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

February 2007 Archives

Back to BitTorrent

February 28, 2007 2:30 PM

I’m heading back to BitTorrent today and I warn you, I’m already gunning for the site. My computer has been slow and sluggish and has needed to be rebooted three times since I downloaded BitTorrent’s software yesterday. It may not be BitTorrent’s fault. And the evidence is purely circumstantial, but I don’t care. I don’t like a sluggish computer. And I’ll jettison any software that might even remotely, possibly, be the culprit.

After a painstaking 15-minute reboot, I hop back to bittorent.com and scroll through several movies to rent. I opt for “A Star is Born.” When I click on the “rent” button, I’m told that I need to download a new version of Flash Player for Firefox. I try that and it doesn’t work. So I shut Firefox down, cursing under my breath. Cursing Firefox, cursing Flash, cursing BitTorrent. They’re all to blame, as far as I am concerned.

I open Internet Explorer and return to BitTorrent.com. I place my order for the movie and the download begins. It should take a couple hours. If I haven’t placed a dagger in BitTorrent in the next 120 minutes, I’ll report back tomorrow on whether it worked.

Testing the New BitTorrent…But It’s Not Working for Me Yet

February 27, 2007 3:11 PM

BitTorrent opened its new online video store yesterday with film with TV content from 20th Century Fox, G4, Lionsgate, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures and others.

On first blush, the page layout looks great. It’s sharp, crisp and easy to navigate. There’s even a big promo for “Superman Returns” that says “Now Playing” above it. So I give BitTorrent points for promoting its content smartly.

Next, I click on “Movies and TV Shows,” but the organization starts to feel a bit haphazard. There are tabs for “New Movies and TV Shows,” “User Submissions” and “Editor’s Picks.” But still, I think I want something clearer, like either an alphabetical list, or a list of movies by category. I notice on the left hand side that you can indeed select by categories, such as classics, horror or indie. Unfortunately, there is no option for “romance,” so I am deducting points from BitTorrent.

I choose the “TV Shows” category and select Nickelodeon from the list of networks.
I spot tons of “SpongeBob SquarePants” episodes. I’m all for variety, but I have to click through page after page to see them all. I kind of miss iTunes, where you get a nice list on one screen with every episode. I am an unabashed iTunes apologist.

So I sign up for an account and download the software. After the download is complete, a BitTorrent window pops up with the name “Spiderman 2” in it. OK, I confess. A couple months ago when researching peer-to-peer technology for a story, I downloaded a different BitTorrent software and “Spiderman 2.” But I didn’t watch it. I swear!

However, I don’t see a way to buy a TV show or movie in this window.

I will return tomorrow, try again and report back!

Meredith Isn’t Dead! Vote Here for Your Favorite Scene

February 26, 2007 2:41 PM

Well, it’s Monday morning and if you haven’t watched Thursday finale of the “Grey’s Anatomy” three-part arc, then I don’t feel guilty for spoiling it with the headline.

So now let’s vote on the best part of the episode.

1. Ellis Grey in the afterlife hallway telling her daughter, “You are anything but ordinary, Meredith.”

2. The scene from outside Meredith’s room as the interns gather to watch Christina chatting with Meredith after she woke up

3. When Addison says to Mark “Who would I possibly be having sex with?” and then we cut to Alex

4. Izzy standing in the hallway feeling Denny’s presence

5. Some other scene

If you want to watch again to refresh your memory, here’s are the last 15 minutes of the show in two contraband versions on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17LbwhSWlog and

Or you can watch the full and officially sanctioned version on ABC.com at

You can also cast your vote for which scene you think is my favorite.

As Bravo Goes, so does NBC

February 23, 2007 2:58 PM

Yesterday, I clicked on the “NBC networks” video link while hanging out in the Bravo video player. That whisks me to a USA video player. From there, I click on a video titled “Jay Leno’s Garage” to get to the NBC network.

I hop into the prime-time shows section and choose “30 Rock.” While the video looks sharp, the player is still missing a certain seamlessness to it. I still need to click a few times to launch the video, as with Bravo. And while I love the layout and idea behind this video player environment, I think it could use a once-over to smooth out the kinks.

Bravo for Video, Boo for Getting it to Play

February 22, 2007 5:39 AM

I haven’t visited Bravo’s site in a few months, so I drop in for a random video inspection. My memory of the last visit is that while the site was chock full of features, video was tough to find.

