There was little sizzle and even less steak in Monday’s announcement that cable giant Comcast would provide some of its content — programming from the Golf Channel and E! — to the online video site known as NewCo.
From a competitive perspective, Comcast’s huddle with NBC and News Corp against Google (and YouTube’s copyright issues) is understandable: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But from a user standpoint, the decision to battle the search giant portends only more frustration, since search smarts — especially at the remote-control level — are something Comcast needs desperately.
Tales of personal blogger woe usually leave me cold, but I’m sure other Comcast customers can share my pain: The Comcast on-screen search menu has to be among the least intuitive technologies anywhere. And here on the S.F. Peninsula, they just recently added another button — instead of just being able to search from the main “menu” page, you have to click there, and then click “search” before you can start searching. One step forward, two steps back.
Going online for assistance offers little help: For some reason the PBS Sprout show Kipper disappeared recently from our OnDemand menu, an incident of no small import for this household’s main director of content viewing. According to the information on Comcast’s website, Kipper is still available OnDemand. In an attempt to solve the discrepancy between the company’s belief and what I see on our TV screen, I was forced through no fewer than five popup windows (including an incredibly useless “interactive” help robot) before landing back at the original support screen. Feeling like Spinal Tap in Cleveland, I gave up.
The next step, calling Comcast support directly, is sure to produce more woes which I will spare you from here. What I am hoping for is that Comcast puts aside its concerns about potential copyright violations and partners with Google (or another search technology provider) to bring real search power and even interactivity to the big screen, or at least in an online way that works. Such a move would be news more welcome than, say, the ability to watch the Golf Channel online somewhere other than the Golf Channel’s own website, which seems to work pretty well.
(Remote photo courtesy of www.smcelectronics.com)