Rough Seas for Time Warner's Navigator


Customers are finding it hard to navigate a new on-screen guide to programs and services that Time Warner Cable developed in-house and has deployed in three test markets.

Digital subscribers in Lincoln, Neb., for instance, have complained vociferously enough about the graphics and speed of operation the new guide, called Digital Navigator, to lead the city council to hold a hearing and order a performance evaluation of Time Warner.

Complaints in lesser numbers have also been reported in Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo., according to city and company officials.

Navigator replaces Passport, the interactive-programming guide Time Warner has leased from Aptiv Digital. The new guide steps viewers through on-demand content and digital video recorder controls using the “A” and “B” keys on their remotes.

The Lincoln system has received more than 5,000 complaints since August from about 35,000 guide-using consumers there, according to city officials. Time Warner has issued credits, such as free premium services, to people who have complained, according to Lincoln councilman Jonathan Cook.

The system was first deployed last August in Lincoln. Since then, consumers have complained to city officials about paying $5 more for a product that works spottily and causes their TV service to shut down or freeze.

Among the complaints: Set-tops spontaneously reboot after customers begin using the service and, after rebooting, subscribers lose access to most channels; some show up with oddly pixellated pictures; and digital video recorders in the set-tops stop working properly.

The Lincoln city council ordered a performance evaluation of Time Warner in early March and the city's cable advisory board held a hearing March 23.

Bill Korb, one of the consumers at that hearing, said he went through a guide replacement at his former home, implemented by Charter Communications, with no problem. But with Navigator, his remote wouldn't work.

As late as last week, he said, his box was still spontaneously rebooting and he was unable to launch or use Navigator features via remote control. He said he's on a limited budget and resents being used as a “guinea pig” by Time Warner.

Time Warner Cable senior vice president of corporate communications Mark Harrad attributed some of the complaints to consumers needing to get used to a new form of navigation and presentation of information.

But performance problems were caused when some set-top boxes did not respond correctly to codes for Navigator features in the software Time Warner must download to customers' set-tops in order to use the service. Harrad said codes have been revised, fixing earlier problems.