Today, the site is still quite busy, but now there’s a prominent link for videos in the menu bar high up on the page. I click on it and it launches a cool player environment with links for Top 10 videos, videos from Bravo shows, web originals, Trio videos and videos from other NBC channels. The layout is cool and I like the whole idea that you can stay safely ensconced in the NBC Universal mother ship.

So I try a “Project Runway” web original video. And here’s the thing – you have to click on the video a couple times before it plays. It almost feels like you’re tapping it on the shoulder, or honking your horn to say, “Hey buddy, light’s green.”

But once it launches, it plays well.

When I click on the “Queer Eye” thumbnail next, the same thing happens. It doesn’t play. I have to hit it a few times and then tap some more links to get the video started.

Next, I’m going to test the button for “other NBC networks.” Check back tomorrow for my report.

Testing Fine Living

February 21, 2007 6:27 AM

I had so much fun testing my chocolate IQ yesterday, I decided to spend more time on the Fine Living site. Scripps has been bullish on online video for several years, so I always like to swoop in unannounced on its various sites to kick the video tires.

I enter fineliving.com in the browser window and my first impression is that I’m impressed. That’s because the web site actually includes a link in the upper right hand side of the page for “featured videos.” As you know, I’m a big proponent of web sites that promote their videos. I know, I know. Promoting your videos is a crazy idea.

I click on the link for “Take a Break in Belize” because that sounds like a nice idea. And the web page says the video isn’t available. That’s strange, I think, that a site would promote a video that’s not live. But about 10 seconds later, the clip starts playing and it works just fine.

But given that little disconnect, I decide to test some other links on the page. I opt for “food and drink” under the channel guide. I choose a video on flavor-infused oils. And this one works just fine with no errant messages.

I try one more video from the home living section, on how to save energy in your home. It’s full of great tips. Check it out.

How to Buy Chocolate—A How-To Guide

February 20, 2007 12:49 PM

So now we know chocolate can aid memory, thanks to a new study funded in part by Mars, Inc. (C’mon—the folks at Mars are totally unbiased because how could chocolate be anything but the perfect substance?)

But what is your memory for chocolate? That is the question. And the good folks at Fine Living can guide you. If you want to know how much you really know about cocoa, take this quiz.

Then when the quiz ends, Fine Living will shoot you over to a video from its “American Shopper” series on how to buy chocolate online. Personally, I think this should be required watching for, well, anyone. But especially anyone who wants to bribe me.

Incidentally, I scored a 7 of 10 on the chocolate quiz.

Is Meredith Really Dead?

February 16, 2007 2:06 PM

So I contemplated posting about some cool new service today. Or writing about an edgy, alternative Web site with niche videos. And I’ll get back to that shortly.

But for now, for today, I am going for mass appeal. I’m playing the average Jane consumer in the middle of February sweeps who wakes up, hoping it was all a bad dream last night in the final 30 seconds of “Grey’s Anatomy.” And that Jane gets online and she doesn’t go to Small Little Upstart Web Site for Early Adopters. No, she goes to Google or Yahoo or YouTube and says, “Give me something, anything on whether Meredith dies for real or not!”

So I start with YouTube and enter “Grey’s Anatomy.” I get the Snow Patrol “Chasing Cars” video. Not what I want. I enter the episode title, “Drowning on Dry Land.” That brings me to promo clips.

Sheesh. Who has time to post these things? Cause they’re not coming from ABC.

Then I watch some clips for next Thursday’s episode. Why won’t they just tell if she’s dead or not?

Oh, wait. Now, I remember. So I’ll actually tune in. Sneaky strategy.

Fine. I try my search on Google, which now just delivers me back to YouTube clips due to the integration of Google’s search tools with YouTube’s video library.

So I watch the final minute of last night’s episode again.

And, Grey’s fans around the world, let’s be honest here. The storyline is way cheesy, but how unbelievably cool was Denny’s reappearance and his priceless response to Meredith: “Damn right you are?” That made tuning in worthwhile.

I Know Where Ed Helms Went

February 14, 2007 12:11 PM

Who said online video can’t be educational? I say it can.

Astute fans of NBC’s “The Office” may have noticed that Ed Helms, who plays the new sycophant and office foil for Jim, has been conspicuously absent from the last two episodes. Viewers might assume that he was fired. After all, he did punch a hole in a wall at Dunder-Mifflin in a late January episode.

But the actor has also signed a contract to join the series as a regular now, rather than a recurring character.

So where in the world is Ed’s character Andy?

