Archives For TV Shows

While catching up on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, and inspired by Engadget’s periodic Screen Grabs column, a few bits of tech caught my eye last night. Season 2 is just getting started (in the US, anyway), and the first thing that struck me is the opening sequence resembling the (former?) Zune desktop software – colors and swirls. Episode 2 also pretty prominently features a Nokia phone and a Macbook Air.

Along with Engadget, I caught the OQO mini notebook on Lie to Me this week. However, with all spottings like these, it’s safe to assume a certain percent are paid placements of one sort or another. For example, we know OQO has worked with television and film marketing firm Eclipse in the past to get their wares on TV. (This is the kind of advertising I can tolerate!)

All pics can be enlarged:

In the latest round of chicken between content owners and TV service providers, Viacom is threatening to pull all of its programming from Time Warner Cable (TWC) at midnight tonight unless it gets a January 1 pay increase. That includes Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1 content.

I find the scenario a lot more interesting today than it would have been a few years ago. First, telco video is now a viable cable competitor in certain areas, meaning Viacom can use the lure of its content to drive subscribers to other pay TV services (satellite and/or telco), potentially hurting TWC if a deal isn’t worked out. Second, Viacom (and everyone else) now has the Internet as a distribution vehicle. While it’s hard for a newcomer to get noticed online, Viacom already has established brands that draw in an audience on the Net.

What about making money online you say? Yup, that’s a valid point. Content providers rely on the revenue they get from service providers like Time Warner, and cable companies will continue to have a lot of power in these relationships. However, I would argue that if a big company like Viacom wanted to build out a business model for the Web, it could do it. More people are watching video online, and there are more ways than ever to get online content to the big screen. It would be a difficult and probably painful route for Viacom to take, but the company could do it. With the promise of an established audience, Viacom could bring in a few big sponsors at a discount rate, build its online viewership through programming like The Daily Show (especially by offering exclusive access to the content), and slowly build up revenue from sponsorships and clever promotions.

I don’t believe Viacom will take the online-only option now, particularly given the woes of the advertising industry today. However, we’ve hit a point where I’d argue it’s not inconceivable. Interesting times.

UPDATE: TWC has apparently caved, and Viacom programming will remain on Time Warner’s lineup. Good news. Unfortunately,

Some or all of that fee increase is likely to be passed on to Time Warner Cable subscribers.

Cooliris Getting Cooler

Mari Silbey —  October 27, 2008

Not to sound like a broken record, but Cooliris just keeps getting cooler every day. I fired up the plug-in to show my parents over the weekend, and noticed that the app now has an option for TV episodes. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there before, or at least it wasn’t separated out from some more general video category.) I clicked on the link and immediately got a wall of videos showing recent popular TV episodes. As natural as anything, I selected the latest SNL episode with Tina Fey from Hulu, and my mom and I watched it right there at the kitchen table.

If you haven’t yet tried Cooliris, go download it now. (Works with Mac, Windows, Firefox and IE) The interface is so smooth, and the company keeps adding new features. An iPhone app came out earlier this month, and I’m still discovering early features I didn’t know existed (like a PowerPoint plug-in). A lot of people still haven’t heard of Cooliris yet, but at the rate it’s developing and adding content partners, that’s going to change very soon.

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?