TV Rants

TvThe writer's strike is paying dividends for me.  I used to DRV every Tonight Show and Daily Show episode and then just watch the first 15 minutes of each.  Sometimes I'd fall behind though and have to invest a couple of hours in non-stop skimming to catch up.  That hasn't been a problem the past few weeks.  The writer's strike means no new episodes of either show.  NBC is showing really old re-runs (from 1992) and while Leno looked funny at first the novelty quickly wears off.

The result?: I stopped DRV-ing both shows.  I think I've finally weaned myself off the Tonight Show.  I doubt I'll bother recording it after the writer's strike is over.  I can't seem to completely break away from Jon Stewart and the Daily Show though.  I kind of miss that one.  I might drop it as well though if the strike lasts another month or so.

My bigger gripe has to do with two relatively new networks: The Big Ten Network and The NFL Network, neither of which deserve a link.  Both of these greedy networks are taking programming that was once free and making it part of a premium package on cable/satellite.  The Colts game on Thanksgiving night was on the NFL network but broadcast locally so I had a chance to see this channel in action.  Unimpressive.  They somehow managed to find the two least insightful commentators and put them together for one game (Cris Collinsworth and Bryant Gumbel).  A a bonus they periodically showed a "special new feature for the NFL Network."  It was nothing more than pictures from the game.  Is that really groundbreaking?

I haven't seen the Big Ten Network and it wouldn't break my heart if I never do.  Gone are the local broadcasts of Purdue and IU football and basketball games.  Oh well.

The bright side in all of this is that I suddenly have a lot more time to read some of the great books that have piled up at home!


Are You Watching This?

TvDoes anyone remember that TV/online hybrid opportunity I was lobbying for last fallI figured ESPN would launch something like this, but like just about any other innovation, it's up to the little guy to figure it out.  The little guy I'm referring to in this case is a website I just discovered called areyouwatchingthis.com.

It's not the complete solution I was looking for, but it's an interesting start.  The free service alerts you to games of interest and lets you join a discussion forum for the game you're watching.  I'd still like to see them add some of the functionality I had in my original post, including more customization with access to live stats and video, especially for replays.  Yes, I know this opens up an enormous can of worms of rights issues, but what a great service it could be!  Also, private forums where it's just you and your friends arguing about the big game...that's a key feature they need to add, and should be able to charge for!


More On Joost

JoostI continue checking in on the Joost beta from time to time.  As I noted earlier, bandwidth and reliability issues still exist, but that's exactly what you'd expect from a beta like this.  After watching a few different sample videos on Joost, however, I'm discovering one critical fact about my online video viewing habits: I lose interest after about 3 minutes.

There are quite a few lengthier videos available on Joost.  Some of the more interesting ones are the National Geographic shows that provide an insider's view of The White House and Air Force One.  They're well-produced and very fascinating...but too long for online viewing.  What is it about my attention span that causes it to shrink when I'm in front of a computer?  I'd probably have no problem watching those same videos in their entirety on my TV, but I can't watch them all the way through on my computer.

I keep thinking, "I wonder if there's a new message in my Gmail in-box...maybe I should check."  Or, "what's the score of the Yankees game...I should click on that mlb.com tab in Firefox to see."  I guess Jerry Seinfeld was right when he said that "guys don't care what's on TV...they just want to know what else is on TV."  That problems seems to be even worse when applied to online video.

I'm guessing I'm not in the minority on this and despite the convenience of online viewing, the more popular videos will be the shorter ones.


Joost Beta

JoostI signed up for Joost's beta program earlier this year and was excited to get an activation notice from them late last week.  The Joost promise is "The magic of television, with the power of the internet built right in. Joost puts you in control, and TV will never be the same again."  I was intrigued...

After playing around with Joost a bit this weekend I have to say the results were mixed.  It's important to keep in mind that this is just a beta stage, so I'm hoping they'll smoothing things out before a formal launch.  To truly be successful and pull in the mass market, however, Joost will need to work on overall reliability.  There were far too many times when the screen would get grainy or simply freeze.  Again, I know it's just a beta, so my fingers remained crossed.

On the plus side, when the system worked it worked quite well.  There were some points where I felt like I was watching a DVD on my screen; pretty impressive and a much better experience than you'd typically get with something like YouTube, for example.  Also, all my testing was done via wireless, which made the high points even more impressive.

I plan to check back in on Joost from time to time to revisit the service level issues as well as the depth and breadth of content, which also was about where you'd expect it during a beta.


How Not to Knock Off YouTube

YoutubeAccording to this report, all of the major networks not named ABC are in talks to create a YouTube knockoff.  Good luck.  Sure, thanks to YouTube's renewed efforts to remove copyright infringing content from its site, many of the more popular videos are quickly disappearing.  And yes, that makes YouTube a less desirable destination...unless you happen to be looking for more Mentos/Coke videos.  But when was the last time two or more networks came together and created something interesting and sustainable?  Has it ever happened?

Will the networks ever really even be able to agree on design, terms, etc.?  We're talking about some pretty large egos around the table, so I'm skeptical.  Then there's the fact that ABC isn't even interested.  The article notes that ABC "wants to rely on the strength of its own brands."  In other words, ABC's ego was so large it couldn't even fit in the room with the others.

I truly believe these networks have the content most viewers want to see.  It's just that I can't imagine them collaborating to create a better (and more attractive) solution than YouTube.  Just look at the NFL Network for a great example of how even a small player can suffer from a huge ego.  Your cable company doesn't offer the NFL Network?  I rest my case.

The best solution here is to work with YouTube and figure out how to monetize their existing platform while also dramatically reducing the number of illegally-posted videos.