Time Warner Cable Rep Tells Me Company Doesn't Solve HDMI Problems (Updated)

Aaron couldn’t get the HDMI port of his Time Warner Cable DVR box to work. When he went to customer service with the problem, he says the rep told him TWC provides HDMI as an option to customers but does not support it.

He writes:

I’ve been experiencing issues with my DVR’s HDMI. It blacks out every so often for a second or two. I know it’s the cable box because I tested the same wire, same TV port, with my blue ray player and experienced hours of black-out-free television viewing. I even connected my computer to verify it was the cable box.

Per the standard technical issue, I rebooted my box, both hard and soft. After still experiencing the black out, I decided to call Time Warner (TW) and ask for support. TW stated that they don’t support HDMI. They offer it as an option to their customers, but no not sell cables or support any video out via the HDMI port. I asked how this could be – they stated if I’d like help with my Component, they could do that, but HDMI, while available on all their boxes, is unsupported by them. The service rep then mentioned that HDMI can be fickle and depend on priority of boot sequence and to contact the TV’s manufacturer. Sigh… failure of comprehension and troubleshooting.

They did schedule an appointment to have someone come out and test with me. So that’s a plus. I’ll be certain to ask the technician why HDMI is offered but not supported.

We contacted TWC for comment and received this reply:

So sorry it has taken me a few days to get back to you. Time Warner Cable fully supports all of the equipment we put into customers’ homes. That includes all boxes, routers, cables, etc. If the customer has an issue with a piece of equipment not provided by TWC, we tend to help them troubleshoot, but not do any repairs. Based on the original post that I assume this is in reference to, if the HDMI jack on a TWC box is not functioning we will fix or replace it. Shouldn’t be any harder than that.

Comments

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  1. danmac says:

    Way to stand behind your product, Time Warner! Stay classy!

    And yes, we all know how confusing and fickle this new “HDMI” technology can be I guess that’s what Aaron gets for trying to be on the cutting edge (ten years ago).

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Did you consider unplugging the TV and DVR? Seriously. The last time my HDMI was acting up, I was horrified at the idea that something was wrong, but I calmed down enough to turn off the TV and unplug it, then plug it back in, and everything was fine after that.

    • common_sense84 says:

      This sounds more serious than the normal sync issue.

      Since he says it is happening not when the devices are being turned on, but in the middle of viewing.

      Thus there is nothing to combat it. The cable box is flawed and TWC has made the decision to ignore the issue.

  3. jackinthegreen11 says:

    They told me they don’t support HDMI when I had them install the box. I marched the tech right back out to his van and told him to get lost. Then I called and quit just a few days after we started with them. Currently I enjoy a mix of hulu, netflix and amazon for my TV watching needs.

    You know that Time Warner Cable is bad when you have memorized the tech support phone number and the sequence of options that gets you to a live person

    • pawnblue says:

      Hahah, that’s so true about knowing the phone number. I dropped TWC a few years ago, and a few months after someone at the office was complaining about their service, and I said they should call the number. And I knew it. I hadn’t had their service in months, but I somehow knew the phone number for customer service.

      In fact, after a test call, I apparently still know it. Good job TWC, for reminding why I left.

  4. Matzoball says:

    I wish this article had waitied until after the tech made a visit. I can easily see this being something as simple as a loose wire in the DVR. I am not a technician so don’t flame me if what I just wrote makes me sound like an accountant. Well because I am. Now if they wouldn’t replace a defective DVR component than that would be something I would like to be aware of.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think the reason they don’t support HDMI is because troubleshooting can become such a mess when there are handshake issues. Even when everything is setup 100% correctly there can still be issues related to hardware not playing nice with each other.

    • GMFish says:

      I can easily see this being something as simple as a loose wire in the DVR.

      Directly from the OP:

      I know it’s the cable box because I tested the same wire, same TV port, with my blue ray player and experienced hours of black-out-free television viewing. I even connected my computer to verify it was the cable box.

    • Dover says:

      I highly doubt the the field tech (or any TW tech, for that matter) will open up the DVR to investigate, let alone fix, such a problem. They’ll probably just swap out the DVR.

