Dear Comcast, Why Is My DVR So Dumb?

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial…”Has this ever happened to you?” You set your Comcast DVR to record only new episodes of your favorite TV series, but it winds up recording every…single…showing, including all repeats? The problem is especially bad with a show like Project Runway, which Bravo seems to run on a continuous loop, clogging my DVR and requiring constant deleting. So I called Comcast to find out what the problem is. Turns out there are two main reasons, and neither of them are really excusable.

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The first concerns the cable provider’s Interactive Programming Guide (IPG), the TV listing you interact with as a Comcast subscriber. It’s called the i-Guide and it was developed by Comcast and Gemstar-TV Guide.

Networks provide all the data about each show for the i-Guide to Gemstar-TV Guide — things like episode synopses and whether each airing is new or a repeat. But sometimes networks forget to provide this information, which means your DVR can’t differentiate between what’s new and what’s old. “[The networks] are not malicious, not irresponsible, they just haven’t provided this data historically,” Todd Walker, Comcast senior vice president of product management, told me. Walker said that when a network is alerted to the missing data, they are generally quick to fix it. (A Bravo spokesperson assured me that it provides all the correct data to its cable partners.)

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Feb. 15, 2008: New Ad Network and Broken Xboxes

For Comcast, Broadband Slows

Comcast, thanks to some stiff competition from lower-priced DSL offerings and Verizon FiOS combined with economic woes and fears of a recession, is beginning to see some slowdown in its broadband growth. Broadband has traditionally been a growth engine — and a big moneymaker — for Comcast, so this is a disturbing sign. Of course, the stock market is pretty pleased with Comcast today — dividends, stock buybacks and the perceived pragmatism of management (exemplified, in Comcast’s case, by not buying Sprint or Yahoo, as if they really can) usually provide a short-term boost to shares before reality kicks in.

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Verizon to Hollywood: I Said, “No, no, no!”

When Hollywood approached Verizon to join in the fight against piracy, the company pulled an Amy Winehouse and said, “No, no, no.” The New York Times Bits Blog has a nice little interview up with Tom Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president for public affairs, in which he lays out why the company rejected the notion of monitoring its traffic.

Unlike AT&T, which has openly talked about technological solutions to piracy, and Comcast, which is being investigated for blocking BitTorrent traffic, Verizon is going its own way on this one.

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Are Cable and Phone Companies Still Recession-Proof?

Bad news has been coming out of the telco and cable industries, news that offers further proof that we are indeed heading into a recession. As guest blogger Cynthia Brumfield notes, these industries have traditionally held up well during economic downturns. But will they this time?

CES Day 3: Viacom, Panasonic, Comcast

Just when you though you’d read about all the tech news that could ever possibly come out of CES — they KEEP PULLIN’ YOU BACK IN!
Viacom is spreading itself all over the web, signing syndication deals with Dailymotion, Go Fish, iMeem, MeeVee and Veoh. Content from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and VH-1 will be available on the sites in the coming weeks. The move augments Viacom’s existing content partner list, which includes, AOL, Bebo, Fancast and Joost. Also as part of the move, Viacom has taken an equity stake in Go Fish.
People with Panasonic’s new VIERA HD TVs will be able to access YouTube videos directly from the television set. I wonder what those dog skateboarding videos would look like on Panasonic’s gargantuan 150-inch plasma TV set.
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Comcast Fancast: an OldTeeVee Directory

Comcast is formally beta-launching at CES on Tuesday the video portal it’s been developing for over a year called Fancast. We’ve mentioned the site repeatedly over the past few months because it was a launch partner of Hulu. Fancast also includes streaming video from CBS, with more partners supposedly coming soon — but all-in-all no different from the content you’ll increasingly find everywhere. The point of Fancast, however, is not so much about scoring content deals but being the ultimate video directory, pointing to TV shows and movies wherever they are available — be it on TV, on demand online or on cable, on DVD, available for online rental, or playing in a movie theater.
screenshot35.jpegHowever, the site will not include content made for the web, said Sam Schwartz, executive vice president of Comcast Interactive Media, in an interview on Monday. “For the most part we’ve addressed Fancast at what we call long-form content,” he said. “Other people, we think, have covered the user-generated space pretty well.” He said Fancast would eventually include “user-generated components” such as reviews, lists, and mashups. Schwartz is more keen on a content discovery feature called “six degrees” that ties pieces of content together by shuffling common actors and themes (click on the thumbnail to see a screenshot).
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