Cable TV is just outrageously expensive. For years, I’ve enjoyed a $120/mo promotional price but last month Comcast jacked up the rate. For $170, Comcast provided high speed internet (12MB), the Digital preferred video package (with HD channels) and AnyRoom DVR but no premium channels.
Launching new services is rarely a silky smooth process, especially for a large enterprise. Take for example my recent “experiment” with Fancast:
A few weeks ago, I tweeted about the streaming service from Comcast called Fancast. While other streaming services allow you to watch videos from the major networks, none give you streaming content from premium channels like HBO, Cinemax and Stars. So when my DVR started being flaky this past Saturday night, I decided to give it a try.
The log-in process was painless and the search functionality worked well. To watch premium content, the service required a special Adobe AIR player, which I promptly downloaded and installed. Everything was smooth sailing until up to the point when I tried to start Watchmen. For some reason, the service kept displaying a message that I was an HBO subscriber thought I was. After reading the FAQ’s, I confirmed that was I logging in with my primary Comcast.net account, which is a requirement, so I decided to call in to Comcast’s local customer service. After waiting on hold for a short while, the representative confirmed that all of my account settings were correct but indicated that another department would be better equipped to handle the issue. She tried to switch me to that department by I kept getting disconnected.
When I called in to customer service again, I spoke with another representative but the second one didn’t even know about Fancast. Yikes! Even though I explained to her how the service worked, she questioned me whether it was something that Comcast offered. My wife, who was sitting in the room, was rolling on the floor laughing as I attempted to convince the woman to help me. When the rep tried to switch, I was promptly disconnected again. So, I searched Fancast and (finally) found the toll-free number for support. When I called it, the Fancast rep informed me that my account was working correctly but error that I kept getting was due to an issue that Comcast/Fancast has been having for a week. And there’s no ETA for when it will be fixed. Now that’s a bummer!
While most would chalk this up to Comcast’s poor service, I think that the issue is actually a combination of poor user experience and internal communication/training. NOTE: I challenge you to name a cable television provider that you think is doing a great job these days! While the integration between Comcast and Fancast isn’t where it should be (and there’s a myriad behind the scenes reasons why that’s the case), I would have liked to see a simple error message that indicates that the service is currently down and that they’re working on it. Also, it would have been nice if the customer service reps at Comcast get training on Fancast so that customers like me don’t have to feel like I’ve just made a prank call. Lastly, both Fancast and Comcast should communicate on a regular basis about system status — it would have been much better if the Comcast rep told me that the service was down and to try again later instead of trying to fix my when in actuality it wasn’t the problem.
Comcast must be feeling the pressure to adapt to shifting consumer behavior and increasing pressure from competitors. According to eMarketer, nearly 25% of all TV content watched each day will be time-shifted, on-demand, on the Web or on a mobile device by 2012 (source). Viewers are abandoning television for the internet. Also, both Apple and Google are looking to challenge traditional video distribution channels by offering their own subscription services (source and source). While the service is still in Beta, it is just a shame that Comcast wasn’t able to deliver on the concept.
After spending more than an hour trying to use Fancast, I’ve decided that I need to give Comcast another few weeks to work out the bugs — eventually this service is going to be Comcastic.