    • common_sense84 says:

      Nope. Not a lose wire.

      This is a common problem with shitty cable boxes.

      The issue is the DRM on the video signal. Called HDCP. It is a copy protection scheme that makes it so only approved devices can decrypt the video signal. It’s essentially a sad attempt at preventing you from recording the video. It doesn’t stop anyone who really wants to do it, but it creates nothing but head aches for legitimate customers.

      Usually the problem happens when the cable box is turned on before the tv is turned on. Early models would only sync to the tv when first turned on. If the tv was initially off, the sync was missed and you would get a black screen. The fix was to turn the cable box on and off.

      The problem here is the flaw in the cable box is a real flaw. It will have no problems syncing initially, but it will randomly lose sync in the middle of watching.

      Make no mistake, this is 100% a flaw in the cable box. If the flaw was with the tv, you would see many people across cable companies with these problems and it would have the same issue when using a blue ray player or a video game console. Instead the problem only happens with the cable box. And TW has chosen to “not support” hdmi rather than replace their cable boxes with models that work.

  5. Dover says:

    That’s when you make up DVR symptoms and ask for a replacement box.

  6. acknight says:

    Time Warner’s Syracuse, NY office has on multiple occasions offered to sell cables for & support HDMI cabling.

    • DancesWithBadgers says:

      Curious because Syracuse definitely does. Wonder where this person is located.

      FYI The Syr division of TWC is consistently ranked #1 or #2 across all their regions.

  7. mrw says:

    I had this problem on Time Warner with my Scientific Atlanta 8300 HD box … but I found a solution that works for me. There’s something up with the HDMI handshake syncing data between the DVR and the TV (like they said: it can be fickle). Assuming you do not force the resolution from the box to be fixed (i.e. you let the box change from 480p on standard def channels to 720p or 1080i on high def boxes and the TV handles the appropriate scaling – change to an HD channel and then to a non-HD channel to verify), all you have to do is change channels to one that has a different resolution. Changing resolution requires another HDMI handshake to occur which may fix the synchronization issue. Once the new channel pops up, I switch back to the original channel. Since most of the stuff I watch is in 1080i now, I rarely have this issue. Also of note, when I had to do this cheat almost daily, every few months, I would have to perform a hard reset (yanking out the power cable for 15-30 seconds).

  8. sirwired says:

    While it seems silly for them to not support HDMI, the policy sort of makes sense. The copy-protection scheme that HDMI uses is a huge mess, which is why there is now such a thing as firmware updates for receivers and TVs. Fixing compatibility problems is expensive and trouble-prone, and requires somebody (either the cable company or TV/receiver company) to re-create the problem in their test lab. These issues cannot be diagnosed nor fixes written in “the field”, and it’s just as likely to be the cable box as it is the receiver or TV.

    Component, on the other hand, uses well-understood and defined analog signals and there are no strange compatibility problems between Box X and Receiver Y. Diagnosing the issues in the field is easy and reliable; this simply is not the case with HDMI.

    Time Warner has decided that they will make HDMI available and if it works; great. If not, they are choosing to punt you to the company that makes your TV or receiver.

    A better test would be to check if you get the same problem going to two different TVs (with no receiver.) Then THAT is evidence you have flaky cable box hardware. Simply connecting three different devices to the same port on the TV doesn’t say anything other than the TV hardware physically functions; it doesn’t tell you who is responsible for a software problem.

    • WayneB says:

      That’s the complete opposite of what the cable industry and Hollywood want to do. They asked the FCC to allow “Selective Output Control”, where component and other unprotected outputs can be turned off, requiring the use of HDMI. And the bastards at the FCC agreed to allow it.

  9. deadandy says:

    HDMI is fickle as all hell. If I look at my HDMI cable wrong, it will turn my Netflix screen into a little green square.

  10. Geekybiker says:

    There are so many versions of HDMI and bad implementations of it in early HDTV’s. Its understandable that they “don’t support” it as a policy. However, maybe you can do a box exchange? Sounds like you’re renting it anyways, so that should be doable. Hopefully its just a one time flaw, not a bug in their HDMI.

