognize that social and environmental challenges represent vast opportunities for increased competitiveness and profitability. Manufacturers such as Cisco, Samsung, and Motorola think about their environmental footprint through a traditional CSR/sustainability lens—how to reduce their own emissions from manufacturing and distribution—but designing products based on their societal benefits is often an afterthought. Similarly, service providers such as Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, and AT&T are hesitant to have boxes go into sleep or hibernate mode, which would cut power consumption and costs significantly. We know power reduction has happened in “always on” mobile phones and tablets, so it’s just a matter of the industry making this an innovation priority.

As an advisor to leading companies on creating shared value strategies, I see untapped opportunity for the DVR industry to fast-forward its innovation and leadership. As a consumer, I hope I can still enjoy my DVR, but cut my energy bills and environmental footprint at the same time.