northwestel cable video on demand: not ready for prime time

hancockSunday nights are the perfect movie nights.

It’s a good time to distract one’s mind from the impending stresses and troubles of the week ahead. And there’s no better fare for that than escapist Hollywood, so I decided to check out a flick I’d been meaning to see for a while, Hancock.

Since I’d just upgraded my cable television service with Northwestel, I figured I’d save myself a trip to Rogers and order the movie through their new video on demand service. That turned out to be a bad idea, since they clearly don’t have all the bugs worked out yet.

I made myself a salad, settled in on the couch, and placed my order through the cable receiver hooked up to my tv. And this is what I got:

Hancock Digital Static

Nice. Digital static. I jimmied around, starting and stopping the movie a few times, but it didn’t get any better.

So I exited the movie and went back to regular television, which was working fine. I watched some redneck bikers build Bill Murray a motorcycle for a while and ate some salad.

I went back in to the “On Demand” menu, clicked on Hancock again and got this:

Video On Demand Error Message

Screw it. I watched the bikers weld a pitch fork to the back of Murray’s caddyshack-cycle and finished my salad. The I put on my shoes and did this:


Yeah, that’s right, I went old skool. I drove down to Rogers and picked up Hancock on Blu-Ray. I put the disc in my PS3, clicked play, and was immediately watching this:

Will Smith is Hancock

That’s better.

In a press release last week,  Northwestel VP Curtis Shaw says, “we hope our Whitehorse digital cable TV customers will take the time to try out the service.” 

Well, dude, I took some time, and it was wasted. Think I’ll stick to DVD and Blu-Ray for a while before I blow any more on this half-baked service.

So was the move worth all the hassle?

Totally. Hancock is a brilliant take on the eternal plight of super-heroes in a “real” world. Will Smith nails the part perfectly. It was so good that I sort of wish we had a hero like him in the Horse to smash some sense into Northwestel execs before they launch ill-conceived services like this on an unsuspecting public.

Instead, now there’s one more thing on my bulked-up to-do list for the week: call Northwestel and argue to get that $5.99 credited back to my account. My mind’s not feeling so distracted right now.

6 thoughts on “northwestel cable video on demand: not ready for prime time

  1. NWtel can’t deliver a decent HD TV service or a decent ADSL service so why on Gord’s green earth would they think they could jam HD Video down those old pipes is beyond me. For the amount have been hosing customers for decades some of that should have be shoveled into infrastructure both inside the territory and the link ‘Out’

  2. Actually, it’s not even HD (!). From the VOD FAQ:

    Why can I not see Video On Demand selections in High Definition?

    The format of Video On Demand movies is determined by the studios that send us the films, and, at this time, very few studios provide Video On Demand selections in High Definition format. As the demand increases and more people worldwide utilize the High Definition standard, more studios will begin supplying Video On Demand selections in High Definition programming.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    I wonder if that flyer they sent out last week had anything to do with your problems.

    I guess those customers who would like to watch VOD have to remove a filter from the line which connects at your house (usually by the ADSL box outside).

    We did that and had no problems (thanks to the wife reading junk mail)…

  4. I assume that when the techs came to my house to install the receiver last Wednesday they would have taken care of any issues related to the service such as line filters. I asked them about VOD when they were here and they said I was good to go.

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