  11. qwickone says:

    FWIW, I had this exact problem with my Verizon Fios box. We tried everything (new HDMI, used a different port, etc) Finally there was a firmware update sent to my box (one of the regular pushes that went to everyone, not a special one for me) and haven’t had the problem since. Not sure if it’s the same issue/fix here, but that’s what happened for me.

    • Opiecat says:

      This is the answer. Happened to me with a DirecTV HDDVR, and i was told that it was a combination of the software not being able to communicate with the TV through HDMI, and that i had to wait for a software upgrade to come through. After about 2 months the update came through and it all worked fine.

  12. vmxeo says:

    It *could* actually be the TV. The OP didn’t mention what kind of TV he had, but here’s one thread on Amazon concerning the same symptoms with the Sony Bravia series. In one example in the thread a tech had to come out and “upgrade the HDMI daughterboard in the back of the TV set. Googling “HDMI blank screen” will reveal a number of common tv/devices combinations that exhibit the same problem.

    Don’t blame the OP though, this is a weird problem typically caused by the extra hoops both devices have to jump through to “secure” communication between them. If anything, blame DRM.

  13. Its_Miller_Time says:

    My local TWC office will give you free HDMI calbes if you ask…

    • Griking says:

      I’d probably just bring the converter box to the local TW office and ask for a replacement. I know that Comcast was willing to replace mine without any issue when I did this.

  14. Sunflower1970 says:

    I get to dog sit a few times a year for a family who has a TW HDDVR box with a huge TV. (I adore the doggies and love their TV BTW) and this happens to them too..but strangely it only happens on certain stations, like any of the sports one mainly Fox SW. None of their other HD stations are affected by this. Since it’s not my box, I’m not too put out by this.

    I also have TW with a HDDVR box in my home and I’ve never seen this happen to mine.

  15. kc2idf says:

    Meh.

    Get some decent-quality cables and hook up component. I know it’s not as high-tech, but the picture should be just fine. It takes an über large TV to be able to tell the difference unless you are looking at it a lot closer than you are going to while watching.

    Analog often gets a bad rap that it really doesn’t deserve.

    • amuro98 says:

      Doesn’t cable brag about doing 1080p? If so, then switching to component video won’t solve anything because most TVs with HDMI only allow 1080i over component – not 1080p (even though component video cables are capable of carrying 1080p.)

      In fact this could result in a worse picture than having the cable box output 1080p natively.

      HDMI may still have its faults, but it’s not some new-fangled technology that just arrived on the marketplace. Both Dish and DirecTV have no problems with HDMI – our Dish installer practically insisted on it. If their equipment works, what’s TWC’s problem?

      • hansolo247 says:

        For any content offered over Cable TV, 1080i and 1080p are the exact same thing.

        There is NO difference whatsoever. All 1080p does is just transmit the same overall information twice.

        How? All content offered is 30fps max. 1080i60 can be perfectly deinterlaced to 1080p60 with 100% of picture information intact as long as source is filmed at 30fps or below.

        The only time where 1080i isn’t as good is sports where each of the 60 interlaced frames are different…but even then it’s filmed at 1080i so no help there.

        • headhot says:

          Wrong.

        • ZacharyTF says:

          Actually, interlaced is when the odd numbered lines are sent in the first pass and then the even numbered lines are sent in the second pass. Progressive is all the lines sent in one pass resulting in a much smoother picture.

        • kc2idf says:

          That’s actually false.

          The stream via cable may be 1080p24, 1080p30 or 1080i30. The component cables can carry 1080i30 or 720p60*. What will happen if the stream is 1080p30 or 1080p24 is that it will be converted to 1080i30 which will result in a negligible amount of out-of-sync screen updates. I say negligible, because both halves of the frame will be presented before the next one. It will still be a nicer picture than native 1080i30, in which the two halves of the frame are temporally out-of-sync. the greater annoyance will be the artefacts resulting from the recompression that takes place at the cable head-end.

          In short, if you can tolerate the picture quality of cable, then component cables will be fine.

