As the Internet allows for more online television and movie options, cable and satellite providers are stepping up their use of Web technology to offer more features, some of which are being tested locally for the national market.
This week, reporting from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Wall Street Journal writer Shalini Ramachandran mentioned Comcast products that local residents are testing so that company leaders can make improvements, Jim Weigert, local vice president and general manager of Comcast, said.
Members of Chattanooga's X-Team—which is a group of about 1,000 area residents who try out Comcast products—are testing the company's new X1 platform.
Like other similar companies, Comcast has recently added this platform, which has either a DVR box or a non-DVR box with all the information stored in the cloud so that it has functionality more like what's available on the Internet, Weigert said.
"For example, if you're watching a movie, you can watch the trailer, you can see who is in it, it will give you biographies of the actors, it will show other movies that are like that [one]," he said. "It gives you a lot more options and intelligence."
The Wall Street Journal reported that many users are coming to prefer platforms that have functionality like what is available online.
Comcast launched the X1 platform a few months ago, and Chattanooga was one of the first locations to get the service.
Last week, Comcast leaders added a new feature to that platform that allows users to use a smartphone as a remote control, Weigert said.
A user could say, "Show me what's on HBO" into their mobile device, and the television makes that happen.
The Wall Street Journal also referenced a project that Comcast and ActiveVideo Networks leaders are working on.
They are working to create cloud-based guides, such as the ones in the X1 platform, that would be accessible without the customer having to purchase new equipment. As it is, anyone with an older "cable box" wouldn't be able to get the newer platforms without updating their equipment.
The new Comcast guide that ActiveVideo is helping with would provide users with more visual information, such as movie posters, instead of only text when they browse through viewing options.
The X-Team began with a couple hundred Comcast employees and now includes other area residents who test an array of apps and services.
They are currently testing a new HBO app, Facebook app, CNN app and a new customer service app that would allow customers to get help via their television set.
For example, if a user didn't know how to set up parental controls, this new app could take them through the process step by step, which can be more convenient, Weigert said.
"People like to have control over their own time, not only in what they view, but when they need help or assistance," he said.