Archives For TV Shows


I realize not everyone shares my opinion that Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but then again, clearly there are a lot of people in the world with no taste in television. (Um, Deal or No Deal? Really?) What’s interesting is that the demographic of people who are watching and enjoying Dollhouse may contribute to its demise. Numbers show that Dollhouse gets one of the highest percentages of DVR viewers among network shows and has been a major hit on iTunes. Unfortunately, DVR and online audiences don’t count for much with advertisers. The show would rake in a lot more money if we all watched it live.

The lost cash comes from the fact that DVRs enable ad skipping, and online video audiences and CPMs are tiny compared to broadcast TV. As Dan Rayburn has also pointed out, it takes money to distribute video online – encoding, storage, management, and actual delivery – which makes short work of the dollars online advertising and download fees do bring in.

So what does this mean? New TV technology may be contributing to the types of shows that succeed or fail. So much for enabling the long tail of television. Programs still need large audiences of live viewers to survive.


In a trip over to Comcast’s Flash Drive building a while back, I noticed the “coming soon” sign on a space designed for a new Sony Style store. I thought it a bit curious to have an unrelated CE store housed in Comcast’s headquarters so I took a quick photo. Turns out Comcast and Sony are teaming up. Sounds like the store will be part commerce site and part Comcast showcase, with the operator showing off 100-Mbps broadband connections and tru2way TVs.

Interesting move for Comcast. It certainly makes sense to have a showcase in the Philly building. The question is: how far into retail will Comcast dabble beyond that? At the moment the operator bundles services with modems in places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, but is it now looking to follow the Verizon Experience store model? Stay tuned.

The new Comcast/Sony store opens March 17th.

Tech On TV: Ghost Whisperer

Dave Zatz —  February 9, 2009

Once again, I’m swiping inspired by Engadget’s Screen Grabs series to cover an interesting mix of tech on TV. I’ve never seen Ghost Whisperer and don’t know what it’s about beyond the title. However, I was on a call with the television playing in the background when the relatively ancient XM SkyFi and boombox (upper left) caught my eye. Also, I was surprised to see a MacBook Pro in this scene… with a sticker hiding Apple’s iconic logo. On the other end of Jennifer Love Hewitt‘s flip phone conversation appears to be a Palm Treo 750 (Windows Mobile) – which was my primary handset for about 6 months in 2007.

The Superbowl Ad Aftermath

Dave Zatz —  February 2, 2009

Ah, the day after the Super Bowl. Time to reflect on the advertising hits and misses. But how do you quantify success? (Or failure.) USA Today provided about 300 select viewers in Oregon and Virginia “ad meters” for rating commercials in real time. Of course, we also saw  a wide variety of web-based polls open to all. Annually, TiVo takes the unique approach of analyzing ad success based on a sampling of DVR interaction – pauses, replays, etc. In addition to providing a top ten list of commercials, they’ve identified the top five moments per half:

Click to enlarge

After speaking with TiVo today, I’ve gotten a bit more insight into their second-by-second analysis from Todd Juenger, VP of the Audience Research and Measurement unit. The line above charts viewership in TiVo terms, and is cumulative based on how many times video is watched – taking into account those rewinds, on top of straight up viewing. The spikes clearly indicate areas of interest and total viewership seemed to have increased as the game progressed. We surprised Todd by actually focusing on the football towards the end as Cards staged a comeback: “Historically, the commercials always get highest viewership spikes, from rewinding and multiple views. The fact that the 5 highest viewership moments in the 2nd half were all game related, not commercials, is remarkable.” So, was the game that good or were the commercials that lame?

Me, I can’t say I loved any of the commercials. However, the pair I immediately recalled today, beyond the movie trailers, were the Doritos and Cheetos spots. I’ve been known to consume more than my fair share of junk food, although both ads were memorable for other reasons. The Cheetos ad was both amusing and somewhat creepy – think the Burger King. Not to mention I haven’t seen Chester the Cheetah in over a decade. (“It’s not easy being cheesy.”) And who doesn’t want to smash things at work? Which is why I found the Doritos Crystal Ball ad entertaining. As it turns out, the commercial wasn’t even developed by a pricey advertising firm. As far as misfires, the Sobe Lizard football ballet was a nonsensical disaster. And there’s probably a large contingent of television owners that Vizio didn’t connect with utilizing a condescending ‘you spent to much’ pitch.

In the recycling of tech category, DreamWork’s Monsters vs Aliens commercial and Sobe’s ballet were both presented in 3D. We don’t feel like we got much of a return on investment, given the time spent tracking down glasses and then cutting them out. In fact, while the movie looks cute, I’d rather catch it unencumbered by cardboard glasses and 3D effects that really didn’t seem to add much to our enjoyment. For compelling 3-D experiences, I’ll continue to stick with the Orlando theme parks. Continue Reading…

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.