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Why will Comcast only let you pause something for 5 minutes?
September 18, 2013 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Why will Comcast only let you pause something for 5 minutes?

I find this infuriating.

Is it because they are required to so that people will be more likely to watch the commercials? Is it because if you're watching an OnDemand show, they assume that if they take you back to the menu you're more likely to rent a movie or something?

It's happened twice since I started composing this question and it's one of those mildly inconvenient things that for some reason makes me seethe.

(Bonus question: Why does every screen require different buttons to do the same thing? (Ex: Depending on the screen, you have to hit the exit button or the last button to get to the previous screen. Or, depending on the screen, to watch something you have to hit either the enter or play button.) It's almost as if they're trying to make it intentionally confusing- and if so, why?)
posted by thebrokenmuse to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
 
I always assumed it was a storage space limitation. If you pause something, it has to store and save the video locally so you can watch it later, and it can only reserve so much space on your hard drive for "paused video storage" without impacting the space available for your DVRed shows. For what it's worth, it's not just Comcast, every cable provider I've had has had a similar restriction. If you want to pause it long-term, DVR it first.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:49 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


U-Verse lets you pause for an hour, FWIW.

I miss U-Verse.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:51 AM on September 18, 2013


Rock Steady, that makes sense, but what would make them impose this limitation on OnDemand shows?
posted by thebrokenmuse at 5:56 AM on September 18, 2013


Because there's a limit on the number of streams that can be active at a time in a cable node. Paused shows take up one of the potential streams on the node, one that can be used by a subscriber actually watching a show.
posted by inturnaround at 6:07 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


As for your bonus question...I don't know why it was that way, but it's been vastly simplified with the new X1 guide and remotes that are being introduced now.
posted by inturnaround at 6:08 AM on September 18, 2013


The Comcast OnDemand interface (at least for the non-DVR units) is a lesson in how to not design something. I doubt I've ever used a more frustrating piece of software.

You can't pause for more than 5 minutes. We're in the digital age, folks. There's no reason for this. A pause of a video is as simple as tracking the filename and your position in it. No streams or connections need to be held open. If Comcast needs to release resources simply release them and reacquire them (cough) on demand.

After a video finishes, you're taken back to the "Saved Videos" screen. If you're watching a series of videos you have to navigate the entire menu again to get back to the next in a sequence. Not a single person has never said "Wow that episode was great. Now I want to watch other things I just recently watched." The choice is ridiculous.

Saved Videos are only in the list for a couple days. Because no-one even gets busy in real life and needs to come back to a previously paused show to watch after three days.

It's hard to tell what button to push to accomplish a desired action. Last and exit are two great examples; which one to use depends on where you are. One that constantly kills me is that there's an Info button, but it doesn't do anything while you're watching an OnDemand selection. Instead, if you want to see where you are, you have to hit Play.

The damn menu choices keep getting re-arranged. They keep inserting shows they want to highlight as normal menu options in places previously occupied by frequently used menu items (TV Shows, Saved Videos, etc). I can only assume they're trying to trick you into clicking on something that's going to generate them revenue.
posted by sbutler at 6:24 AM on September 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I have the DVR unit, and it's exactly as you've described.

"After a video finishes, you're taken back to the "Saved Videos" screen. If you're watching a series of videos you have to navigate the entire menu again to get back to the next in a sequence. Not a single person has never said 'Wow that episode was great. Now I want to watch other things I just recently watched.'

It's hard to tell what button to push to accomplish a desired action. Last and exit are two great examples; which one to use depends on where you are. One that constantly kills me is that there's an Info button, but it doesn't do anything while you're watching an OnDemand selection. Instead, if you want to see where you are, you have to hit Play. "


Thank you for putting into words what I could not.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:43 AM on September 18, 2013


Direct TV lets you pause a live show for an hour. I assume that's because the DVR receiver has only an hour of "dedicated" space for live shows, the rest of the hard drive being reserved for shows you've scheduled to record rather than recorded "on the fly." You can pause longer than that if you've DVR'd it. This is also how it worked with Comcast, Cox, and Charter, the three other cable providers I've had DVRs with. So, I imagine [insert name of cable provider here] is similar. I'm not sure about On Demand, though; I've never used it. Seems from the other responses that it's an issue of poor software design and/or poor user interface design. Not much you can do about that, I suppose, unless you find out the company that writes Comcast's DVR/On Demand software and go apply for a job there.
posted by tckma at 7:43 AM on September 18, 2013


Seconding iturnaround about the OnDemand, with some clarification.

He's not talking about allocating digital bandwidth on the cable backbone to stream the show. In a lot of Comcast areas, your rental is being broadcast to you on a private cable channel. That channel is allocated for the duration of your rental. It used to be you could set up a QAM tuner to watch those channels beyond the normal range and observe your neighbors streaming their shows.

If Comcast were to release the channel while "paused", your screen would go dark. The video is being played at the company head-end, not in your box. You also can't guarantee that there will be a channel available when you *do* decide to resume playback, which would make for an even worse customer experience. The simplest solution is to force you to watch the on-demand show and get it over with.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:38 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, TWC's OnDemand works the same way.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2013


You even get this when you watch Comcast on-demand stuff on a TiVo (the newer TiVos can do on-demand in the same way the official set-top box can).

As people have said, it's a technical limitation because the Comcast head-end is broadcasting the show for you on an ad-hoc channel, and they don't want you tying up a channel forever while you sit paused. This is also why watching on-demand uses up a tuner and so can interfere with recordings (you get prompted about this on-screen if there's a problem).
posted by w0mbat at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2013


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