I found out rather serendipitously by purchasing the producer’s cut of the episode dubbed “The Return” on iTunes. That version is about seven to eight minutes longer than what airs on television and contains scenes that were cut to fit the time slot.

Such as the final scene in which Andy heads off to a 10-week anger management training class!

He’ll be back in April.

ABCnews.com New Feature

February 13, 2007 2:31 PM

Here’s a cool feature I just spotted on ABCnews.com. Go to ABCnews.com and click on any piece of video. The ABC player will then pop up. When the video starts playing, you’ll see two links underneath the video—to email the video or “get video URL.”

I’ve never seen the “get video URL” link before so I clicked on it. A small white window then displays the message, “This URL has been copied to your clipboard.” So if you simply hit the “paste” function on your computer, it copies that URL into an email or a word document, for instance. It’s a cool new feature that’s one step easier than highlighting the URL in the browser window and then copying and pasting. Try it and see.

Want to watch GSpot TV?

February 12, 2007 6:43 PM

Oh, I couldn’t resist! With a name like that, really, who can?

So ManiaTV sent me a link over the weekend to watch a new “celebisode.” GSpotTV is a short show with the Gastineau Girls, former stars of an E! reality show of the same name, commenting on celebrities, style and headlines. I wasn’t able to tune in live this morning to the show at 7:45 a.m., so I watched it on-demand at http://www.maniatv.com/tv/GSpotTV.

Both of the videos played fine and dandy, but when I chopped the link down so I could go directly to maniatv.com, a dreaded Microsoft error message popped up.

When I relaunched the browser, I returned to ManiaTV to find that the online network is promoting the show from the main page as well. As we all know by now, that means major points for ManiaTV for actual home page promotion of its new content. Most online video sites fail to effectively promote their shows on their home turf.

And on a side note, YouTube users haven’t yet posted a video from the awards ceremony from the Visual Effect Society Awards held last night in Hollywood. The reason I looked for a video is that my sister-in-law took home a big fat trophy last night for her work as a producer at Industrial Light and Magic on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest!!!”

'Dick in the Box' Lives On!

February 9, 2007 1:44 PM

I wish I were in New York Wednesday night. It must have been a magical night at Madison Square Garden when Andy Samberg joined Justin Timberlake on stage to perform ‘Dick in a Box’ before the raucous crowd. Can you even imagine what it would have been like to be there? It’s like a dream, really.

At any rate, I learned this morning about the performance while kicking around on the revamped MeeVee.com. MeeVee relaunched earlier this week as a guide for both TV listings and online video. When I logged onto MeeVee, the first thing that caught my attention was the big video player on the right hand side, with both clips from TV shows such as “Lost” as well as links to online video.

After I played around with the video, I noticed the words that grabbed my attention – “Dick in a Box” – and immediately clicked through to the story. It doesn’t matter what else MeeVee ever does. It will always rank high in my book now for leading me to this precious nugget of information. Maybe Justin will come to my town. I can only hope.

Naturally, you can already find the new version on YouTube:

The Big Play Button

February 8, 2007 5:14 PM

First of all, let me just say it’s not that hard to find the play button on most online video services. However, there are some sites that make it super easy to find the play button. Like by sticking a big arrow icon right in the middle of the video player itself.

I’m all for the big button. I think it’s one of those little things that can squeeze new efficiencies into our day, or more specifically, the parts of our day in which we’re off watching video online rather than working.

Today, I visited IKlipz, an online site that specializes in movie content and houses both independent flicks as well as trailers for studio films. I got sucked into the trailer-watching vortex for ten minutes or so and watched previews for “Spiderman 3,” “Music and Lyrics” as well as “The Hoax.” Who cares that I’ve seen most of these trailers 12 times already? I’ll watch them another dozen more, especially when they have that enticing arrow button that lures me in and gives me no choice but to watch movie trailers while I am on deadline.

IKlipz gets major points for ease of use.

Wal-Mart Doesn’t Work on Firefox

February 7, 2007 2:45 PM

Incidentally, the new Wal-Mart online video store that worked so swimmingly yesterday, doesn’t work at all using Firefox. Not one little bit. Nada. Zilch.

Check it out for yourself. Open a Firefox window, go to Wal-Mart and click in video downloads. Then watch the page turn into complete gobbledy-gook

Wal-Mart Download Service Actually Works

February 6, 2007 2:34 PM

Wal-Mart officially entered the online video download business today.

So I click on Walmart.com and the site greets me with a big link in the middle of the home page to the new video download service. That placement earns big points as many sites fail to properly promote their new services.

