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"Comcast searches for way to be television's Google"

By - October 20, 2005

Comcast GuideI just love that headline, from the Chicago Tribune.

From the article:

For Comcast Corp. Chief Executive Brian Roberts, the key challenge in today’s digital video world is how to become the Google of television.

Roberts, who heads the nation’s largest cable TV provider, said broadband Internet makes the traditional cable TV business obsolete. As a result, he said, Comcast is stressing its on-demand video service, which enables customers to view movies and programs whenever they want.

Well, I have to say, this is pretty clueful of Mr. Roberts, who has always impressed me as the most forward looking cable guy out there.

Part of Comcast’s strategy is to become more like Google by making it easier for customers to search for the video content they want, when they want. One part of that strategy is developing a more robust interactive TV viewing guide. Roberts stressed that these technologies must be easy to use.

Note to Roberts: If your current interactive cable guide (which I suffer through daily) is any indication, you have *a lot* of work to do on user experience/user interface. Comcast has never, ever, ever been in the user experience business, it’s been in the distribution business. If you’re serious about competing in search and experience, it’s time to get serious about UI/UE/HCI. Tivo, for example, is pretty good at this….yet even Tivo’s search is terrible by comparison to any web based search engine. I know there are design constraints to doing great search on a TV, but sheesh, this is structured search, for goodness sake. It should be *easier*!


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6 thoughts on “"Comcast searches for way to be television's Google"

  1. I agree that the search capabilities in most IPGs (especially the ones made by TV Guide and Scientific Atlanta) are pretty bad. One of the better IPGs, search-wise, is “Echo”, made by Aptiv (formerly Pioneer Digital Technologies), but since you’re a Comcast customer, you’re not lucky enough to have it.

  2. Haggie says:

    I know Sergey Brin, and Brian Roberts, you are no Sergey Brin.

    I use Comcast for my broadband connection and that is expensive enough. I’m not going to screw myself by volunteering to pay a premium just to get digital cable so Comcast can sell me “on demand” content. That’s like charging me to walk into the grocery store before I even buy groceries…

  3. Scott Magoon says:

    If Comcast wants to become the Google of television it should focus on the AdWords model as a means to finance on-demand viewing/downloading in a post-broadcast world. Let’s start with the premise that a TV show, a one hour drama like Lost, is worth $2. I say that because that’s what Apple’s iTunes Music Store charges me to download a current or past episode of Lost without commercials. In the current distribution model I receive Lost via broadcast and it contains something like 18 minutes of commercials. Advertisers pay for the production and distribution of the show by buying ad time based on aggregate view demographics during the scheduled broadcast slot. I personally may not be interested in any of those ads. Even worse I may (and do!) skip them all by watching from my TiVo.

    Now online, Google knows me well by observing my behavior and advertising to me based on my intentions. Last week I paid a local repair shop $48.65 to fix my VCR. I used Google to find the place (and actually it took several phone calls). If my intentions were clear, mightn’t a local shop have been willing to pay up to $2 to put a compelling ad in front of me just at the moment of purchase? It’s not always that clear cut but at that instance it would have paid off. As the model improves the value of targeted ads delivered at precisely the moment of purchase intent increases in value. This makes tons of money for Google. But it could also work for the TV world.

    If I am interested in a product, and Comcast or some other distribution entity knows that, then I could be served a relevant and very valuable ad for that product or service. Just one such ad delivered personally to me may be worth more than all the common ads I view during a TV broadcast. See where I’m going here? One to five perfectly targeted ads could be attached to a downloaded TV show and cover its costs the way broadcast ads do now.

  4. Neil Patel says:

    The main difference between Google and Comcast is that Google provides a lot of free services and features while Comcast charges for everything. Digital cable is high in price and the picture and sound quality truly digital like satellite.

  5. Gibby says:

    Multimodal solutions are in the works. If you were in Philly you could search all programming (including OnDemand) with Promptu.

  6. Gopi says:

    For households with both comcast internet & cable access they already know what people are searching/visiting – They already have the data ,the question is how & when to monetize it!