          (*or 480p60 or 480i30, but we’re talking about HD, not ED or SD)

  16. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    The HDMI standard places way too much emphasis on copy protection over functionality. You can’t try other devices and rule anything out.

    If it used to work try to angle for a box replacement, otherwise give up and join the EFF

  17. KarbonKopy says:

    I have TWC…it’s as easy as going to the nearest local office and swapping it out. No call to support needed. I do it every once in awhile to get a updated box.

  18. devon20 says:

    I used to work for a cable company in the TV support department. We had a large amount of problems with the HD and HDDVR boxes because of simple handshaking problems with various TVs and even depending on the HDMI port in use. We had the policy that we attempt to help you over the phone with it but if we were unable to get it to work, have the customer switch to component cables.

    • mikesum32 says:

      I, like devon20, worked in support (Verizon FiOS) and I can verify the HDMI has lost of problems, and component is the only other HD option. Try as we might, we can’t fix a conflict between cable box and tv or the cable box or tv firmware

    • mikesum32 says:

      I worked in tech support for cable provider (Verizon FiOS) I can confirm there are issues with cable boxes and also tvs with regards to HDMI. Component is still HD and not prone to all the hdcp or other issues. Sending a tech and resetting boxes can’t fix firmware issues.

  19. Beeker26 says:

    It makes perfect sense to me. They’re not supporting a protocol that is, at best, finicky and would otherwise lead to an immense increase in support costs. It’s the same reason they won’t support using routers on your Internet connection — it opens up a whole can of worms they don’t want to deal with.

    • vastrightwing says:

      They should order the box sans HDMI then. I bet they buy enough units that they can order them without the I/O ports. Or better yet, put some black tape over it with a label stating that removing the tape absolves them of any support on the box.*

      *By removing this tape, you agree not to call us about any problems relating to the use of this box.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      It makes no sense at all actually.

      HDMI is part of the current copy protection regime in cable. It is something that we have all been subjected to BY THE CABLE COMPANIES. It is their responsibility. The industry pushed for this and now they have it.

      The fact that their anti-copy fixation created a broken standard is quite frankly not the customer’s problem.

      This is a standard pushed on the industry by Big Cable. Big Cable should be responsible for support.

      • Beeker26 says:

        HDMI is a standard that was pushed by Hollywood, not the cable companies. They have very little to do with it as they have no stake in whether or not content is copied.

        Individual stations decide which of their programs get encrypted. Again, not decided by the cable provider. HDMI is also used in Blu-Ray players and PCs. And again, not something the cable company has any say in.

        The biggest issue is that there are so many different TVs out there they’d basically have to be able to support them all with every different kind of box they use. It’s just not feasible, and it’s a real bitch, which is why they don’t do it. As the standard matures and the bugs are worked out this will probably change. But for now it is what it is. It’s a feature they supply but do not support. Just like how they allow you to use a router, but they don’t support it, and promptly tell you to remove it before they’ll help you.

        Another way to look at it: in order to support HDMI you actually need to have techs who are trained and understand the tech. And they may not have any of those. So it may be more than them being unwilling to help you, they might really not be able to at all. Again, this will most likely change in the future.

  20. ClaudeKabobbing says:

    This is why i no longer suscribe to any cable or satellite service. If I can’t get it online or OTA i dont watch it.

    • Dr.Wang says:

      me too. Dropped Directv in 2006. No cable or satellite since. Now it’s netflix or OTA and it works flawlessly. I feel sorry for those that are addicted to sports entertainment and pay huge sums for their sports celebrity worship fix.

  21. vastrightwing says:

    This is exactly why I held out so long to buy an HDTV. I didn’t want to deal with all the compatibility headaches I read about. And still! The industry hasn’t gotten it right. I’m using the VGA connection from my PC to dive my TV, and over the air HD, no problems so far. The picture is good enough. I’ll wait until they resolve the DRM B.S. & HDMI specifications before spending another dime on my TV.

