If you’re a Time Warner Cable customer and you spot this on your TV:
… you can start getting excited. This blue screen of annoyance is a sign of new features to come.
Besides the debatable improvement in the program guide, the new Mystro Navigator software, which replaces Passport software in Time Warner’s Scientific Atlanta boxes, paves the way for the “Look Back,” “Start Over” and switched digital video, all features that Time Warner mentioned to us last year.
These features will let viewers watch a TV show they didn’t record for a day or two after its initial broadcast, or restart a show if you tune in after it already began. Time Warner, essentially, is upgrading its on-demand service and creating a networked DVR, allowing for some shows to be stored at the company’s offices rather than the home DVR box itself. Though there are unwanted consequences for some users (see earlier story, “More HD channels coming to cable TV, TiVo users impacted“), this also means customers will get a massive on-demand library of current TV shows they can view at the touch of their remote.
“It’s going to create a system for bandwidth to open up for more HD channels and it’s going to prepare us for the services we’re going to be introducing, Start Over and Look Back,” said Darryl Ryan, a Time Warner Cable spokesman.
Exactly when? Ryan doesn’t know or he won’t say. He’ll only say, “It’s still in development and should be coming very very soon.” But when we first learned that the features were coming, Time Warner gave us a mid-2009 launch date (strum fingers repeatedly).
The Mystro software began rolling out to Southern California customers last year, Ryan said. Those of us getting it now should be on the tail end of receipt, though Ryan won’t confirm.
My personal experience is that when Time Warner surreptitiously updated my HD-DVR box yesterday, I was stuck staring at the blue “DO NOT POWER OFF YOUR BOX” screen for more than eight hours! Apparently, that was a local problem. Ryan said that the upgrade shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. If customers do experience issues, it could be old wiring or some other specific reason. Those customers should call for help, at 888-TWCABLE. The update works fine for me today.
While I haven’t heard of any upgrade issues from readers, there’s a lot of debate online about the good but mostly the bad of Mystro. Google, for example, hasn’t been kind to Mystro and its top search results focus on how terrible Mystro is. There are complaints about the box freezing, not being ready for prime time and even a video showing how lousy Mystro is.
But customers can instantly look forward to other new features: On-screen caller ID for those with phone service, a DVR storage capacity indicator (see image on right — yup, I keep my DVR that full), and ability to view recorded shows by name or date. I haven’t fully checked out all the new features, but I noticed that blogger Selfish Mom offers an overview.
Mystro has been waiting for its public debut for a very long time. The technology, touted as TV’s first server-based, time-shifting service (in essence, the first TV-recording technology that stored recorded programs on the TV provider’s servers rather than on a home DVR box), has been around since at least 2001, when Cable Hall of Fame inductee Jim Chiddix founded the company (see the article, “Fiber and a Charmed Career” from Communications Technology) while working for Time Warner. I first mentioned the feature in an article in 2007, “What’s next for TV service.”
But it’s taken sooooo long to roll out. A big delay has been in getting permission from the TV stations to rebroadcast shows. But that appears to be resolved. Start Over and Look Back features started rolling out in 2006 in areas like New York, so we can get a glimpse of channels that will let us really Start Over:
NY1 , Nickelodeon, CNBC, USA, Syfy, VH1, Cartoon Network, truTV, Spike TV, BET, Comedy Central, Oxygen, TV Land, G4, Boomerang, SOAPnet, MTV2, Noggin, Nicktoons Network, CMT (Country Music Television), LOGO, The Movie Channel, Fox Movie Channel, Showtime HD, Starz HD, Encore HD, NY1 HD, WCBS HDTV, TNT HD, WNYW HD, TBS HD, WWOR HD, CNN HD, Palladia HD, FX HD, ABC Family HD, History HD, Fox News HD, A&E HD, Disney HD, Food Network HD, BIO HD, HGTV HD, National Geographic HD, SPEED HD, Animal Planet HD, Travel Channel HD, and Versus/Golf HD
Then there was an issue with a cable company storing TV shows at its offices instead of on a home user’s DVR. This was resolved earlier this year when Cablevision won a lawsuit filed by the TV networks allowing the cable company to offer the networked DVR service.
Let’s hope that the Start Over and Look Back service is worth waiting for. Cox, Orange County’s other cable TV provider, is also rolling out switched digital video and currently offers several prime-time shows on demand (see the earlier “Time Warner Cable looking more like Hulu“).
Recent Time Warner Cable news: