Archives For TV Shows

i.TV, a free iPhone app, launched today:

“i.TV makes it easy to discover television and movie programming options, share entertainment information with friends, and access media anywhere you can take an iPhone or iPod touch,” said Brad Pelo, i.TV’s founder and chief executive officer.

That’s all well and good, but what would be most useful is some sort of DVR integration. For example, IceTV (Australia) has produced an iPhone app which not only displays a guide but also schedules recordings. But until someone delivers that functionality here in the US, I’ll enjoy i.TV for the free trailers.

As you can see from the pic above, the first two episodes of DirecTV’s Burn Notice broadcast have been accompanied by both horizontal and vertical black bars. And Jack R. of Michigan is wondering what’s up with USA Network or his HR20-700. Other USA Network shows, such as Law & Order, at least give the appearance of high definition content by filling the screen and displaying the USA-HD bug in the lower right (versus just the “USA” logo above). Unfortunately, I can’t verify having already removed my Comcast-provided episodes from the bedroom TiVo. I do recall the content filling the entire screen, though both episodes appeared somewhat dark and grainy – not sure if that’s a stylistic choice (like the uneccessary video pauses) or a side effect of stretching SD content. What are you seeing?

One year ago I wrote about MGM’s trial release of the movie A Dog’s Breakfast on iTunes and put in a prayer that Joss Whedon would follow the straight-to-download distribution model. Apparently someone heard me over in Whedonverse.

If you’re a fan (Buffy, Angel, Firefly…), you’ve likely already heard about Dr. Horrible‘s Sing-Along Blog, the first installment of which appears tomorrow. It’s not exactly straight-to-download. Instead, Whedon is premiering his new creation in three streaming parts. The three segments will appear in sequence on July 15th, 17th and 19th. And then on July 20th, they will all disappear. Soon after July 20th, Dr. Horrible will be available for download for a “nominal” fee, and eventually the video will come out on DVD. Read all about in Whedon’s master plan.

Now a plug for the video itself. Go watch it! Seriously. Even if you know nothing about Joss Whedon, this show’s got Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Doing comedic villainy things. And it’s a musical! Could you ask for anything more?

Library Trumps Swaptree

Mari Silbey —  July 5, 2008

Swaptree library

We’ve been seriously low on good television in my household, so yesterday I thought I’d come up with a brilliant idea when I remembered my Swaptree account. I’ve been holding on to box sets of the first seasons of Lost and The Office, and I figure I’ll be able to do a nice trade on Swaptree for something else worthwhile. I was about to see if the first season of Entourage was available when my better half had a better idea. The library. Sure enough, Entourage is there.

In the library’s favor: It’s free. There’s no shipping. It’s within walking distance.

In Swaptree’s favor: No grumpy librarians. It’s got social networking features. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

Of course there are plenty of other scenarios where Swaptree comes out on top. New DVDs not available in the library yet, books you want to take notes in, games you don’t want to have to return, etc. But in this case, the library wins out. Grumpy librarians and all.

What We’re Watching

Dave Zatz —  May 14, 2008

I polled my fellow ZNF contributors for their current top three television shows. Not only are the networks and content diverse, but so are the methods used to acquire programming (in addition to the requisite DVR timeshifting). For example: I caught the first season of Dexter on DVD and most of Burn Notice via Hulu and iTunes, while Davis is catching up on Amazing Stories (from the 80s!) via Netflix Watch Now.


  • The Riches (FX)
  • Burn Notice (USA)
  • Lost (ABC)


  • Survivor (CBS)
  • Reaper (CW)
  • Amazing Stories (NBC)


  • Lost (ABC)
  • Reaper (CW)
  • The Office (NBC)


  • House (Fox)
  • Lost (ABC)
  • Battlestar Galactica (SciFi)


  • Burn Notice (USA)
  • Dexter (Showtime)
  • The Riches (FX)

So, what are your top three shows and how’re you watching?

HBO content lands on iTunes, with variable pricing (based on unknown criteria):

“We’re thrilled to bring this incredible lineup of programming from HBO to the iTunes Store,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “Sex and the City,” “The Wire” and “Flight of the Conchords” are $1.99 per episode, and “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “Rome” are priced at $2.99 per episode.

$2.99/episode seems quite high… for older shows (no longer in production). The few times I’ve been motivated to purchase episodes online were series not yet available on DVD, such as Burn Notice. And even though these are purchases, as opposed to rentals, it’s not like you get a ton of replay value – DRM-ed content isn’t easily shared (like a DVD) and you’re not going to stick a 55 minute show into a playlist for repeat enjoyment like a digital song. I suppose the value of an iTunes download is being able to sync content to an iPod or iPhone without ripping, transcoding, etc. Though handheld entertainment has its place, the only folks I see paying for and watching an entire season are those regularly commuting via bus or subway.

Surprisingly, Entourage isn’t initially available for download. Is this a licensing issue and/or is it just a matter of time? (And I doubt shorter shows will be introduced at a new 99 cent tier.) Seems like Apple and HBO would want to eat into the BitTorrent-embracing demographic by getting this series onto iTunes.

Michael Gartenberg believes the introduction of variable pricing opens the door for the return of NBC material to iTunes. And while I’m not entirely opposed to tiered pricing, I expect to see newer or longer content command a premium – rather than HBO’s apparent randomness.

As an aside, I dropped HBO when they couldn’t get Deadwood renewed. Showtime currently provides the best original, commercial-free programming on television now. Incidentally, Showtime also embraced digital downloads early and via multiple destinations/services… which is how I ended up a subscriber.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  March 29, 2008

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:



All TV (except sports) is moving to on-demand, right? You can’t successfully have hundreds of thousands of people accessing the same online video at the same time, right? You can’t hold an interactive video event online that’s open to the public, right?

Oprah says otherwise. That’s right, Oprah.

Very quietly Oprah’s been hosting an online, interactive class called A New Earth on for the last three weeks. What makes the initiative remarkable is that she’s using Skype video to do it. Not only can online visitors watch Oprah talk with guest/co-host Eckhart Tolle every Monday at 9:00 ET, they can also ask questions in a video split screen. (see above) Limelight is the content delivery network (CDN) partner for the series and Move Networks is handling the video player and encoding. The scale of the experiment is unprecedented.

Here are a few stats, including some otherwise-unpublished figures (that’s right, exclusive from ZNF…):

  • More than 180k viewers have tuned in for the full 90 minutes of the Oprah series for three weeks running
  • 500k people logged in the first week… and the system crashed. But this was a coding error only, remedied since, not a bandwidth or infrastructure problem. The 500k number breaks the previous Live Earth record of roughly 240k simultaneous streams.
  • The Oprah folks are aiming for a million simultaneous streams. Just wait till they really turn on the Oprah marketing machine.