Around College Football Season every year my family bites the bullet and orders cable for several months in order to both take advantage of the latest Cable deal, and allow us to see my two Cougars (University of Houston and BYU) try to make it to a Bowl game. Every year we get a digital box, HD service, and occasionally a premium channel or two and some times a Sports Package to make sure we don’t miss a game. Especially if you’re only doing it for a few months a year, it’s a great deal, and you can often get free DVR, free premium channels, etc. as a result. Add that to the 50Mbps downstream internet I’m getting and I’m a pretty happy guy. Comcast’s lineup continues to improve as we go year to year, providing more HD channels, online DVR scheduling, and more. There’s one piece that never seems to improve though – the ability to remove the channels you don’t want to watch from your line up. Why?
For instance, today I was upstairs working on the computer when I hear my 10 year old daughter yell up the stairs, “Daddy, JJ (our 2 year old) just ordered Avatar!” I run down the stairs, and sure enough, Avatar was sitting on the screen (in standard def, unfortunately) on pause, waiting for us to watch it. My 2 year old was sitting there, proud of his accomplishment. Before you say, “that’s a smart 2 year old!” (which he is), keep in mind that this same boy regularly steals my iPad and iPhone, and thoroughly enjoys trying to call Mike Arrington every chance he can get when I’m not watching (thus far I’ve caught him every time). In fact, as I write this, I hear he’s up stairs yelling to my wife, “Computer!”, I’m sure as he hits all the buttons he can on his – er, I mean her – laptop.
So you can see how easy it is for a 2 year old to purchase things on the Cable box (I won’t even get into how my 8 year old can guess our pin codes like any 1337 h4x0r). Comcast does have parental controls, but, at least in the last on-and-off 3 years I’ve had their service (or more – can’t remember), their parental controls have always just been a series of “enter your pin number to watch the Rated R show”. I do notice you can hide shows marked as adult, and you can set a pin number on the main On Demand (which by default is free unless you go into the purchase section). However, there’s no way at all you can completely block an entire channel or completely block purchases on the device.
I called Comcast just to verify. Their answer was that my only choice was to set up parental controls, something I’m very familiar with. They had absolutely no way for me to completely turn off a channel, even by calling them to do it. It simply isn’t possible. Why?
On Twitter and Facebook we have a simple solution to this. If you don’t ever want the chance to see something you don’t want to from a particular user, you can just block them and you’ll never see them again (unless you’re really looking). Blocking a channel ought to be even easier than that. Why can’t I hit “info” on a channel just like I do to favorite the channel, and hit “block”, completely turning the channel off forever?
Comcast, let’s face it – I’m never going to watch the adult channels. There are other channels you have that I’m never going to watch. I’m never going to purchase an on-demand movie from you guys. I know you want to tempt me to do so, but frankly, you’re just ticking me, and thousands of other customers of yours off by not giving us a way to turn these things off. Right now Comcast is like a casino, tempting you every step of the way to put your money in and take a gamble, only there are no people watching to see if the kids are the ones doing the gambling. Let my people go!
Comcast, you have an opportunity here – I know your competitors in the satellite and cable space do the same (if you know of a service that allows full channel blocking, let me know in the comments). You have the opportunity here to target every single family in America right now and make them feel good about your company. Be the hero. Please, let us block these channels, and especially the pay-per-view if we don’t want to see them! Keeping them in place is ridiculous, and frankly, you risk each and every 2 year old in America being exposed to this stuff by not enabling a simple “block channel” on your service. It’s time to innovate. Free the parents across America!
UPDATE: Per the comments, I’m going to list services here that do allow the removal of channels entirely:
- AT&T U-Verse (thanks @milestogofromhere)