DirecTV's New Program Guide Is a Flop

| About: AT&T Inc. (T)
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DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) this morning rolled out what it hoped might be a solution to the "500 channels and nothing on" problem.  Adapting search and recommendation technology that's used by Yahoo Movies (YHOO) and eMusic, the satellite TV service added "My TV Planner" to its Web site.  Subscribers log in and rate 6 to 10 movies and TV shows and immediately are presented with a personal page of recommendations. 

At the moment, only customers can use it.  Non-subscribers are expected to get access to the tool later. Don't feel left out. Even though DTV's customer service on the Web and the phone is really outstanding, this is a flop. 

For starters, it suggested I would like a Seinfeld rerun being broadcast by KCBS, a station in Los Angeles.  I live near Washington, DC.  DirecTV knows that. Although I told My TV Planner I watch sports sometimes, it did not recommend tonight's big Rutgers-Louisville football game, but did suggest I wanted to see a New York Rangers show on Fox Sports New York. (Hello ... I'm in DC, remember?)  I asked for today's recommendations; it gave me Thursday's.  It points me to shows on premium channels I don't get, like Cinemax.  In other words, it don't work.

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"My TV Planner" uses technology from ChoiceStream Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.  It'd be great, if it worked.  There is an awful lot of programming DirecTV delivers to me, for which I pay, and about which I don't know. 

After a brief tour of the planner, I don't know if the problem is DTV's failure to sync my customer profile information (like where I live!) or whether the preferences it gathers at the start are just too skimpy to produce useful results.

This is the right thing for DirecTV to do, for sure.  Faced with competition from Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) FIOS and AT&T's (NYSE:T) Internet TV offerings, never mind various IPTV-based offerings, as well as digitizing cable systems, consumers have more choice than ever. 

"MY TV Planner is an important step into where the future is going to the living room," said Daren Gill, vice president of business development of ChoiceStream.  "This is the convergence of media and the ability to deliver information across screens," he said.

Well, not yet.

Radio_iconListen to ChoiceStream’s Daren Gill explain how “My TV Planner” could help DirecTV sell upgraded entertainment packages and pay-per-view.