  22. Buddha says:

    The problem is not with Time Warner. it’s with Motorola. As a former FIOS tech support employee, I dealt with this all the time. The Motorola boxes and some brands of TV’s just do not work properly on HDMI. HDMI will NOT give you a better picture than component because no cable provider broadcasts in 1080p anyways. Yet people think it’s the best, so they insist on the HDMI working. Just save yourself the hassle and use component.

  23. odarkshineo says:

    gl with that…iv been waiting on a tech to show up for a week, 2 no call no shows, the first time they told me i get 20 bucks if they were late. i said okay im gonna take that 20 bucks then they claimed they dont actually do that.

  24. cytoman says:

    You have to realize that Time Warner Cable is one of the worst companies on the face of the earth. When I had TWC in So Cal it routinely went out due to ‘signal problems’. The bill always arrived on time though.

    And when my phone went out for a month (we had a dial tone but no one could call in due to a ‘misconfiguration’), I missed an important call for a job interview and lost my home and had to leave California. When I called to complain and ask for a refund of the charges they sent me to collection.

    Really nice people. TWC SUCKS!

  25. dulcinea47 says:

    When I had the same problem (though not with Time Warner, with our local cable monopoly), the dude told me to just use component cables. He said that basically HDMI just does that sometimes and there’s nothing they can do about it. At least he was honest.

  26. NOS says:

    Just out of curiosity, did the OP bother to test the box with a different HDMI cable? All I saw was you were using the same cable with different devices.

    Some times the device may want a higher quality cable then what you were using… or there is a lower error limit on the cable box VS the other things you tested.

    Other tapes of data cables can give those same issues, I.e. if you are using a faulty USB cable it will work just fone on some computers and won’t work at all on others.

    My recommendation. Get another HDMI cable from another device and see if the box works with a different cable… not if other devices will work with the same cable.

  27. Stiv says:

    Other than not wanting to lose any of the shows he had recorded, I don’t understand why he just didn’t ask for a replacement box. In the few times I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to get replacement equipment from Time Warner with absolutely no hassle. Last time I had problems with my cable modem, I brought it to one of their customer service locations near my house and exchanged it without any questions asked.

  28. common_sense84 says:

    Blaming the TVs is a cop out. My dad had the same problem with comcast. He is on his 3rd box with them.

    When the TV works with other sources just fine, that tells you the cable box is flawed.

    The real reason TW won’t replace the box is because this problem is most likely in every box they have. And rather than sue the shit company that made them and replace all of their boxes, they would rather tell the customer to shut up and deal with it.

  29. RetentionAgent says:

    uhh.. We do support our equipment regardless of the problem. I see that they did set up a trouble call, which should fix the problems..More than likely a faulty DVR box which is easy enough to fix..

    Interesting though..If one of my agents said that to a customer, Id be irate..

  30. paul says:

    My DirecTV HD receiver is attached to my Philips TV via HDMI. It has various issues, most prominently simply failing to work about 1/4th of the time when changing from one resolution to another (which is every time you change channels if it’s set to use the station’s native resolution). It also decides not to have any sound at all randomly, which is fixed by tuning to an OTA channel and then swtiching back to HDMI.

    I contacted both DirecTV and Philips support about these issues. DirecTV told me to contact my TV manufacturer, and Philips told me to contact DirecTV.

  31. Paladin656 says:

    Comcast did the same thing when I worked there. Never quite understood it myself. My suggestion to the customer would be to get them to swap the box if he knows the cable is good. But that’s all i’d be able to suggest.

  32. AI says:

    I can understand their stance somewhat, after having dealt with HDMI compatibility issues myself.

    My advice would be to say you don’t want support. You just want to verify if the HDMI port is indeed functioning or broken. Support or not, TW shouldn’t be able to sell you a broken cable box.

    Get them to hook it up to their equipment and get it working. If they can’t, get a new unit. If they can, then thank them, and start troubleshooting your issue.

    If it’s a rented box……..well I guess you’ll just have to get used to component.

