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December 12, 2004

Comcast's Bay Area DVR Rollout has Problems

The San Jose Merc ran a cringeworthy misleading headline entitled "Comcast DVR not ready for prime time" for an article that describes the rollout for the Comcast HDTV DVR in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some customers were told it wasn't available yet, while others were told there was a big backlog. According to Comcast:

Comcast spokesman Andrew C. Johnson said Friday that some of the company's service representatives had apparently misinformed callers about the Bay Area DVR rollout. But he said the company is indeed offering DVRs throughout the Bay Area, has begun installing them, and expects to fill thousands of new orders received Friday "within the next two to three weeks if not sooner."

"We're going to have those kinds of missteps as we launch the product," Johnson said. "We have a product that's obviously attracting a lot of attention. But we can't let these dozens of complaints, these one-off experiences, drive what customers experience, which overall has been happy. We'll get better next week."

Tivo and a some Comcast customers see something more nefarious:

Mark McKenzie, 47, of San Jose said he was told to call back every two or three weeks and not to phone too frequently. He and several other customers suggested Comcast's DVR announcement was a ploy to keep holiday shoppers from buying TiVo's product.

"I do think that this was probably a scam on their part to hurt their competitors," McKenzie said.

TiVo spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly agreed.

"That's exactly their approach -- it's available and it's not," Kelly said. "That's been their ploy for over a year now."

Not so, said Johnson, adding such a tactic would leave Comcast vulnerable to a competitive counteroffer by TiVo and its satellite-TV marketing partner, DirecTV.

Regardless of nefarious plots by evil corporations, it sounds like there has a been some good demand for the product.

Posted on December 12, 2004

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