Parks Associates Blog

Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Mess with the Local Access Channels!

You know, those local access channels carried on television systems are not the most stimulating things in the world. City council or school board meetings lack the punch of Emeril on The Food Network or the latest NBA highlights on SportsCenter. But woe to the television operator who doesn't do a good job of monitoring the basic quality of the local access channel!

Ironic that suburban Chicago - the location of Wayne's World from Saturday Night Live fame - is front and center again about local access services. An article in Daily Herald notes that residents are up in arms about local channel 99 on AT&T's U-verse service. Among their complaints?
  • U-verse takes too long to load local content;
  • It has a lower image resolution compared to commercial channels;
  • It doesn't offer broadcast-quality audio;
  • It doesn't support closed captioning; and
  • It cannot be digitally recorded with AT&T's built-in digital video recorder.

Meanwhile, Comcast is taking the opportunity to tout the quality of its local access channels. In an age of HDTV, DVRs, and on-demand, who woulda thought that local access channels could be a key differentiator?

Actually, we got a taste of the importance of the local access channels in some research we conducted in a community that was about to have an IPTV service available as a choice. Amid all of the unique features that were tested, it was interesting to have the respondents zero in on local attributes of the service, such as school and community-based programming and responsive customer service. It's a good reminder not to get so focused on the bells and whistles of advanced television service that you lose sight of the more basic elements of delivering a quality television experience.

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