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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

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