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TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.

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Trial and Error



Comcast TV Planner = Poor Planning

September 7, 2006 7:15 PM

Comcast introduced a new online program guide yesterday on Comcast.net. I’m a Comcast customer and I love my video-on-demand service, so I go to Comcast.net to check out the new tool. The portal features a well-marked link for “TV Planner.”

The planner asks for my zip code and then takes me to what looks like the Comcast TV grid transposed online. I was hoping for something different than what’s on TV. Still, I enter a search for NBC’s “The Office.” The grid displays several upcoming repeats for the show. I am not sure what to do next. I look for a category for “list shows I want to see” or something like that. I see nothing. So I hit the back button and it bounces me all the way back to Comcast.net. OK, let’s enter the TV Planner again.

Comcast boasts that viewers can customize searches by title, category and genre and also search across VOD. I enter “10-minute fitness videos” since those are a staple of the “Sports and Fitness” category on VOD. I see a list of fitness videos from QVC, Logo and ExpoTV, a VOD service. But the grid does not produce the dozen or so 10-minute fitness videos that the VOD service regularly features in its lineup.

Maybe a more precise title will help. I enter “Bob the Builder” in the search bar since I have watched that show on VOD with my son. The grid displays several “Bob the Builder” titles from PBS Kids Sprout, but none on VOD. I then spot an “On Demand” button on the grid and click on that. But rather than display “Bob the Builder” titles available on VOD, it shows all VOD categories, such as movies, kids and premium channels. I click on the “kids” category but the listings don’t match up to what’s actually on VOD on the TV. I know because I watched “The Berenstain Bears” on VOD this morning with my son.

I’m done.

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Comments (12)

J:

Just goes to show you how cable operators (distributors) have a long way to go before becoming (user-friendly) on-demand programmers...especially on the broadband platforms. Comcast should just put the TIVO designers and Google search programmers in a garage together, order in tons of Chinese food, pizza and beer, and within a week they'll have THE Killer App for their broadband site.

Nice stuff Daisy,
J

Patricia Lay:

shame on you, for takening off my comment

jacquie parker:

put tv planner back like it was. stop fooling
around with it

Kelly:

hate it hate it hate it. what were they thinking?

RV:

I think that the weaknesses, broad and deep, in this new comcast tvplanner system is so obvious, that it will soon be shifted back to the relatively strong "old" tvplanner. Comcast, please Call Legend Promotions in Lake Zurich Illinois if you need help.

alphanova:

is the top brass aware of this update? why change something that appears to work. Why not leave the original version and let the user critique the update? Work out the bugs and leave both versions until one version satisfies the paying user.

Jack:

The new program does not allow personal selection of channels. You are forced to look at all channels even those you do not subscribe to. The old guide was much better.

bob:

I hate the new TV planner. Go back to the old one or do major improvements on new one.

kell:

it still sucks - are you all even reading this??? Do you care what we think? I have been trying to work with this and the dates and times don't match with whats on my TV- It is just so nonuser friendly i can't beleive that it's still up there.

T.C.:

At the top of the 'new' TVPlanner page:

"The Comcast.net team has been working to improve your Comcast.net TV channel. We've added an HD video gallery, an On Demand page, and access to free Full TV episodes. Unfortunately, some features - such as Favorite Channels - were removed. In response to your feedback, we are working diligently to restore these features. We apologize for this inconvenience."

Comcast doesn't know the meaning of diligence, expertise, or good customer service. Their cable T.V. service is lousy enough. I'd NEVER subscribe to their Internet service, especially when they can't write a TV guide that functions as it should.

And, they are reportedly raising their rates AGAIN!

Unconsciable...

T.C.:

Notice that if you take away the letters, 'c', 'o', and 't' from the word Comcast, what remains are the letters that make up the word "scam"...

Keep in mind that the definitions of "scam" are: A fraudulent business scheme; a stratagem for gain; a swindle.

Comcast's business practices often fit that definition. Their 'scam' would seem to be cleverly disguised by adding three letters to their name.

Phil K:

I don't know anything about the Broadband version of On Demand, which is what this is about, but I do have Comcast cable. They often make mistakes in their online program guide.
A few times it said Star Trek was on TV Land, but only for a half-hour. When I checked what I had recorded, it was indeed only a half hour, but it was Leave it to Beaver.
Other times they claimed one movie was on a particular channel when in fact it was another entirely different flick.
Last week I nearly missed a crucial episode of Desperate Housewives, the one where Psycho Dave started a fire at a nightclub to cover the murder of his shrink (to make it look as though he had died of smoke inhalation, I guess.) It seems according to Comcast's guide, there were two back-to-back episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition followed by Desperate Housewives an hour later than usual, at 9 Central Time. No mention of Brothers and Sisters.
In fact, the schedule that was on was the normal one of Extreme Makeover, Desperate Hosuewives and Brothers and Sisters, just as it is every week.
Fortunately, I did turn DH on when it was half over, and I was able to glean all the important information, which was repeated in dialogue, and all the good stuff happened in the second half anyway.
Both DH and B & S had highly touted new episodes (which I would have noticed sooner had I also been looking for B & S-I did remember that immediately after) which were well-publicized, and no one had ever said anything about there being two episodes of Extreme Makeover. I don't understand how they could have made this blunder.
One commenter mentioned the schedule they have doesn't match up with what's on his TV-besides the type of problem I just referred to, they fail to allow for a show starting late because of NFL Football or other sports.
If you try to record 60 Minutes or Cold Case, for example, it will record it when it was scheduled to be on originally. It should start recording when the show actually begins, even if the time is off. I'm sure they have the tech to allow for this. TiVo does, I believe.
As for OnDemand, at least the one that's on cable (again, I don't have the Internet version), it often malfunctions, leaving you with no way to even change the channel. I think they've fixed this, but I haven't used it for awhile.

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