Dear The CW: GRADE F – Video Player User Experience

My wife and I do not subscribe to cable.  We subscribe to Netflix and use the instant play a few times a week for “catalog” shows.  For current shows, we use Hulu.  However for my wife’s Gossip Girl obcession Hulu sends you to CW network website.  The CW offers recent episodes with commercials cut into the normal broadcast commercial breaks.  This is normal and expected for “free” content and I’m not bothered by it.

My first impressions of the CW network’s video player is that is a step up from Netflix because the CW uses Flash instead of Silverlight that Netflix uses (yeah, it’s the web developer in me).  The honeymoon lasted all of 20 minutes because their player user experience is down right frustrating.

The player has all the normal features you see at Hulu and Netflix: full screen, pause ability and chapter navigation.  It fails in most areas which I’ll get into later.  The first question I ask of the CW about their video player is: Why do you bother offering video online at all?

The user experience is horrible not to mention the bugs it has.  Let’s get into the user experience before the bugs:

  • Duirng commercial breaks, you cannot pause the video, exit full screen or change/mute the volumn.  FAIL: I can understand not letting people not watch the commercials, but to hold a computer hostage by not allowing pause or muting is horrible.
  • When the player actually works long enough to finish an episode, the behavior is to play the previous episode in the season instead of the next available episode. FAIL: Why would the default behavior to play episode 2 if you just finished episode 3?  I just watched episode 2 before finishing episode 3!
  • When you start an episode, a series of commercials plays.  During this period you cannot put the player into full screen mode. FAIL: Why do I have to wait to put the video into full screen until the actual show starts?
  • If you stop an episode or experience a player bug where you have to restart an episode in the middle, you cannot do that easily because you have watch the commercial breaks that ensued before the section you want.  FAIL: So if the player fails in the fourth act, you have watch the initial commercial series, click to the fourth act, watch break #1, notice that now the player decided to start in the second act, click to the fourth act, watch break #2, notice that now the player decided to start in the third act, click on the fourth act, watch break #3 and then the fourth act starts.  Hopefully the player didn’t mess up with a “bug” during all of this and you have to restart the process again.

For unkown reasons, the video player behaves badly:

  • Sometimes the episode just ends in the middle (from 1 -39 minutes) and it stops and just starts playing the previous episode as if the episode ended.  This usually happens 1-2 times per episode.
  • Sometimes during the commercial breaks, it plays the same series of commercials two, three or four times.  So you end up with 6-9 minutes of commercials.  If I was an advertiser on the CW online video network, I’d be upset for all the additional times I’m paying for these plays.
  • Sometimes the player just hangs.  No message that “your internet connection slows” or anything.  We have solid 6MB internet connection and it plays HD from Netflix and Hulu just fine.  Getting back to where you were is just a PITA as I outlined above.

Ultimately, the CW does not care if people can actually watch content from their network.  Dare I say all they care is repeated watching of commercials to get money from advertises. Bottom line is their player sucks.

User Experience


27 thoughts on “Dear The CW: GRADE F – Video Player User Experience

  1. I congratulate all the many people who ensure the smooth running of this Blog purely sensational and interesting. Really well done and good luck again.
    Voyance , voyance par téléphone

  2. The sad thing is that this post is almost a year old and absolutely nothing has changed with cwtv’s video player. I’d rather bootleg the episodes at this point..

  3. Thank you for writing all this up. I gave up last season on watching Nikita on the CW website because of this. Of course Netflix had full season 1 and now of course I’m back on CW and about ready to throw my computer across the room.

    I have 3 monitors so the whole screen issue doesn’t apply here but everything else is just plain rancid. And I wouldn’t mind the commercials but showing CW show commercials on the website in such quantity is just stupid.

    Thanks again for the most, and ups for the CFML resources ;-)

    ColdFusion for Life!

  4. ITA with everything you said. I am so frustrated with the CW’s player. And don’t forget that you have to wait almost a week to watch a new episode whereas other networks upload the episode next day. It is so so annoying. It is like they’re punishing us for not being able to watch the show the exact time it comes on.

  5. i am in the middle of my show and it freezes a comercial… reload watch 2 more comercial breaks and it freezes again… and again… its been 2 hours and i havnt gotten to finish it

  6. Its a year after teh last Post and the CW still have teh issue with the commercial looping and now the comercial breaks start early in teh middle or scenes and then it returns you where you left off, then jumps past the commercial break marker skiping 5 minutes of show. It still also stops for no reason, with no explanation.

  7. I just wanted to point out that you wrote this in 2010. It is now 2013 and I’m still running into the same issues. The CW player sucks! My current issue is that it goes through the commercial break and then just dies. I’ve left it on and left the room for a different project just to see if it would start for curiosity sake. An hour later it was still in the same state. A couple days later I tried it to see if they fixed the bug so I open the site. Same issue of no video! It does this for all the videos. My Netflix and Hulu are loading just fine. It’s their site that is on crack. I don’t know why I thought it would change. Was I expecting a miracle? It’s not like these shows are that great anyway. I’ll just quit watching them.

