Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cablevision (Optimum) DVR fast forward is crude, lacking what Verizon provides: skip forward 30 seconds.

When I switched a few months ago I noticed it right away, that the Cablevision (Optimum) remote control lacked the button that was on my Verizon FIOS remote defined as "jumps forward 30 seconds in the program you are watching". In the Verizon menu you can switch from 30 to 10 seconds.

Why does this matter? If you're a candidate for "cord cutting", it doesn't. Those people mostly care about watching movies, basically anything but sports. That content can now be obtained ad hoc from various content providers and all they need is a connection to the Internet, which makes the term "cord cutting" silly. It's not subscribing to TV service.

But if you watch team sports (baseball, football, basketball) you need TV service. Black out rules limit or make very difficult watching local teams with generic sports packages. Switching channels is close to impossible with streaming video and when replaying, fast forwarding is essential.

Which brings us to the specific topic of this post: why does Cablevision (Optimum) provide only a single crude DVR fast forward function?

Verizon has the crude fast forward, too, but even there it's better. Cablevision (Optimum) seems to skip ahead and show a single still frame rather than speed up the frames. Increasing the speed of the Cablevision (Optimum) just makes it speed past the end of commercials even further. You then must back up, causing you to view what has happened. This is pretty annoying if watching a drama but for sports showing what happened is really not good.

Most specifically, the problem is not the commercials during sporting events. It's the dead time between plays, especially the 300 intervals of dead time between pitches in a baseball game. You've got to skip at least 10 seconds or try to get by with skipping 30 seconds and watch the next pitch right away. It's the only civilized way to watch a single baseball game.

I tried for months to use the crude Cablevision (Optimum) fast forwarding but it is not even as good as that provided on the old VCRs. I had bought a second Verizon remote control and still have it. Both the Cablevision (Optimum) and Verizon remotes have the same color function keys: A, B, C, D. On the Cablevision (Optimum) the green D key is not used. I tried unsuccessfully to "program" it to perform the 30 skip fast forward. I held down SEL and D to gain access but that did not work. To tell the remote the type of TV you have you hold down SEL and TV/power on the Cablevision (Optimum) remote. That causes the O. button (that BIG round one in the middle) to flash and then you can enter the secret code for your TV. The installer person usually does this for you.

Internet search was fruitless. There are such instructions on how to "hack" remotes for other DVR type providers but not for Cablevision (Optimum). I could not find a manual for the Cablevision (Optimum) Samsung SMT-C5320 set top box and DVR I have. Nor would Cablevision (Optimum) provide me with a digital manual for it.

Next I sent a message to Cablevision (Optimum) asking them to "program" the green D key to skip 30 seconds for me, for everyone, or tell me how I could do it. There followed a thread of messages and even a voice conversation. Cablevision (Optimum) repeated what a great idea I had and that it had been passed on. If Cablevision (Optimum) actually wanted to provide this function, the damn button would be on the remote.

The remote for my ten year old Panasonic HDTV has the skip fast forward button but I could not figure out how to associate the Panasonic remote with the new Samsung box from Cablevision (Optimum). I even considered using the Verizon remote but couldn't figure out that either.

I asked Cablevision (Optimum) about my using a universal remote control. Eventually, they sent a link on their website that showed four.

Here is a list of some brands and models of universal remote controls that will work with Optimum equipment:
  • RCA 5 Device Universal Cable Remote
  • URC SR3 Big Button Universal Remote Control
  • Universal Remote Control – 6-Device Preprogrammed Learning Remote
  • General Electric 24959 8-in-1 Universal Remote Control
Almost all universal remotes that were manufactured since 2001 are compatible with our digital cable boxes. These remotes may be purchased through most electronic retailers. While many of the universal remote controls available will work with Optimum equipment, we recommend using the remote controls provided by Optimum. Using remote controls provided by Optimum ensures that all functions will work properly.

However, when I simply asked for the Samsung code that such a remote would need during setup, Cablevision (Optimum) declined to provide that, telling me to find that in the manual of the universal remote control. In other words, I had to buy it first, then check to see whether there was a code for the new Cablevision (Optimum) Samsung box. And even then, I could only expect the universal to control the functions provided by Cablevision (Optimum), which do not include the skip fast forward.

Here is my reply this morning to the most recent "apology" from a Cablevision techie telling me what a great idea I had in suggesting that the green D button be programmed to provide the skip fast forward function:

It's not a great idea. It's basic stuff, which Verizon has. I'm guessing that Cablevision is getting more money from content providers to make skipping commercials as difficult as possible. Other Cablevision techs have suggested four different universal remotes when I asked about them but decline to supply the code for the Samsung box you distribute. Without that the universal remote cannot be set up to control your Samsung box. See how all this comes around to Cablevision trying to squeeze more money out of things?

Oh, and the Android app provided by Cablevision (Optimum) lacks any fast forward function, not even the crude one provided on the Cablevision (Optimum) remote control. You can't make up stuff like this.


Ted Emerson said...

Great article. Any updates?

I am thinking of switching back to Fios because of this issue.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Thanks, Ted. No updates. Only generic invitations to return. I'm sticking with Verizon FIOS even though it's more expensive and less flexible in its offerings and billing options.

Darryl said...

I recently switched back to an Optimum cable box after a four year absence. I had the Samsung multi-room DVR when it first came out and had nothing but problem with it. Had to continually reboot the box multiple times a week. I bought my own TIVO Bolt which I loved. However, over the past two years since TIVO was bought out by Rovi, I have noticed many changes (usually in the forms of downgrading of services) that happen every other month or so. The final straw was when TIVO discontinued Spotify as that is the main form of streaming music I listen to. With my annual subscription running out at the end of the month, I decided to give the Samsung box from Optimum another go around, and I found that it is much better with much less problems than before. HOWEVER, like you, the fast forward button function is pathetic! TIVO not only had the 30 sec button that FIOS has, but TIVO also has commercial skip (not available for all, but for most prime time network shows) which works like a charm! I seriously might have to rethink my decision to go back to the Optimum box, even though having the on demand is nice, it is not worth the extra cost, particularly when the TIVO commercial skip spoiled me the past four years. Will have to see which way I go. Really wish that Optimum had fixed this problem but as you stated, they care more about the revenue they generate from not providing the service.

Ted said...

Funny but I switched just yesterday from FiOS to Optimum and the ONLY thing I don't like about it is this inability to FF past commercials in 30 second increments. I'm not likely to go back to FiOS just for this, BUT it would behoove Optimum to do better and provide this option!