TV's next killer app: Weather
Comcast is testing a new version of its cable box, which has a weather app.
January 20th, 2012
04:39 PM ET

TV's next killer app: Weather

By Mark Milian, CNN

(CNN) - Of all the digital bells and whistles that Comcast put into its next-generation cable box, executives were surprised about one hum-drum feature that was most popular during testing.

"They love being able to check the weather," Tom Blaxland, a senior director for the company's Xfinity TV digital platform, said in a recent interview. "That's actually the most popular app we have."

"They say it's amazing," he added.

Comcast assumed, understandably, that people testing its Xcalibur set-top box would be most taken by the Facebook integration or Pandora Internet radio. During the test run, which has included more than 1,000 homes in Augusta, Georgia, that has not been the case.

Perhaps, it turns out, the most obvious features can also be the most innovative, or at least the most demanded.

Xcalibur lets couch potatoes sign into their Facebook accounts and see which shows friends like to watch. This feature has not been widely adopted during the beta-test period, Blaxland said.

"People are not accustomed to signing into their TV," Blaxland said. However, people have asked, more than anything else, for the ability to create a list of favorite shows and receive an automated Facebook wall post shortly before an episode airs, he said.

The hype in the television industry is mostly centered around stuff that, on its face, sounds more innovative: voice commands similar to Apple's Siri; motion controls similar to Microsoft's Kinect; three-dimensional programming; and social networking.

Yet, testers of the new Comcast hardware are most eagerly pushing the dedicated weather button on the remote control to check their local forecast in the morning, Blaxland said.

They are less likely to navigate to the Weather Channel and wait for the program to get around to discussing their city, he said.

Other companies, too, have noticed this desire for easy access to weather forecasts. It is a main feature of Nintendo's Wii dashboard. On Boxee's TV platform, a weather icon is always present atop the navigation screens.

And even on the small screen, Apple added a local-weather widget to the iPhone, which can be activated with a swipe of the finger from any application, in the latest software version. When first demonstrating Siri on the iPhone 4S, Apple exec Scott Forstall dedicated a sizable chunk of the presentation to showing off all of the different ways to ask the virtual assistant if it was going to rain.

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Filed under: Innovation • Tech • TV
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. In home personal training

    Wow! Times have changed. Testers of the new Comcast hardware are most eagerly pushing the dedicated weather button on the remote control to check their local forecast in the morning,then navigate to the Weather Channel and wait for the program to get around to discussing their city.
    I usually just ask Siri, She loves me.:)

    April 22, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Reply
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  15. Gaston Lefarge

    In France they mainly talk about how old is Charles Aznavour, and if so is he older than Tony Bennett, if not why? It's frowned upon to discuss the weather especially if you are with English people. Aznavour of course was already old when he made Tirez sur le Pianiste so God alone knows how old he is now, if at all. Tony Bennet, of course, wasn't in Tirez sur le Pianiste, though I remember the weather as being quite good in that most of the time, that's my mother's influence.

    January 23, 2012 at 6:46 am | Reply
  16. HATECOMCAST

    As a former employee of 10+ years all i have to say COMCAST sucks!!!, they claim to have the most HD, they only have like 30 HD channels and some in "ondemand". what a rip!!, they suck!, I have FIOS!!!, fiber to your house, not to your street!!, average customer load per NODE is 350 customers!!!, FIOS is ONE!!! YOU!!!, if you are in the Boston area, RCN has 250 max per node, but they designed it to have about 100 per node!, what does that all mean, you say!, more bandwith for you, no INTERNET LIMITS of 250GB!!, oh fudge, COMCAST JUST SUCKS!!

    January 23, 2012 at 2:47 am | Reply
  17. Gaston Lefarge

    I'm English(on my mother's side) so as you know, we only ever talk about the weather: my phone has an app that tells me the weather in any city in the world for the whole upcoming week. This gives me something to talk about for pretty well the whole day. I dint know anyone over the age of 14 who knows what Facebook is, but they tend not to talk about the weather, because they think it's naff. Mystery is what do they talk about?

