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Comcast TV Program Guide Goes From Clunky to Cutting-Edge

By KYW Technology Editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- If you're a Comcast customer, your TV guide is in line for a complete makeover.

If you find the current on-screen program list clunky, text-heavy, and unintuitive, Comcast hopes you'll like what you'll see in Xfinity X1.

"It's very sleek, has a lot of cover art, and a lot of personalization. It allows you to search and to get to things very easily," says Marcien Jenckes, the senior vice president and general manager of video services at Comcast.

He says the new guide makes it as easy to navigate the thousands of channels, shows, and performers on your TV as it is to get around the web.

"You can say here's an actor that I like -- Tom Hanks -- or here's a team that I like -- the Phillies," Jenckes says. "You can set recordings or follow those entities so that whatever it is they're in, you can be alerted to, or stick on your DVR and watch, or see whatever it is they might have done that's On Demand."

The DVR allows you to record two programs while watching a third -- one more than the current box permits. Comcast says voice control is coming. X1 has apps to put Facebook photos and feeds on your screen, to share what you're watching on Twitter, and to play music from Pandora.

"We also have this great sports app where at any point in time you can see all the games that are being played, and you can switch between them, see the scores, and see the updates," Jenckes says.

Comcast officials demoed the new guide for KYW Newsradio at Comcast Labs at their headquarters in Center City. The design mirrors their smartphone and mobile app, with high-res fonts, network logos, and images from movies and TV shows that appear alongside program information. Films get tagged with their Rotten Tomatoes review score. Shazam is integrated for song discovery.

During our review, the cloud-powered guide was responsive and glitch-free. Typing "HBO" on the remote brought up a list of all HBO channels. Searching for "Game of Thrones" displayed all available live and on demand episodes, and included buttons to call up similar shows and movies and other programs that feature the cast members. The on-screen sports app let us watch a live game while live scores appeared in a pane on the right of the screen; selecting one of those NFL contests called up a graphical representation of a football field to show current ball position and stats and allowed us to switch to watch the action on that channel.

X1 has its own smartphone and tablet app, which lets you swipe on the screen to move to a new channel and navigate traditional remote controls.

"We think a lot about how viewership is going to evolve and it is evolving, and there's a lot of device-shifting, timeshifting, and personalization," Jenckes says. "This platform allows us to offer it to our users in a way that really isn't being done anywhere else."

Verizon FiOS customers might notice some similarities between the X1 guide and their program list.

Comcast is rolling out the new guide first to new TV, Internet, and phone ("Triple Play") customers, and to those who are upgrading their service.

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