10 Things I Learned About My Forced Exile to Online Video

April 26, 2012

Posted by Sheree Johnson

I’ve been a huge fan of AT&T U-Verse since I knew it was coming to Kansas City. As soon as it came to my neighborhood about 3 years ago, I had it installed immediately on all six TVs. (Yes, I put it on each TV in each room… Living Room, Family Room, Home Office, Master Bedroom and two other bedrooms.)

You see, I believe to be advertising professional and certainly with my background, being a media junkie, you need to consume a lot of media. You should be watching TV, listening to radio, reading the paper (in whatever format/distribution channel you choose) and more. How can we be making recommendations to our clients and not have experienced a particular medium or media vehicle? Over the years during interviews, one final question I’ve asked to potential candidates is “so what TV shows do you like to watch?” Those who responded, “I don’t watch much TV, maybe a little PBS now and then,” didn’t get hired.

But I digress, back to U-Verse. Roughly two weeks ago on a Saturday U-Verse started pixelating on a couple of the sets. Then I received some error messages about lost connections, which came back on after being rebooted. Then on that following Monday when I turned my set on to watch "Smash," a 2" by 2” small red “X” appeared in the middle of the TV. No signal, no message, just it looming there. I went to the other TVs, and the same red signal was there as well.

TOTAL FAIL.

Long story short, despite trying to reboot, despite being on the line with a foreign customer service technician who valiantly tried everything, I was informed that I had an equipment failure and that the main Gateway, and the unit with the DVR in it had to be replaced. The rep said I had antiquated equipment (after just 3 years??), and because I had six TVs, there’s newer equipment for better connections for the higher number of sets I had with receivers.

But I would be without service for six days, five nights! While that week was going to be busy and I wasn’t home some of the nights, I always have the DVR cranking away so I don’t miss anything, and I couldn’t even do that! I panicked, started feeling desperate, what would I do?

Watch TV via online video of course. Thankfully, my Internet was still working! While watching TV via this means isn’t new to me, I’ve typically done it in small bits at a time, typically while traveling. And of course Online Video usage has been impressively growing – with a total of 164.3 million unique users per month, an average of 138 streams per viewer per month and a little over five hours spent viewing per month (a good portion of that courtesy of YouTube.

So depending when I got home each evening, I searched for something to watch online. Not the silly pet videos of people’s animals doing feats of wonder on YouTube. But my rather my traditional TV viewing, just via a different distribution channel/different screen.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the experience a 3 or 4. But I have to say, while online video has a long way to go for me personally, it was better than nothing. So here’s what I learned about watching online video in major doses:

  1. I watched it on one laptop on my desk in full screen mode while I did work on another laptop. Not the same as being curled up on the couch.
  2. No real-time viewing, for some networks, it’s the day after, for some shows, it’s the week after.
  3. NBC and ABC are the easiest to watch, and they do have full episodes of many shows, including "Smash" (which I missed the night of the meltdown) and "Revenge," one of my guilty pleasures. But again, there’s a 24-hour delay with these show.
  4. Some shows are edited by segment, (e.g., "The Voice"), so you have to watch them in bits and pieces – sort of annoying.
  5. Daily shows like "Good Morning America" or "The Tonight Show" aren’t available, or just highlights from these shows are posted a week later.
  6. I haven’t been watching "American Idol" this season, but because of my limited viewing options I decided to do so. I like the way Fox lets you view just the performances and the judges comments by each contestant (it automatically rolls from one to the next with a 15-second commercial to break them up), none of the silliness in between.
  7. I could never get CBS shows to play – thinking it was a Mac thing, so totally missed that week’s Survivor.
  8. I could never find a place to watch The Food Network or HGTV. I really missed seeing "Chopped" and "House Hunters International!"
  9. Hulu was a serious disappointment. And I didn’t want to pay a fee when I’d be getting my U-Verse back soon. Also Netflix had very limited options, but watched a couple of old movies from it.
  10. While there were commercials, they were typically very short. Having them disrupt the video didn’t bother me at all, and I enjoyed watching them in fact. However, there weren’t as many as I expected. I’m thinking Kraft Macaroni & Cheese was getting bonus spots from the network sites because I can recite that commercial by now.

Because of all of the above, I ended up not watching as much TV as I normally do. I wasn’t dual-tasking as much (except doing a little bit of work), and I actually was going to sleep earlier. So this forced decrease in TV usage for a week was probably a good thing.

That said, I sure was glad to see the U-Verse guy finally show up to install something new outside my house to improve connectivity, the new Gateway and one new DVR receiver, then reboot everything. I was good to go, and reprogrammed the DVR.

But it’s nice to know I have a backup plan… only wish that it was better than what I experienced during my forced exile.


Sheree Johnson is a maven in all things media-related and is the Director of Business Intelligence at Meers. She also serves as the Email Communications Chair for AAF-KC and was a 2010 and 2011 AAF-KC Member of the Year nominee.