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November 10th, 2000

Ads, Ads Everywhere!

I now pay for cable (after this first month, which is free.) I will shell out a good forty bucks a month for digital basic cable thanks to AT&T. Which I’m fine with. I had the cable installed last week, and I now have a cable box for the first time ever.

This cable box is equipped with what was probably marketed as a wonderful thing: TV Guide Interactive. It’s an on-screen guide with info on the shows and movies that are on and upcoming, along with other nice things like the local weather and a mailbox for important messages. Plus it displays the channel banners when you flip the channel up or down. Sounds fine, eh?

Truth is, it’s full of ads. Everywhere. Let’s start with the channel banner. It takes up a third of the screen. It’s got the TV Guide logo. And, what’s great is that it’s got a nice sized square right underneath that. It’s a banner ad on TV. Oh, and it’s got the current showing on the current channel. Nice of them to remember that.

That’s not all! Enter the main menu, and you get… three banner ads in addition to the TVG logo!

The message feature sounds great. You can get messages from AT&T regarding billing, lineup changes, and such. So what do I get messages about? Pay Per View events. How to use the guide. How I can give them even more money to watch ads. Fun stuff like that.

I might not mind much if the ads were isolated to the main menu – I never really use it. But the channel banners are always there, and can not be turned off – 3 seconds is the minimum delay, and that’s still a long time. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say I wouldn’t mind the banner if it were smaller! You can’t move it – other than the positions of "Top" or "Bottom". You can’t delete it. I figured I’d change the screen position, move it fully off screen, and be all set. Nope. The guide draws a big ol’ border around the screen area.

I also wouldn’t mind the ads if the cable was free. That’d be the trade-off. But I’m paying for this. Options? Heh – none. There are no other cable providers, and there’s no way I can get a dish in my new place. I need the box, because all that’s available is digital cable. So I’m stuck. With ads. Lots and lots of ads. -pm

Posted in Consumer Commentary

FROM: Barbara
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- -4:01:39PM
Two months ago I got the same service, and I am equally unhappy with the channel banner. Especially, since I watch a lot of foreign films on IFC and the banner completely blocks out the subtitles. It seems like it takes forever for it to go away. I also found it amusing that you are suppose to watch a twenty minute video on how to use your remote. Like anyone has that kind of patience.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- -3:12:53PM
You should tell them to kiss your ads.

But seriously, there is no excuse for this. It is more worship of the all mighty dollar. And if you want to have this kind of service it is a pain you must learn to live with. It's the dark side of capitalism.

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- -1:12:33PM
Options? Heh - none.

You have at least two other options:

a. Throw out your TV completely, and go to the library to read books instead. This is, certainly, my recommended solution.

b. Use the airwaves to receive signals instead. Not as good as the first option.

Even without the ads in the interactive guide, I don't understand why anybody would pay $40/month for commercial TV (i.e. to pay someone to pump ads into your home). Heck, I don't understand why anybody would watch TV for free.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- -1:17:00PM
I enjoy television enough to warrant a) owning one, b) using one and c) paying a monthly charge to get more channels. Not having to watch commercials (thanks to TiVo) enhances the experience quite a bit.

FROM: Tina
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- 1:00:02PM
Paul - You've mentioned TiVo before. You should write a Ping on it. Or, I could be proactive and go look it up on the internet. Either way, I'd be interested in hearing how it works.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday November 10, 2000 -- 1:09:34PM
Yeah, Tina, you're right... I should. I will. Thanks for the idea. :)

FROM: liz
DATE: Saturday November 11, 2000 -- -7:04:34PM
so this is like the tivo screen stuff but plus ads? yo, that sucks. (and i agree that you should write a ping about tivo... i'd write a big ol' response about how much i love mine.)

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday November 11, 2000 -- -2:03:06PM
The TiVo Ping will be tomorrow. Just wrote it.

The banners are way, way bigger than the TiVo banners, liz. I'll have to see about doing a screen shot.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday November 11, 2000 -- -1:50:20PM
And here they are:

The main menu

The ugly banner, compared to the TiVo banner.

FROM: cerelle
DATE: Monday November 20, 2000 -- 12:06:42PM
how does one get to the tivo ping?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday November 20, 2000 -- 12:14:53PM
TiVo ping is here:

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Monday November 20, 2000 -- 1:08:13PM
Ouch, Paul, is that a comment on our sites' usability? :)

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday November 20, 2000 -- 1:14:12PM
Well, no, because we'd also have to lose all the graphics and have a tabbed interface too, Ryan. :)

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday November 30, 2000 -- 7:46:50AM
Follow-up: I'm dropping my premium channels, as expected, at the end of this month. As a huge extra bonus, I don't need the cable box anymore! That means no more annoying banners, no IR blaster for TiVo, and no more annoying "messages" about upcoming PPV fights. Whew.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday November 30, 2000 -- 9:15:52AM
No cable box? That can mean only one thing, Paul -- that you responded to this message.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday November 30, 2000 -- 9:21:28AM
keep it on the downlow.

DATE: Monday September 24, 2001 -- 5:35:13AM
I know exactly what you're talking about. I "upgraded" to digital cable but couldn't stand the ads. Three weeks later I cancelled service completely. That was five months ago.

I urge everyone to do the same.

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