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

September 2007 Archives

Last Night’s Double Booking

September 28, 2007 10:03 AM

I know you’re all wondering how the DVR double booking quandary worked out.

Well, I am pleased to report that technology won out! Everything worked. My DVR recorded two shows properly at the same time. I watched “Grey’s Anatomy” on a 15-minute delay.

Then I just went wild. I know this sounds crazy, I know it was a Thursday night. But yes, I made popcorn and watched another 44 minutes of TV on my DVR—“The Office.”

But in the interests of representing all the people out there who don’t have dual tuner DVRs or whose DVRs might have suffered from performance anxiety, I went online this morning to see if I could watch those shows on the Web. I started with NBC.com. The site is a little busy, but I was able to find the link to watch full episodes with relative ease and “The Office” was right there in the crew. It loaded quickly and played easily.

As for “Grey’s Anatomy,” the ABC.com site asked me to install a new plug-in to play the show. That took all of two seconds, but when I returned to the player nothing happened for a few minutes, so I had to close out and relaunch ABC.com. The episode loaded finally and I decided to watch the final scene, but every time I clicked on that segment, both an ad and the “previously on Grey’s Anatomy” recap played over and over. When I tried to scroll across to the final minute, the site kept booting me back to a commercial.


Double Booking Tonight—'Grey’s Anatomy' and 'The Office'

September 27, 2007 8:51 AM

I have to wonder am I the only one who feels a little bit of trepidation today?

After all, tonight we have a bit of a Sophie’s choice on TV. “The Office” and “Grey’s Anatomy” are both premiering at the same time this evening—9 p.m. Pacific time. Sure, it’s just for tonight. Next week “The Office” will go back to its regular 8:30 p.m. slot. But for the next 12 hours I’ll have to wonder—can my so-called “dual-tuner” DVR actually handle this kind of workout? Is it up to the challenge? Will I be taxing that Comcast set-top box beyond its limits?

You see, I plan to watch “Grey’s Anatomy” first, but on what I call the 15-minute delay, so I can skip the commercials. So as I’m sitting there putting the fast forward button through its paces, will the box be able to handle also recording another show? I know it’s supposed to, but can it handle the pressure?

And if it doesn’t, I certainly can’t go to iTunes tomorrow and watch “The Office.” No, I’d have to go to Amazon. But I banished Amazon Unbox from my computer last year for persistent bad behavior. So then what? Do I dare try NBC.com?

Such dilemmas…

Halo 3 Is Loose in My House

September 26, 2007 7:50 AM

At 7:32 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time last night I officially became a Halo 3 widow.

That’s when my significant other (code for husband, shhh…) attempted to defeat aliens in the covenant from the flood or something. Or maybe save the human race from Voldemort?

But don’t cry for me, Argentina. That means I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my Lolly Winston book and a 2003 episode of “The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.” (No, I can’t tell you on this blog why I am watching it. But if you e-mail, I just might…)

In the meantime, for all you alien shooter fans, here’s a one-minute news clip from Gametrailers.com that features an interview with the game’s creators.

And if you want to really geek yourself out over the Halo 3 launch, here’s the official trailer, which has already racked up more than 1.5 million views in its first 24 hours on YouTube.

Halo 2 rang up more than $125 million in sales in its first 24 hours, and the first two games have sold a combined 15 million copies.

Obama Girl Shakes It for the Troops

September 24, 2007 9:39 AM

Obama Girl is back, and this time she’s singing and strutting in support of the troops serving overseas.

This latest video has all the trademarks that have made Obama Girl an Internet video star, like, um, an oiled-up body, cut abs and go-go boots. But the clip also is a chance for women to give a shoutout to their boyfriends serving overseas.

On the other side of breasts, Comcast and Lifetime launched their October breast cancer initiative today. The effort includes for the first time “Breast Cancer Hope,” a video-on-demand and online project that offers information on the disease. Other partners include the Style Network, Discovery Health Channel and Exercise TV.

Comcast VOD customers can access 40 programs in five topical areas starting this week and running through October. Much of the information will also be available on www.comcast.net/breastcancer.

KT and Her Big Guitar

September 21, 2007 9:45 AM

It’s not often that I have a great user experience on NBC.com. But when I do, it’s worth a shout out.

Because — sit down for this — the video actually played well and without stuttering!

And from “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” no less. As you may recall, the site sent me in a time machine back to 1997 Web buffering the first time I checked it out.

So here’s what happened earlier this week. I’ve been debating whether to get KT Tunstall’s new album “Drastic Fantastic.” I was on the singer’s MySpace page when I noticed her TV performance list included the Sept. 17 episode of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”

Well, that was earlier in the week, so I missed it on air.

But never fear! Therein lies the beauty of this modern Internet age.

Who cares that I missed it on-air?

I could find it online. But rather than go to YouTube or Google and search for it, I decided to go back to NBC.com and see if I could find it there.

Guess what? I found it and it was easy — I clicked on the show, then the episode guide, then the Sept. 17 edition.

Then, and this is the best part, the site offered me options! Yes, it offered me five to six thumbnails such as the opening monologue, Conan’s guest interviews and the performance from KT Tunstall. All I had to do was click on the KT Tunstall thumbnail and boom — her three minutes loaded and played.

All I can say is that’s a big guitar she wields.

ABC’s Albert Cheng Talks About ABC on AOL

September 20, 2007 11:00 AM

ABC struck a deal today to offer its prime-time shows on AOL, the network’s first pact to distribute its shows outside of the iTunes or ABC.com ecosystem.

