Rogers is launching new software for its NextBox personal video recorders after facing a storm of criticism of a version introduced last summer.
The Navigatr guide, rolled out to subscribers with NextBox 2.0 and 3.0 PVRs in areas outside Toronto, drew complaints about being hard to see and use.
Even worse, some people found all their recorded movies and TV shows had been erased.
Rogers spokesman Aaron Lazarus apologized for the program deletions when interviewed in my column on Aug. 14, “Rogers TV upgrade leads to headaches.”
He said the software would be revamped and tested before being launched throughout Ontario.
In mid-December, Rogers finally started sending updates to some customers in downtown Toronto and the greater Toronto area.
The new Navigatr guide has improved speed and a redesigned look that is more intuitive, Lazarus said, as well as changes that resulted from customer feedback. They include:
• Easier sorting of recorded programs, such as by series or date recorded.
• Better colour contrast and layout, plus a larger font size that is easier to read.
• A fixed parental control that will display only when it’s on. Some people said they couldn’t turn it off.
Will customers who received the new guide last July and August get the latest update? Not right away.
“For now, we are taking a slower approach with a relatively small group of customers in the downtown area and GTA,” he said. “Some folks who had the initial version may be included in the December update and the remainder will get the updated version in the coming weeks.”
David Lennick didn’t like the earlier version of Navigatr. When he received the new guide, he was not impressed. “Congratulations on making it even worse,” he wrote to Rogers’ office of the president. “I now know what ‘lipstick on a pig’ means.”
While Rogers is using pictures to show the programs, Lennick says they are small and hard to read. He also finds he’s losing programs with the new system.
“When I’m trying to watch the oldest in the series, it defaults to the most recent as soon as you stop the program, so you may accidentally erase that one instead of the one you’ve just watched.”
I’ve heard from subscribers who asked why Rogers didn’t offer both the older guide and the Navigatr guide. One asked why he couldn’t buy his own PVR and use it on the Rogers network.
The new Navigatr guide will be introduced — at a slow pace while bugs are worked out — to all Ontario subscribers, Lazarus said. A survey showed most people like the update.
“We asked folks who got the first rollout what they thought of the new guide versus the old one. The result was that by a margin of almost four to one (agree vs. strongly disagree), people said they thought Navigatr offered a better experience compared to the old guide. “
As for customers bringing their own set-top boxes, Lazarus replied, “The Nextbox is specifically coded, tested and validated to work with the Rogers network, so that our customers can get the full offering in their cable package.”
Cisco, a big U.S. company, has worked with Rogers as a partner to develop the new guide, he said.
Rogers hosts a community forum where subscribers can ask questions and air views about the company at www.communityforums.rogers.com.
You can find 139 pages of comments on the Navigatr guide, starting in late July and going into late December.
“The Nextbox is not really user friendly. It’s buggy, freezes, requires resetting. The guide is shoddy, the new scheduled recording management sucks,” says one commenter, asking why he can’t use the TiVo system (as Cogeco customers can).
Another person said: “It is about time that Rogers started paying us alpha testers for the multitude of hours we have wasted with this thing.”
Even if most people prefer the new Navigatr guide, some subscribers find it’s worse than before. They don’t like spending time trying to find fixes and workarounds.
Rogers is leaving the early group in limbo for months. Who can blame them for griping? Many still don’t have a firm date for when the “improved” guide to reach them.
Customers hurt by the change should demand compensation and tell the cable monopoly they could defect to fibre optic TV instead.