Can you turn off the live picture in the DIRECTV guide?

Sometimes you just don’t want to know. DIRECTV has put a small window showing live TV into its guide for over a decade now, and most of the time it’s just what you want to see. On the other hand, sometimes you don’t want to be “spoiled” and in that case live TV can be a problem. There was a time when you could pause live TV and then go into the guide, but that feature was disabled about five years ago because apparently people got confused by it.

I’m sorry to tell you, but not only can’t you turn off that live display, but it could get even worse.

This is DIRECTV NOW, the company’s streaming service, playing on an AppleTV box (Courtesy of The Verge.) It’s a little hard to see but if you look closely, they way the guide works is, it’s a live TV picture fullscreen, with guide information overlaid onto it. This makes the picture a little harder to see but it’s also much bigger. Could this interface be coming to DIRECTV’s satellite TV hardware? I think it’s likely.

The current user interface for DIRECTV boxes is 5 years old and works with hardware as old as 11 years old. DIRECTV’s been actively trying to get customers to move to the HR44 and HR54 Genie, which offer better experiences and much faster processors than the mid-2000s products. Could they be getting ready to overhaul the user interface, with an eye on rolling it out to the current generation hardware?

For once, I’m not under an NDA on this so I can talk about it. Now, maybe you can read something into that… I’m not trying to brag but usually I’m under NDA for all the new stuff. But it’s possible that somewhere in AT&T’s mighty empire, someone is working on porting over the DIRECTV NOW guide to current model DIRECTV DVRs. It actually wouldn’t be so hard, as DIRECTV NOW seems to run on a base of HTML5 code, and today’s DVRs can already render HTML5. It’s used for some of the interactive experiences, apparently. The big hurdle here would be developing an interface that had all the menus and options of the current one, testing it thoroughly, and then rolling it out to about 40 million devices. That’s a lot more than DIRECTV NOW has.

Personally, I’d love more options for my guide. I’d love to have the option to see four times the amount of information on my 4K TV. The current guide was designed when the average TV size was still about 20 inches. That’s why the letters look so abominably large on your 70″ TV. I’d love to be able to decide if I could put live TV in my guide or if I wanted it to be mercifully static. I’d love to decide if I want it to be red, blue or black (an option DIRECTV receivers once had, back in the dark ages.) I’d love to change the font. But none of that’s likely to happen.

What could happen, though, is some variant of the DIRECTV NOW experience making it to your TV, and that could include a big, live TV preview with a guide over it. I’m not sure that’s a real improvement, but I will tell you this, the DIRECTV NOW experience compared with the current DIRECTV guide… the old guide looks really dated now and it’s definitely time to do something.

Who knows, maybe someone will offer me an NDA and I’ll stop talking about it pretty soon.