Archives For TV Shows

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.

Advertisers Strike Back

Mari Silbey —  February 26, 2008


ABC and Cox Communications have announced a new VOD service that will let cable subscribers watch primetime network shows any time they want. The catch? No fast forwarding through commercials.

This project seems similar in approach to Time Warner’s network-DVR applications, Start Over and Look Back: It gives consumers more control over access to content, but less control over the ads they’d likely prefer to skip. ABC and Cox actually announced the application last May, but it appears they’ve now run field tests and are ready to launch.

Between new on-demand ad technologies and the un-skippable commercials in content streamed over the Internet, advertisers are fighting back against several years of falling TV revenues. Not that they ever should have been worried. There’s always been alternatives such as product placement and, with the move to digital television, it’s always been clear we’d be hitting the reset button on the TV advertising model.

DVRs gave us a free lunch for a while, but advertisers are finding other ways to make us pick up the tab.

Given the sheer number of variables at play here, a meaningful analysis would take the entire day… So, I’m just offering up these news tidbits as food for thought.

The Hollywood Reporter:

The survey said 80 million Americans watched a TV show online last year. This number accounts for 43% of the online population, up from 25% who said they watched a TV show on the Web last year.


The Nielsen ratings organization found that U.S. viewership for the opening of the 2008 TV season was down 21 percent compared with the same time last year.

Related, the writers strike may be nearing an end

Super Bowl Party Disaster

Brent Evans —  February 5, 2008


When I host a Super Bowl party the things I usually worry about is having enough food, making sure my TV and audio are in working condition and there is enough seating. What else could go wrong?

Picture this. You have a group of people coming over to watch the most watched game of the year – the Super Bowl game on your home theater, projection screen system. Everything is going well, the pre-game is on in the background as people are arriving and all of the sudden the channel goes black. No picture, no sound nothing. You frantically check all the other channels which are all fine. After almost an hour a message finally appears on the screen telling you they are experiencing technical difficulties…

kfta.jpg That’s pretty much as close to a Super Bowl party disaster as you can get and it really happened to thousands of viewers in Northwest Arkansas and Southeastern Oklahoma Dish and DirecTV subscribers due to a software glitch at Arkansas FOX affiliate KFTA.

My Dad called to ask me if I was having problems in Kansas City (I wasn’t.) DirecTV put up a message for subscribers to turn to an alternative channel where they were broadcasting the channel from an alternate “local channel” for the game, but Dish Network subscribers like my Dad were out of luck.

The outage lasted until just before the end of the third quarter. For those that waited that long, they did get to see the most exciting quarter of the game (the fourth of course), but there will be a LOT of unhappy people around those parts. And Arkansas people weren’t alone, looks like Nevada had some problems as well.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.


Moman is fresh out of DVR-ed HD content and wondered if I (or any ZNF readers) have any suggestions on how his family might weather the remainder of the writers strike.

Unfortunately, things will get worse before they get better. Even if a deal is struck soon, it’ll be months before we see fresh content that hasn’t already been written and filmed. And speaking of that content – though I haven’t yet decided if I like it, the Terminator spin-off recently began. Plus Jericho and Lost will premiere shortly. Brent Evans is maintaining a list of other winter series.

I’ve really enjoyed both seasons of Dexter and know Moman will too, but he’s going to have to stay up late and watch it when the kids are sleeping. CBS will be running an edited version during prime time, but I suggest Mo pull the trigger on a Netflix subscription and check out the original. And speaking of previously aired shows, Burn Notice finally showed up on Amazon Unbox and iTunes a few weeks ago – I raced through the entire season on TiVo, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. Highly recommended.

Otherwise, with scripted television and college football mostly over, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time playing Call of Duty 4 and intend to Netflix Firefly. Though, that may have been the case anyway as the studios haven’t been allowing good content to incubate/blossom before pulling the plug. Fortunately for Melissa, she’s content with Bret Michaels, Snoop, and American Idol.

For continued strike coverage, a show status Wiki is being maintained and the LA Times is blogging the situation. Any suggestions for new series, past series, or smart reality content to check out?

My primary means for surviving the writers strike has been to load up my home theater PC DVR with recorded shows to watch through Spring and Summer 2008. Additionally, I’ll continue renting movies from Netflix and catch up on movies and TV shows that I missed out on before. While I’m at it, I’ll also spend some time outside.

Still, if I were a TV Network exec and trying to find several months of worthwhile programming, here’s what I’d do while waiting out writers strike. It’s actually a pretty easy solution and could revive some decent shows that deserved to be saved.

  • Firefly – Re-run the Firefly television episodes in their originally intended order and conclude with the Firefly Serenity movie. Promote the heck out of it and bring in tons of viewers who never saw it the first time. If Firefly gets decent rating, FOX could bring it back with new shows once the strike has ended for an easy hit TV show.
  • Jericho – With the new, second season of Jericho coming soon, CBS should air the first season once more in prime-time and promote it in a big way. They did this during the summer, but it was right around July 4th when many potential viewers were not watching television. Run it again now to get the attention it deserves and bring in new viewers ready to make the second season of Jericho a success.
  • Heroes – Show Heroes from the beginning, promote it, and bring in new viewers while audiences are desperate for quality content (read: not reality TV).

Bottom line is that networks can air quality re-runs and sufficiently promote them as must-watch “classics” – which could be supplemented with behind the scenes special clips and interviews.

What other shows should the networks resurrect for reruns? I’m thinking shows that have either been canceled and/or haven’t received the attention they deserved their first go-around. Also, how are you planning to deal with the writers strike fallout?

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.