Better technology doesn’t matter if the experience is worse.

I’ve been complaining a lot on Twitter today about the cable company.

About ten years ago I had cable, it was SD, but I could push it to all the TVs in my house. Then I discovered home brew pvr systems like MythTV, and was able to record all my shows, watch live tv, stream music, from any device in the house. And I had a guide I could access from the web, and pick, and reshchedule my recordings, all was well.

Then the cable companies started switching to digital. Which meant you needed a digital box. This is where it started going down hill. The technology was better, I got HD, and the ability to pause and record with the Cable Company’s PVR. But it was limited to two tuners. And they lock down firewire and any other useful way to get content off the device in HD, aside from the HDMI cable.

So for the past several years I have been tied to one TV. I can watch BluRays in other rooms. But for regular TV viewing the other TVs collect dust. I don’t want to spend money on more hardware, so I can PVR shows around the house. Then try and figure out which TV the show is recorded on, and be tethered to watch it there. And whenever a Hockey game comes on, I end up having to sacrifice a recording or two, because again, I’m limited in the number of shows I can tune into at a time. And does the Cable Companies box have nice features that let you know, hey, we’re not recording Breaking Bad at 8 because you want to watch this show live, but we see it’s on again at 2am, we’ll just record it then. My old setup did. It was FANTASTIC at rescheduling recordings so conflicts were eliminated.

The ideal solution would be to have the Cable Companies unlock the boxes so I can use a computer to push the videos to other TVs in the house. But that will never happen. So why waste the words… then they came out with their networked pvrs, allowing you to record more shows (3-6) at a time, watch anywhere in the house (that you buy another box for) and I’m thinking, great! Sign me up. Take my money. It’s not the best solution, but it’s pretty good, almost as good an experience as I had 10 years ago.

…except, despite the shows already being IN MY HOUSE, I can’t get this system without network upgrades in my area??? What…that makes no sense. The show is already saved on a hard drive IN MY HOUSE, what do the lines outside matter? Is it so I can record six shows at a time…fine…leave that ability until you upgrade the lines outside…but wait, that doesn’t make sense either, as if I buy more boxes, I can record more anyhow. So it’s not a bandwidth limitation. It’s a bad business decision. Rather than getting hardware that can share what we already have coming to the house, they picked something that while potentially superior, is limited. Thus limiting subscribers and pushing people away, giving them a poorer experience.

So, before I found out I couldn’t get this new system where I live (so remote, 20k from Winnipeg in a town with 5000 people that have money…), anyhow, before I found out, I spent 40 minutes on hold last week, and another 90 minutes this week (during which I contacted the on Twitter) before giving up and leaving a DM with my number to call me. Which begs the questions; Why doesn’t your hold system hint at the wait time? And why do I need to resort to calling out a company on Social Media to get a response? Anyhow, the DMs consisting of excuses for the delay answering the phones. Apparently there is an internet service outage they are trying to fix, so customers are calling in and complaining. Which, in my mind, isn’t an excuse, it’s a cause of another failure. Why doesn’t your network have better failover handling and redundancy? And it also doesn’t explain why I waited 40 minutes last week.

Anyhow, the offer I’ve been given is a second pvr box, so I can watch tv on two televisions. However, the experience is still awful. As outlined above, I have to decide where to record shows so that I can watch them where I want to, since I can’t change it. And if two things are recording on a tv where I want to watch live tv…to bad. I have to relocate, or go to the other tv, duplicate a recording there, and stop the one in the other room. Meaning, I now have one recording, split into pieces in different rooms. That will sure be an enjoyable experience when half way through watching the show I have to get up and go to another room to finish watching it.

Ten years, and the experience gets worse every year. Netflix is looking promising…if only I wasn’t tied to the cable company for my internet…

Netflix (or something similar) is going to dominate TV in the near future. Networks are fighting what could be their greatest ally, so they can continue to fight their current foe, limited time in prime time. You only have a few hours each night… which is funny, since very few people watch TV live anymore. I may watch the same day it’s recorded, but the only thing I watch live is sports.

Netflix is the ultimate PVR, with so many advantages it’s mind boggling; it’s cheaper; there’s no lock in to their hardware; I don’t need to setup recording schedules, the content is just there when I want it; no need to worry about storage space; I can watch it on my phone, computer, tablet, etc. It’s only drawbacks are that it doesn’t have new shows fast enough, and it doesn’t do live events…yet. When that day comes, it, or something similar wins. Networks can try and make their own Netflix clones, but they’re all tied to a network. People aren’t going to spend money with dozens of different companies and run a bunch of different applications to get their television. They want one bill, one service.

I may stick with cable (and Netflix) for a little while longer, but it won’t be too much longer. I can get hockey through a Centre Ice package that will be cheaper than cable…and that solves one of my concerns. Now to find a permanent solution to the other.

ps. This was written in one pass, no editing, so I’m sure it’s random and has no structure…sorry.

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  • Ugh, I feel for you man. Any time I have to spend on the phone is usually a waste of life as well.