The page loads after several minutes, but once it appears the page boasts a nice, clean layout with movie art for several flicks, such as “Running With Scissors” and “Superman Returns.”

My penchant for superheroes notwithstanding, I resist the allure and search for TV shows. I plug Comedy Central into the search bar and the site returns an entry for “Comedy Central Stand-Up, Season 1.” I click to a message “We're continually adding new titles for download. Please check again soon.”

OK, strike one.

Fox is one of the charter networks, so I try Fox. That brings up the movie “Fox Hound.”

Ah, how about I actually click on the link for “TV shows?” That might be a brighter idea.

That page contains a list of TV networks as well as a pull-down menu for networks and TV shows. I’ll try Nickelodeon since it can’t hurt to have an extra kids’ show squirreled away for when the natives get restless.

I choose “Zoey 101” because I secretly like that show and my son will watch it too.

Then I head to the checkout and install the download service. After a needlessly onerous registration process in which I must re-enter my credit card information three times, I buy the $1.96 show. A note tells me it should start downloading in 15 minutes.

But wait! That was a tease.

About 30 seconds later the download starts. While it unspools onto my computer I hit play.

And I hate to admit this because it’s Wal-mart. But the service works. And it works really well. It plays easily and smoothly and simply, and I simply cannot believe this. But it actually works.

Portals Promote Hard-to-Find Videos

February 5, 2007 6:34 PM

Why can’t portals actually make it easy to find the TV shows they bother to promote?

I go to Yahoo TV for a quick check-in. I click through on a big fat image promoting the availability of the latest episode of NBC’s “Heroes.” And instead of launching a video, the site merely cycles me through jpegs of other NBC shows. The vacant white space on the right tells me that the video won’t play. No kidding.

Once again, it’s the old Firefox black hole. So I traipse back to Internet Explorer to see what’s cooking on Yahoo TV there. A video loads for “Rules of Engagement.” I even chuckle a few times during the minute-long clip.

Next I kick the tires on the “Heroes” section, peering around to see if “Heroes” videos are still on the site. But after I click through several tiers of pages, I spot a note that there are no current episodes available. So I watch a short outtake.

And I suppose my conclusion is it would be nice if this were a perfect world and episodes were stored forever and ever on portals and you didn’t have to click on numerous jpegs and links and Internet whatnot to find what you might not be able to see at all. But it’s not a perfect world, now is it?

Oh, Baby! That’s a Nice Scroll Bar For You!

February 2, 2007 3:30 PM

Oxygen introduced a social network this week at www.oomph.net. So I went online today to check it out. And then I remembered that I’m not really that into social networks. They’re not quite my cup of tea. So to be fair, I jumped out of oomph.net and hopped over to Oxygen’s new broadband channel www.shedidwhat.tv. The site immediately started playing “Coby Tips” on fuller hair with less work.

But there’s no video in the video player, so I guess my hair will just be flat. I try another video and confront the same problem—there’s audio but no video.

What’s a blogger with flat hair to do? Go to Internet Explorer. And the site just so happens to work fabulously there—videos launch instantly, the fast forward works at lightning speed and you can pause and play again in a cinch. In fact, I am loving this fast forward scroll bar. I’m giving it my new award for fastest responding fast forward scroll bar in the west.
And now I know the secret—sleep with a ponytail high up on your head.

Online Video for Your Brain

February 1, 2007 7:39 PM

If you’re one of those thinking-people types, you might want to check out FORA.tv, a new online video site with gobs of clips on political, cultural and social issues. It’s not my personal cup of tea—I rather prefer Jackass style stunts and overblown soap opera drama. But if you like to think, rather than numb your brain as I do, you’ll probably enjoy these clips from thoughtful leaders, authors, artists and activists.

This afternoon I perused through “Poland on The Eve of Martial Law” and “America Through Muslim Eyes.” And here’s the cool part of the site. You can play the video right there in the browser window itself, or you can click on “watch FORA.tv player” to launch a larger player with lots of cool tabs and features. Plus, you don’t have to download that player—it just pops up. Which means major points for FORA.tv.

Once there you can click on a speaker bio and even view a transcript of what the good thinkers are saying. Which could come in handy if you need to mute the volume when your boss comes in.

My one pet peeve though is the fast forward scroll bar is too wiggly, jiggly. When I toyed around with it, it landed at random spots in the video.

Overall though, other online video destinations would be wise to check out the snappy layout of FORA.tv