We watch... so you don't have to.


I was in Philadelphia today and walking through the train station the place was plastered with ads for Comcast digital cable and their built-in PVRs. "Now your favorite shows will follow your orders" and suchlike sloganeering.

I've seen the difference between Comcast digital and my DirecTiVo. Comcast is following an all-too-common model these days, which I think I might call the Ads, Everywhere Ads Model. Or the Minority Report Model, maybe. Its digital cable guide consists of one-third actual program guide and two-thirds ads of one kind or another, mostly for the TV Guide (which is hilariously redundant) but also for, I dunno, the same crappy stuff sold by banner ads on the Web. (I've gotten so that my brain actually filters out anything banner-ad or button-ad shaped automatically. I've been to sites which use similar sizes for navigation menus and spent several minutes trying to figure out how to use them, only to find the functions hidden in something I thought was an ad and didn't look at.)

Between the ads and their use of a MEGAFONT for the elderly in the audience, you can see a list of titles which looks like this:

101 MEN'S SWM FIN...



104 PORN OR NOT? ...



And it takes about nine days to scroll down. Compare and contrast with DirecTV, the program guide for which contains not a single pixel of ad content and is customizable and easy to use and -- best yet -- does not assume you are a) years old 900, b) an idiot, or c) both.

I can imagine that Comcast's PVRs are going to be equally crippled: In theory, all of your TiVo functions will be there, but your remote will have just one BIG RED BUTTON on it and the PVR menu will scroll... really... really... slowly and you'll have to hit the button when the option you want is highlighted. Meanwhile your friendly Comcast Thought Neutralizer will be happily beaming commercials for Reader's Digest and the TV Guide and the upcoming Wings marathon on your local channel and Foreman Grill Foie Gras attachments so that by the time you figure out what you wanted to do you'll find out it's call some 800 number and agree to give away your credit card and Social Security numbers so you can get cheap life insurance from Gerber.

Cable companies are like dinosaurs wandering around looking for the best place to die so their carcasses can poison the largest water supply possible. The only thing I fear is that their ad-driven model may prove irresistible to the satellite companies. Already I'm worried for TiVo; and I worry that I might have to worry about DirecTV next.


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