TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney is blogging about the pinnacles and pitfalls facing viewers who want to consume television in new ways. Check in frequently as Daisy kicks the tires on the new media juggernaut and dishes on which services do -- and don’t -- make the cut.


Trial and Error

December 2006 Archives

Seeking Answers from TVGuide.com

December 29, 2006 1:32 PM

I can’t take this much longer. It seems so cruel and unfair. How, I ask, can the networks let us go this long without a fresh episode of our favorite shows?

OK, fine. They do let us go all summer and somehow we manage to subsist on the crumbs they throw us. But during December? During the holidays? When we need an escape from the family and the kids more than any other time of year? When we’ve become trained, Pavlov-style, to expect a new episode every Thursday night?

It’s been three long weeks—heck, it feels like three years—since I’ve watched a fresh episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Will I be out of my misery by next Thursday?

Of course, to satisfy my near rabid level of curiosity, I’ll need to check out the TV listings online. This time, let’s see how TVGuide.com does.

For starters, the site has got a ton of info and video for movies and TV shows. But my mission is singular. I bypass all the video. I spot the listings at the bottom of the page, but then I also see a link just for “Grey’s Anatomy.” I am powerless to resist. The link brings me to a page full of show information with the listings info right there at the bottom.

It’s hard for me to tell you what I learned though. The next fresh episode isn’t until Jan. 11.

But Lifetime starts its run of Grey’s on Jan. 7 with the first episode ever. Maybe it’ll feel new to me.

But, hey, at least we learned that TVguide.com has got a great TV listings page. I suppose I shall take some comfort in that.

The Return to Veoh

December 28, 2006 12:15 PM

When last we tuned in to the Trial and Error blog, I was about to restart my computer.

Now that it’s back on, all whirling and buzzing and ready for action, we can see if the new Veoh player that I just downloaded is all that it promises to be—a slick, high-res window for video.

I launch the Veoh TV player from my task bar.

In the search box within the player I enter “Endless Waltz.” That’s the video that my son was watching before the restart. No results. I try to browse by category, but there’s no list of categories. Next, I try the buttons and bars for “library” and “add video.” Still nothing happens.

So I launch veoh.com again in a browser window. I try to drag a video onto the new player, but I can’t figure out how to get the Veoh site, from where I downloaded the new player, and the player to talk to each other.

The player sure looked like it was going to be cool. But it’s just an empty vessel and here I am using the same old player to let my kid watch more of the movie.

Visiting Veoh With the Kid

December 27, 2006 2:37 PM

I am home with the kids today, but since Veoh Networks relaunched its service last week, I decide to check it out with my six year-old son. The makeover includes organizing the content according to channels and categories, so now we can put to the test whether you can easily find material for the kiddies. I read my son the list of categories: comedy, animation, sports. He picks sports.

The sports section primarily consists of arm wrestling videos (yes, with girls as the featured fighters), boxing and bodybuilding. He picks a regular wrestling video, but it turns out to be some blue, polyestered ninja warrior or something who just kicks a guy in a football outfit. We stop that video after 10 seconds.

I click on the button for channels and browse through options such as GearheadTV, the Surfing Channel and Sex TV. Boy, the Parents Television Council would be mad at me for that last one, so I resist.

Instead, we go back to categories and pick animation. My son chooses the “Endless Waltz” video, an 86-minute piece that tells the story of “the climax of the Eve Wars, on December 24 of the year AC 195, when the armies of the World Nation and White Fang met in a ferocious battle.”

My son watches a few minutes and in a drugged, almost transfixed-like state that only TV is capable of inducing in a young child, he manages to mutter, “This is good.”

So I decide to click on “subscribe to the series” so we can test that functionality. I’m prompted to sign up for an account and download the new Veoh player.

Sure, why not? And it only takes about two minutes to download and install.

But, wait, everything is now slooooooowing down. I must restart.

Come back tomorrow to learn what happens next.

The Great TV Listings Debate Rages On

December 21, 2006 4:24 PM

A few weeks my blog entry about Yahoo’s revamped TV listings provoked a flurry of feedback from discontented users of the new service. Many of those users suggested other listings, such as Zap2it.