    My point is 2010 to 2013. No change. Still sucks.

    • All true and I cannot even get the feedback page to send to complain. Never seen a player this bad NO way to fast forward when it keeps crashing

  8. I haven’t been able to get the player to work in 2 years. I’ve tried chrome, firefox, internet explorer, safari, opera… I’ve even tried it on windows xp, vista (god help us) and windows 7, but all I get is a black screen. I’ve updated to every version of flash available, then downgraded to each level to see if I can’t work out which one it wants. And after being introduced to Supernatural by a friend of mine last Christmas, I’m grateful for Netflix for streaming the first seven seasons because, if I wait for the CW website, I’ll miss the freekin apocalypse. Seriously guys, come on. We can get the mars rover to snap pictures from space and beam them back to us but you can’t get your stupid shitty website to play a freekin video??? WTF???

  9. I hate watching tv on the cw. If you try to jump ahead on the show or rewind then enjoy the commercial break. No volume control no mute during commercials. I guess they feel they got us over a barrel…oh wait what is this my computers volume control. F$%# you Cw!

  10. Still a problem freezing mostly during commercials, choppy video (but works smoothly with youtube) way too many repeating commercials. I am seeing four minutes of (the exact same) commercials for every 4-6 minutes of actual programming.

    Try using internet explorer vs firefox or chrome for possibly a smoother experience.

    Whomever set this up sucks balls.

  11. The trick is to complain to the business advertising on CW. Tell them you won’t buy their product until CW fixes their video player.

    • that is a VERY good idea. money talks, OR, call the actual companies themselves and let them know the advertising they are paying for on the CW is not working, then call the CW and tell you them you called their sponsors, who are not happy, and going to be contacting the CW to ask they why they have not fixed the issue in 3 years. and don’t forget to send a link to this blog post!

      I swear I spent 3 hours the first time I tried to watch “the 100”, was almost ready to throw my laptop out the window. But I guess this is what happens when you let TV people on to the web. Go back to TV, someone has to keep alive, or do they?

  12. Agree! Just need to vent here because I’m experiencing all this same crap at the moment. I only watch Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries. I remember trying to watch episodes of Supernatural last year and it sucking. I had adblock plus on, and I wondered if that was what was going wrong, so I disabled it and still had problems.
    Today, it keeps stopping and going to the previous episode a *couple* minutes in. I can hardly watch anything!
    Strangely though, I watched a bunch of Vampire Diaries the last few days and didn’t have the same issues. Only Supernatural.
    Tryin’ to be good and watch this all legally, but The CW’s making it pretty hard.

  13. Well, it is 3 and a half years since the first post and nothing has changed. Most insanely frustrating experience I have ever had. I tried getting any kind of feedback from CW, but they never respond, from my first nice email, to the more recent not-so-nice emails. CW just plain sucks, and will not improve.

  14. The CW is THE WORST!!!! I’ve been watching on the site since 2007, but now that most of the CW shows are on HULU I just go there. I don’t think they give a

  15. It’s gotten a bit better, but now there’s a new “fun” problem. A certain Verizon commercial will start up, and once the commercial’s over, the music from the commercial keeps playing. On a loop. During the gorram TV show. It’s…ridiculous, and I’m kind of curious how that bug even happens.

  16. Totally frustrated with trying to watch anything on the CW. The first two adverts play fine but the actual episode has never yet actually loaded for me. All I seem to get is a black screen, reloading doesn’t help, switching browser is no good.
    Thank god for Netflix streaming Arrow, Vampire Diaries and Supernatural, otherwise I’d never get my TV fix.

  17. Their streaming absolutely sucks, I mean horrible! It is always trying to switch to cw see? I will never watch whatever the hell that is just out of spite. Not to mention that I will never buy from any of their online advertisers. We’ve given up on their shows and waiting till Netflix has them. Goodbye CW, nice work.

  18. makes me wonder how they can afford DC copyrights if they can’t get a decent web guy. The report an issue thing is completely busted you fill it out and hit send… 6 times nothing happens. And an ECU of a faucet dripping with mud would be better footage than what they’re spewing its like they don’t know how to compress footage so it’s web compatible. I think the whole web development team over there just needs to be canned so they can hire a professional web developer. Like a middle schooler. Yes i believe a 13 year old kid would do a better job than that entire team. At least one would hope since the team consists of one guy jacking off and the other guy trying to systematically sabotage the whole operation, via verison ads and pixelation. They are just the worst type of people

  19. WORST STREEMING SERVICE EVER. i agree they really need to cut back adds they play inbween the show. for a one hour show (48 min to be exact ) why do i have to watch 25 min of Ads. 5 stops each eposode. and ther about 6 30sec to 1 min long ads. id rather watch all the adds in the beinging then have my show uninterput

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