This past summer, Time Warner Cable introduced a new DVR service to subscribers. The New York Observer noted at the time that some of the changes–namely the “Start Over” feature that lets you watch something from the beginning even if you just switched to it–were nice. At least one customer, however, doesn’t agree. In fact, now that he’s given the revamped service a 4-month trial run, he’s ready to list the problems with it, some of which sound suspiciously anti-consumer.
Dan lists several problems with the DVR service’s new interface, which do indeed sound like how a Tivo would work if your Tivo was a goatee-wearing evil version of itself. But he also lists these two problems:
Previously, it was possible to create a “manual recording”. This means a recording of any length that you can set to start and stop at any time you want. Now, you can’t. Let’s say you only want a small part of a broadcast that’s programmed on the guide for a multiple hour block, like on a news channel, or a sporting event. Unless you are there in person to start and stop the recording yourself, you have to record the entire block of programming. If you don’t have enough space on your hard drive, you’re just plain out of luck and can’t do it. You could before.
“Start Over” enables the user to flip to a non-recorded program at any point in its broadcast, and have the box restart the program from the beginning of its scheduled time. A great idea, in theory. In practice, not so much. First of all, because of the aforementioned wonky time synching, there’s no guarantee the scheduled beginning of the program will be at the right spot, potentially cutting off part of the show. Second, the feature is only available on certain channels, only for certain shows at certain times. Finally, while the information bar seems to indicate the box has downloaded all the updated program information, and while you can pause and rewind the show, you cannot fast forward. This means you have to watch the show as if it were live, commercials and all. No escaping that damn Progressive car insurance woman that everyone wants to beat with a sack of doorknobs. This feature loses a lot of luster for that, and seems to be designed for the impulse surfer and those who are too lazy to schedule series recordings of the shows they watch regularly.
I would never, never, not ever, use a
“Start Over” DVR service TV-on-demand feature that punished me for “starting over” by disabling fast-forwarding, so yeah, that seems pretty unforgivable. And I remember once a few years ago, I used my Tivo to manually record a video-on-demand rental so that I could watch it after the rental period expired, which sounds like something you can’t do under Time Warner Cable’s “no manual recording” DVR restriction.
I just don’t understand how there could be any number of people in focus groups or in boardrooms who actually thought this was an improvement of the DVR experience. A completely misguided overhaul now has me thinking seriously about changing providers for the first time since subscribing to cable.
[Update: I've changed the post so that I no longer incorrectly refer to the "Start Over" functionality as part of the DVR service. However, Dan lumps it in with his review of Time Warner's offering, so I'm leaving his quoted section untouched.]
“Time Warner Cable’s New DVR Interface Sucks” [Dan's Cool Stuff]
“Time Warner Cable Unveils a New Interface, We Rejoice (Mostly)” [The Observer]