Last night I decided to check out Zap2it, rather than rely on the clunky old school way of actually turning on the TV and wading my way through the Comcast program guide.

I wanted to see when NBC’s “The Office” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” would be on next.

I’m pleased to report Zap2it is quick and easy to use—I was able to both search for my shows and also quickly scroll through the guide to find out when they are on again.

The sad news is they aren’t on for two more weeks. I guess I’ll drown my sorrows in eggnog and Dr. McDreamy reruns.

How to Blend Your Ipod

December 20, 2006 7:20 PM

Let’s be honest, no one’s working really hard this week. So let’s just have some fun viewing all those great viral videos you religiously abstain from during real work weeks.

If your friends and family still haven’t gotten the idea yet that you want a new iPod for the holidays, try this trick to get the message across. Blend it into metallic bits like the dude in the white lab coat does in the “Will it Blend?” series. The video was created by blender maker Blendtec and has generated more than 667,000 views on YouTube in one week.

Blending an iPod to smithereens looks quite satisfying. After all, who hasn’t fantasized about destroying our gadgets—taking sledgehammers to them or smashing them against the wall?

I just want to know— is that dice, grate or grind? And does that trick work on cell phones and blackberries too?

Searching for Yesterday’s News on CNBC

December 19, 2006 7:35 PM

I got an email link last night from a friend of mine who appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” yesterday to talk about the role his company, Rovion, is playing in online advertising. I was able to click through the link in the email and watch the video easily on my computer.

Since CNBC revamped its Web site at the start of the month to become ultra video-centric, I wanted to see if I could also find the segment from yesterday’s show easily on the new Web site. The site now boasts oodles of video from current shows. Will a segment from yesterday be easy to find too?

The CNBC page is sluggish to load, but when I plug Rovion into the search box on the home page of the site, the clip is right there under “video results.” So I hit play and watch the segment again.

This “archival” feature is a must-have for TV networks as they migrate online. The Internet is a treasure trove for research. TV sites should be too.

How to Find Racy Videos

December 18, 2006 3:51 PM

So today might be one of those days where you can check out some, how shall we say, not quite safe for work videos without needing to quickly scramble to minimize your browser window or turn off the volume if someone walks into the office.

In today’s issue of TVWeek, we wrote about how online video sites are weaning themselves off porn and sexually explicit clips (Link to story: http://www.tvweek.com/article.cms?articleId=31173)

But some of these sites—read the story to learn which ones—still feature racy videos and slightly naughty scenes. Without giving away too many of our insider secrets on just how we found the titillating clips, I simply urge TV executives to visit these sites and see if they can find for themselves what young men surfing the Internet are able to track down.

Remember, this is all in the name of work, research and industry education. It’s your duty, after all.

ABCnews.com’s Amanda Snooze-don

December 15, 2006 5:27 PM

ABC has been getting some buzz for its new videoblog with Amnda Congdon, one of web video’s first breakout stars and the former host of “Rocketboom.”

She’s easy to find on ABCnews.com with a link on the right hand side of the page. This a plus since many sites fail to include prominent links to the properties they claim to promote.

I arrive at a bright and shiny picture of Amanda and click on it to launch the video.

She’s wearing a cool aqua tee-shirt. I love it. This girl has got style.

But it’s all downhill after the tee-shirt. She talks about how when she was driving to work she thought about how much Javascript sucks. Then she discusses a New York Times story on spam before launching into bit about virtual snowflakes.

I’m about three minutes into the video and I really, really, really want to fast forward it. Cause maybe it’ll get interesting. Maybe she’ll do something.

But apparently, I can’t move the video along because there isn’t a fast forward button or a scroll bar. There’s just a pause button. That’s it. Well, guess what? I don’t want to watch the whole thing so I’m just going to close the window entirely because that button does work.

Ranking the Video Search Sites

December 13, 2006 12:15 PM

After Truveo outperformed my expectations in the news video hunt yesterday, I thought it only fair to test its competition too. That means we’re going to see how ClipBlast and Blinkx handle a search for “space shuttle,” the same term I searched for on Truveo.