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  19. TH

    Comcast is that far behind? No wonder their nickname is Comcrap.

    I have a button on my cable box remote to show the weather and traffic report since early 2006 when I switched to FiOS. It's also integrated with Facebook and Twitter for those who can't get away from all those networking sites. There's YouTube too. There're also games, although the lag is too much to be enjoyable.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:22 am | Reply
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  21. phishkiss

    Lol, allright, companys really need to understand, MOST americans are are average to above intelligence, MOST americans blend in the crowds and dont draw attention to themselves with crazy or stupid antics, MOST americans make up most core audiences but don't voice any strong opinions either way and are ignored by producers and advertisers. Listen I love my friends to death, Im with them if they lose a family member, ill help them move, ill listen to their stories with interest if they want to tell me, but I could give a rats @#$ about what tv shows they watch. Honestly? Seriously? They really really realllly thought that would be a widely used feature? Most people are not that nosy, but the normal non flamboyant reliable weather app, like most americans, I can use.

    January 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Reply
    • XO

      Most Americans are intelligent when it comes to being lazy.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
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        January 21, 2012 at 3:30 am |
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      By definition, 50% of Americans are above average intelligence and 50% are of below average intelligence. – That is the definition of the mean value (or to use your terminology – average value). Sheesh – American education sucks.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
  22. Liz1388

    Doesn't surprise me. I hate having to wait for the weather channel to get around to local weather every 8 minutes. I recall my aunt's cable TV system in FL back in the 90s had a dedicated channel just for the basic weather info. Thought it was a no-brainer, useful idea.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Reply
    • Scruff

      How about you just look outside! If you are wondering what the weather will be like for an upcoming trip, you certainly can wait until the news comes on. Heavans forbid you just go to the weather channel...

      January 21, 2012 at 2:53 am | Reply
  23. Mark Dupoise

    This is NO surprise to anyone who owns a European vehicle. All European vehicles have a button that allows instant access to Weather Band! The US tried to make this mandatory too but the automakers balked at it for cost. When are Americans going to realize that safety is paramount above inconvienence?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
    • blaqb0x

      NEVER!

      January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
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  24. Poipounder

    Being an existing customer Comcasticxfinity will not help me out getting a new box. They only like their new customers. Which means I have to quit their services and reapply and get on a contract before they will do anything.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  25. GME

    Its about time they get weather. Frontier has Widgets and has had them since Frontier was Verizon FiOs in my area at least 6 years ago. They haven't done much to them as time has gone on which is a shame, but weather was the most used one in my parent's house until I moved out for college/real life (moved to Comcast-only area whereas my parents live in a Frontier vs. Comcast area)

    January 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  26. JeramieH

    My cable box will integrate with Facebook? Words fail me.

    January 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
    • Indeed

      It's important that I be able to pause during a movie to find out who went to the bathroom during the last half hour.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
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      I celmletopy agree! I always say it is worth spending a few hours per week trying to figure out how to do the job smarter.

      February 20, 2012 at 1:42 am | Reply
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  27. Emma - Chicago

    Comcast, “SMART TV” means more peering into our privacy. No thanks. I use TVDevo "dot com" which has been out for a couple years. No ads and No privacy peering issues.. Don’t trust this new breed of smart tv providers. They store all of your activity forever and will soon know more about you than you do about yourself.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
    • doofus

      man, i can smell that paranoa through the monitor

      January 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
    • Burbank

      Good! Then maybe they will notice how the same annoying commercial (Aamco is the absolute worst offender with adults making very loud, obnoxious and extremely annoying middle schooler noises) over and over and over every night makes me immediately switch channels or hit the mute button to get away from it.

      It might cause these advertisers to get rid of offensive commercials when they finally realize what kind of impact it's really having on their intended audience. The focus group folks that say they liked these ads weren't forced to hear them at least 50 times a week, every week, month after month.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply

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