Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cox has Local Problems

The Advertiser this morning carries a story with the fawning title "Cox: It's working to correct problems." In a nutshell, customers are complaining about problems with sound, pixelation (blocky patches on digital channels), and most seriously for those effected broken recording functions on TiVo's Digital Video Recorder (DVR). --Problems which did not effect Cox's own competing DVR box. Doug Menefee, of LUFFTTH blog fame, complains:

Douglas Menefee, a TiVo and Cox subscriber, said his TiVo began recording the wrong channels and said it was because TiVo had not received the updated channel guide from Cox through Tribune Media, which is in charge of the data on Cox's channel guide.

"Television is just supposed to work. This week, it has been working against me," Menefee said.

For those who don't see what the fuss is about: a DVR's most basic function is to provide automated recordings of its owner's favorite shows. As a bonus you can motor past the commercials. TiVo--the technology leader in the area and the most popular brand--is beloved by its devotees for its ability to record a favorite series without virtually no attention from users and has made the phrase "time-shifting" a pop culture phrase. Being able to watch TV on your own schedule instead of the network's turns out to be a killer feature. I'm a TiVo user who bought it on the recommendation of a friend and would never willingly go back. As a result of this mess-up I actually had to watch one of my favorite shows when it aired and had to watch the commercials (which turn out to be even more annoying than I recall) and missed several of my regular recordings. Cox has really aggravated such viewers.

What makes it worse is that Ms Kleinpeter passes it off with typical incumbent arrogance:

Kleinpeter said Tribune Media did receive the information and dismissed the claim.

A representative from Tribune Media declined to comment and representatives from TiVo were unavailable.

Kleinpeter said it was the customers' responsibility to update their TiVo settings in conjunction with the change and not doing so would result in a problem with their recordings.

"We have been blasting the information to our customers for 30 days," she said. "So, if someone didn't know about it, they didn't want to know about it, I guess."

This is wrong...and arrogant...and every TiVo user will know it. I'v had some subscriptions for five years now on my aging TiVo and only miss a show when the listing is wrong or when my TiVo's connection to cable box has been broken. This is the worst listing problem I've seen--and it IS NOT the user's fault. There is nothing, nothing whatsoever, an owner can do except to wait for the update to be made online and for their TiVo box to download it. I forced my box manually to make unscheduled update calls every 12 hours or so during the 4-day outage without seeing an update to the correct lineup . That apparently came through yesterday morning sometime and my afternoon attempt pulled down the correct lineup. TiVo happily and correctly updated all my subscriptions to shows and my Friday SciFi indulgence set recorded correctly last night. I'll watch 'em sometime this weekend when I get some relaxation time.

Kleinpeter's attempt to blame the victim is typical of Cox's modus operandi when they are wrong--they put out some sort of inaccuracy, preferably one that blames someone else and hope that the confusion they've caused is enough to cover its culpability. (With all due sympathy for Kleinpeter--perhaps she was made testy by the fact that the two women Cox has used to build up their "friendly face" in Acadiana after the fiber debacle weren't asked to pull this npleasent duty. Karmen Blanco and Jacqui Vines were nowhere to be seen when this latest mess hit the fan.)

What makes this explanation all the more incredible is that Cox had and as of this morning still had the incorrect listing on its own web site. My wife checked it over the outage looking for her favorite channels and I confirmed it this morning. Since TiVo is finding the correct listings now I expect it to update soon. Cox's Listings--powered by Tribune's zap2it.com. (As of yesterday zap2it's own web-based listings were also incorrect; the problem was not in propagation to TiVo's servers.)

Until Cox notified Tribune and the change worked its way through the system there was nothing that could be done by any user. The fault lies with Cox.

I've been through lineup changes before in two states, and have never seen this problem. If its handled correctly the listings change is slotted in to coincide with the cable company's channel shift and the user does not see an issue. It's hard not to think that it has something to do with Cox now having a competing copycat DVR of its own....I wonder how many TiVo users who called in to complain were offered boxes that "work fine with our system?"

2 comments:

Doug Menefee said...

Thanks for the backup information. I can't believe that she called me a liar. Amazing!

John said...

Doug,

We really shouldn't be surprised at this behavior. I'm sure you recall the Cox's Crawdad episode and remember how Bill Oliver reacted when his threats about the Cingular call center was exposed.

These guys reflexively look for a way to blame those they have offended.