I try Clipblast.com and the first result in my “space shuttle” search is for the CBSnews.com video as well. The videos listed aren’t quite as up-to-date as on Truveo, but at least they are on topic and current. Next I go to Blinkx.com and one of the top videos is that same NBC video that I also found on Truveo.

So here’s my ranking for usefulness in searching for news videos: Truveo first, Blinkx second and ClipBlast third.

Truveo Tops in News Video Search Too

December 12, 2006 12:55 PM

After my serendipitously successful first try with video search site Truveo looking for TV clips, I’m back to see how it handles a search for news video. News is an important category for video search engines because, along with TV shows, news is one of the most searched for pieces of video on the Web. So to put Truveo to the test, we’ll need to see how it does in returning news videos.

I go to the site, at searchvideo.com (nice URL, by the way) and enter “space shuttle” to see if it’ll bring me the latest news on the space shuttle launch over the weekend. The very first result is a news clip from CNN that was posted just 38 minutes ago on Monday, Dec. 11. Nice and timely—I like those traits in a video search service.

The next result is for an NBC clip from Dec. 10 on the details of the Discovery space shuttle mission. The third result is a news clip from CBSnews.com. The videos all pop up in separate windows and play perfectly.

Once again, I am impressed with Truveo’s relevancy.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you how Truveo’s competition performs.

Searching for Video? Go to Truveo

December 11, 2006 12:15 PM

I’ve got a new favorite site for video search. Truveo.

Video search is critical given the explosion of video on the Web. Unfortunately, few video search sites have found the magic formula that actually delivers you to the videos you want.

But I haven’t visited Truveo in a while, so I stop by for a test drive.

I plug in an easy search term—“Grey’s Anatomy.” I choose that show because it’s not only the most popular program on TV, it’s also one of the most searched for pieces of video, according to the heads of various video search sites.

And a truly amazing thing happens—the very first result on the search page is for ABC.com and a clip from the most recent episode of the show. This never happens! This is the first time in my searching that the top result for a TV show search on a video search service has been for the network’s Web site and for an officially sanctioned clip. Usually, the results on other video search sites have been for random clips—possibly unauthorized—on YouTube.

But I contend that when viewers search for TV show video they want— no surprise—video from that TV show. And the next several clips on Truveo are from the show too, and from ABC.com

Come back tomorrow and I’ll run some more tests on Truveo.

Hey Atom Films! Mix in a Break from the Commercials

December 8, 2006 4:33 PM

I’m back at AtomFilms again today to check out the site re-do that kicked in earlier this week. I don’t recall the old layout, but the new one is pretty snazzy. The site’s jam-packed with neatly organized menus, multiple entry points into video and an easy-to-use video player.

There are buttons for “top channels,” “all films,” “films to go” and other options as well as tabs in the middle of the page letting you toggle amongst “new films,” “most watched” and “highest rated.”

I watch a few minutes of “Star Wars Gangsta Rap,” “Momma’s Boy” and “Family Xmas.” But none are catchy enough to stay tuned for the entire video.

And after watching a few videos I do notice one big difference with the new site. It’s littered with ads. Yes, littered. There are video ads, display ads and the dreaded pop-ups each time I click on a new page or video. Heck, I’m all for making money. But give us a break. Maybe run an ad in front of every other video, not EVERY SINGLE ONE. Subtlety would be nice.

AtomFilms 'Hellholes'

December 7, 2006 12:18 PM

AtomFilms relaunched its Web site earlier this week. I’ll spend more time there tomorrow and provide a more detailed report. For now, I made a quick visit to check out the new online series that AtomFilms is giving home page center stage to. That’s “Hellholes,” a short horror-comedy funded by AtomFilms Studio that tells the story of a guy who buys a mobile home for one dollar and then finds that it's a gateway to Hell.

I’ll be the first to admit that I disdain horror films, but since this was billed as comedy-horror, I decided to give it a shot. It’s less than four minutes, so it sits in the Internet video watching sweet spot. But the series, which will be continued next month, still feels a bit amateur to me. Is that simply the state that original video content on the Internet today is in? Check out AtomFilms and let us know what you think.