  33. HDTVTECH says:

    As a TV tech I see this ALL the time. Time Warner and the Scientific Atlanta and Motorola boxes they use just don’t “speak” HDMI very well. Of all of the hi-def providers, the VAST MAJORITY of HDMI problems trace back to cable boxes. Direct TV and Dish seemed to have figured things out with no problems, I have no idea why TW can’t do the same. In worst cases, I recommend using the component video connections. You don’t lose much in video quality because TW is doing a fair amount of compression (how else could they get hidef, internet and phone on 30 year old cables).
    People there is a visible difference between satellite and cable. Both DTV and Dish have launched new sats when they added programming, so lower signal compression/greater bandwith. Until TW cleans up their act and finally starts installing fiber, tell them to take a hike.

  34. jeepguy57 says:

    I don’t get the issue? They are sending someone out, so obviously they will either fix or replace the box, no? I could see this being a Consumerist story if the tech does nothing about it, but I think them offering to send a tech I negates the need for this story. For now.

  35. AgitatedDot says:

    Well I guess he’s lucky because when I get calls like this I go to your door, explain the component cables are considered HD ready and offer to install it, completely ignore your whining about how HDMI is ‘better’ and charge you for this service regardless if you let me to install it or not. Ka-ching!

    Yes I am a cable tech but not with TW. And my company also hates HDMI cables because they are fickle! We officially do not support it and don’t care what you have to say about it. It’s marketed as superior but mostly it’s copy protection.

    PS You can always replace the DVR box at the local office but don’t waste my time on ‘problems’ like this one.

  36. 8TrackMind says:

    Rogers cable here in Toronto has the same attitude. Their HDPVR Scientific American boxes have HDMI output of course, because it’s HD, right? It seems reasonable that customers might want to output the signal with the best quality signal, having paid for HD, right?

    But no, Rogers will not support the HDMI output of the PVR. Although, I had problems with two HDPVRs, both doing the same thing as your unit, blacking out occasionally. The rule of thumb is, if you’re renting the box from the cable company, just bring the defective box into one of their outlets, and they will swap the thing no questions asked.

  37. JP says:

    Had a similiar problem with TW. When the tech installed a new HD box I asked him to install the HDMI cable and set up the HD. He stated that he didn’t know what HD was and didn’t know how to set it up. Fortunatly, I knew how to do it so I did it myself. What a total waste! I am no longer with TW for that and many other reasons.

  38. kathygnome says:

    I have a Comcast Motorola HD-DVR and the HDMI is very flakey. It would renegotiate the connection if things were turned off and then reset the DVR to the settings it thought were appropriate. I just changed to Component cables, which are still HD, and that solved the problem. HDMI is more convenient, but with the combination of DVR, TV, and HDMI pass through receiver I can understand why they don’t want to troubleshoot.

  39. MrEvil says:

    I am equally disappointed with my TWC DVR box. Right now I have it hooked up to my TV through a 4 port auto HDMI switch (that one of my Geek Squad buddies bought for me with his discount). The problem is the stupid cable box never really powers off the HDMI output to the switcher forcing me to swap manually between my HTPC and it. I’m not too worried about it though since I will soon be purchasing one of Ceton’s cableCARD tuners for my HTPC.

  40. diagoro says:

    Could it be that Time Warner are using ‘old boxes’ with sketchy software, etc? I had them earlier this year for the World Cup, refused to keep the service beyond that. The only box they said was available had to be at least 5 years old (based on discussion threads I found online). I later found that there was an updated version of the box with a much greater hard drive, but it “wasn’t available in my area” for some dumbass reason.

    Perhaps I was spoiled by DirecTv updating their boxes about once every year, if not more. There really is no excuse, beyond penny-pinching, to rely on antiquated hardware….

  41. Pax says:

    If it’s part of their damned equipment, then they should damned well support it.

  42. Conformist138 says:

    This is totally normal. Same thing when cable companies put out boxes with memory card slots and USB ports- none of them worked. They weren’t supported or intended for anything, really. The reason they were there was it was cheaper to just make boxes with the ports now in case they wanted to support something that needed them later. Basically, the only difference between that and the HDMI thing is that the HDMI *might* work, while the other ports simply do not work at all (actually disabled).

  43. WestVillager says:

    Cable TV really is a marvel of 70’s technology.