Digital cable is great but I am disappointed with the lack of impact it has had on my television watching behaviour. I’ve talked about the trouble with the digital cable when I first upgraded. After spending some significant time watching digital cable, I decided that Rogers just doesn’t get it. Digital cable represents the opportunity to make revolutionary changes to how people watch television.
Innovation does not equal more channels
"Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on" Great, I still watch The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Discovery, and National Geographic. Now I can watch them in different time zones, on new stations, and at all hours of the day. But this isn’t really what I wanted, or at least it is not what my spouse wanted. I had hoped with more channels I could discover new programs that I would enjoy, not just watch more reruns of shows I have seen many, many times.
Better advertising is not better television
Rogers offers the Wink service as part of their digital cable lineup. Wink is an interactive service that displays a little “i” on the screen that viewers can access content that is very much like a low resolution Web. It functions like a viewer-driven news scroller. Viewers are able to browse, select, view and scroll small chunks of content. It works very well for news headlines and stories. MuchMusic has used Wink to create a fun trivia game. Though for the most part this functionality is useful when there is nothing worth watching on.
Behaviour is important
Tivo, Amazon, NetFlix and others have realized the power of community and recommendations. The networks have relied on behaviour and viewer feedback to rate, rank and promote shows for years. But they focus on the new line ups and prime time which doesn’t give me the slightest clue about the stuff I might want to watch. Digital cable and satellite television are crying out for a personalization engine similar to NetFlix. This is their opportunity to market new channels and shows to me in real-time based on my viewing behaviour. If I watch NOVA there is a high probability I will watch Scientific American Frontiers or that I might be willing to pay for The Science Channel.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
One of the missing features is the ability to show me when a particular show/movie is on again. The stronger the programming database the easier this is to do. It is not as important with local tv programming but it is really important with movies. If digital cable is not going to offer me features similar to a TiVo then at least do a very low tech version. Show me the next time and channel the same program is on. I turned on The Movie Network and caught the last 15 minutes of Donnie Darko. An important feature missing from the current implementation of digital cable is the ability to determine when the movie or show is playing again.