Non-Gamer Waits, Waits, Waits for Game Site to Load

December 6, 2006 12:20 PM

So Comcast made a big to-do yesterday about the now wide-open access to its online gaming service gameinvasion.net, its site for hard core gaming enthusiasts that’s now open to anyone on the Web and no longer just Comcast high-speed customers.

I’m not a hard core gamer or a soft core gamer or really a gamer of any size, shape or adjectival definition. But I am an Internet user and when I first visited the site on the morning of Dec. 5, it took more than five minutes to load. Which by any definition is WAY TOO LONG.

But, I believe in second chances. So I return in the afternoon and the site takes about a minute to load. Still a bit long.

There’s gaming news and a list of “top tens,” which I assume must be top ten games. I click through, landing on a momentarily blank page that freezes my computer for a few seconds.

When the page does load, I click back to the home page, which is filled with a series of game images laid over each other. I click on a trailer for Halo 3 and then watch a very swank looking clip in a stylish embedded video player.

I decide to test one more aspect of the site—the new video game show MLG Pro Circuit. I don’t see it on the main page, so I click on “shows.” I can’t find it there either. I do a search on the site but that takes me out to the general web via Comcast.net’s search mechanism. So where’s this TV show that’s supposed to be part of the new site?

Any gamers out there who want to weigh in on what they like or dislike?

A Video Three Way! Lots of Paths to CNBC’s Video

December 5, 2006 1:33 PM

To better compete with Yahoo Finance, Google Finance and other business and money-centric sites, CNBC relaunched its Web site on Dec. 4. CNBC said it integrated videos more tightly throughout the site in this makeover.

I pay a visit to the rejiggered site on Dec. 4. From the get-go, video in general is easy to find and the site offers several paths into video. The horizontal menu bar includes a video link, underneath that is a list of exclusive videos and a button to launch the live video player, and on the right hand side sits an embedded video player poised to play a market news update.

I start with the menu bar link, which jumps me to the “CNBC Video Gallery.” I choose to watch “What’s Behind the Rally,” Maria Bartiromo’s interview with a Smith Barney expert. All the functions work easily, so I go ahead and email the video to myself to test the email tool.

I hop back to the main page and launch the live player, opening a rectangular window with an alert that the next live update will be at 4:30 ET, in four minutes. So I try the embedded video player in the meantime and watch a “Market in a Minute” update from Sue Herrera to pass the time.

I check my email and the video link contained in it works perfectly. The best part is the site lets me choose the “play video” option, meaning I control when the videos start rather than having them launch automatically.

And now it’s 4:30 ET and boom, there’s Bill Griffith with the market update.

CNBC has done what many sites only say they will do—make video ubiquitous and easy to use.

Sexy Nuns, Mysterious Priests, Lurid Confessions

December 4, 2006 12:21 PM

Last week ABC added the mini-telenovela that it features each week during "Ugly Betty" to both ABC.com and to Verizon Wireless' V CAST service.

I’m always up for a new reason to visit ABC.com, so I do a quick scan of the home page. I don’t see a link for "Vidas de Fuego" amid the various show links, program photos and the embedded video player that’s promoting clips from “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Brothers & Sisters.” But when I spot the “more videos” link, I’ve got a good hunch the telenovela might be housed there.

And what do you know? I’m taken to a page with the top five videos, including the telenovela as the 5th one.

I haven’t watched a single episode or even a snippet of “Ugly Betty” this season. So I know nothing about the show. But I will say that this telenovela is a hoot all right. It’s over the top to the nines with a fabulously soapy storyline involving a nun, a priest and lustful admissions. It’s almost enough to tempt me to watch the show.

We’ll see if that temptation remains on Thursday night.

I suspect the telenovela is one more feature that’ll lure existing “Ugly Betty” fans to ABC.com and could even be a carrot for some new fans.

Where are the Best TV Listings Online?

December 1, 2006 2:55 PM

Yahoo TV revamped its site earlier this week, but there’s been a bit of an uproar across the Web, and this blog, on the effectiveness of the TV listings grid on Yahoo’s site. I’ve never been a big TV listings user myself, so I’m asking all of you to post here and let me know which sites have the best TV listings out there. Then I can go kick the tires and compare. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to see more of.