A condition of the deal was that AOL use the ABC.com player on its portal.

ABC’s Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group, explained why to TelevisionWeek.

“The reason why we talk about the quality is the quality drives our ability to monetize and establish a good economic model,” he said. “We know the experience (the player) is helping people consume more video. They are sitting through the whole episode and on top of that, the ad recall is high.

“The people who go to AOL now have the chance to experience our stuff and experience it in the same way,” Mr. Cheng added. “We bring a consistency and (the player) was a condition of the deal.”

ABC is betting on its player because the network has delivered 140 million episode starts of its shows on ABC.com since it began streaming them a year ago. Ad recall for the shows on the player is better than 70 percent.

So I popped over to AOL Video this morning to check out the new addition. The ABC shows are promoted nicely with an “ABC on AOL” tab, although in my opinion the tab could be bigger and more attention-getting. Once there, the first shows listed were episodes of daytime series “Edge of Night.” Whoa, when was that last on? However, ABC’s current shows are promoted on the right side of the page. So I clicked on “Grey’s Anatomy”—of course—and boom, the ABC player opened right up and worked painlessly, just like it does on ABC.com.

ABC's video player

Pop-Up Chuck and Faces of the Stars

September 19, 2007 8:17 AM

Here’s a little hodgepodge for you today. NBC is promoting its new show “Chuck” with a cool campaign on Web sites including Entertainment Weekly, Ebaumsworld and National Lampoon, in which Chuck himself pops up in the corner of the screen and tries to set it on fire. Visit the NationalLampoon.com site to check it out.

For another diversion from work today, check out this new video search service from Viewdle. Reuters is trying out the service, a facial recognition tool – it scans videos for famous faces. (Yes, I already tried Clive Owen and Daniel Craig.)

Nothing Too Racy for the Web

September 18, 2007 9:31 AM

This is what I love about the Web. It’s not just that the consumer is in control, but the artist too.

Rap star Sean “Diddy” Combs released the commercial spot for his new fragrance Unforgivable Woman on his MySpace page.

You know why? Because it was deemed too racy for commercial TV.

So where did it go? Not where racy ads go to die. But where they go to live, to flourish even.

In a statement, Mr. Combs, who refused to edit the ad down for commercial TV, said, "I feel strongly that this movie needs to be viewed and judged by the public rather than by executives. Some people may be uncomfortable with the sensuality and sexual content, but it is important for them to make that decision personally. Since we launched the Sean John brand 10 years ago, we have taken chances and done many nontraditional things. This three-minute movie is no different; it will revolutionize the way people view fragrances forever."

So check it out, pass it on. Or don’t. But remember that his decision to run this ad online is the latest indication that the Web has become a bastion of creative freedom, the place where writers, artists and producers place the content they want to control. Just last week, the award-winning TV team of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick said they’ll launch their next TV series on MySpace, not on TV.

How to Find the Loch Ness Monster

September 17, 2007 10:45 AM

If anyone ever tells me that the characters on television aren’t real, I’ll show them this Web site.

You see, Marshall and Lily on CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” really did get married last spring. And this past summer they went on their honeymoon. See, the honeymoon videos are all up on this site—videos of their Scottish hotel room, of Marshall searching for the Loch Ness Monster. It’s all there.

By the way, the show’s producers tried to convince me this site was part of a viral marketing campaign to promote the third season of the show with behind-the-scenes clips.

But I don’t believe them. I mean, c’mon. You can’t just make up videos like this. It really happened.

Search Marketing Test

September 16, 2007 5:07 PM

Let me say for the record that I have never previously conducted an Internet search for the term "serial killer." (You can even ask Google to check my search records.)

But I did, for the first time, last week.

During a phone interview with Showtime to review its search marketing strategy, the network's director of online marketing, Laura Hollenberg, explained that the company had begun buying search terms related to its crime series, "Dexter," which premieres Sept. 30. Those terms include "serial killer," "forensics" and "crime scenes."

So I plugged "serial killer" into Google. But my search did not return any paid listings for Showtime.

I informed Ms. Hollenberg during the call. Immediately she told her search marketing agency, Outrider, to allocate more budget for the term. Less than five minutes later, she said to try the search again.

I did. A sponsored link for Showtime appeared at the top of the page.

Now that's fast.

Testing CBS Shows on AOL

September 14, 2007 10:16 AM

Remember when CBS’s Quincy Smith referred to innertube as CBS.com/nobodycomeshere?

So the network started its “CBS Interactive Network” to distribute its shows across portals like AOL and Joost.

According to an email notice from AOL, the CBS shows are now available on http://video.aol.com/. So I hopped on over to that URL this morning to check it out. Here’s the one problem – the network shows aren’t heavily promoted on the home page. But if you just type the term “CBS” into the search box at the top of the page, it’ll whisk you right to the CBS content. Wow, what a wild concept, I know. Video search that actually works. Who woulda thought?

So that brought me to a page with a list of CBS shows on AOL, such as “CSI,” “Jericho” and “Survivor” as well as soaps like “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.” I went a little retro and fired up “As the World Turns.” But before I could get sucked into a world of intrigue, deception and illicit love I skipped back to the main list of shows and checked out “How I Met Your Mother.”

Here’s what impressed me the most. The video on the site actually worked. It didn’t cough up and sputter, stalling every few seconds, like other video does.

I went back to the home page and tried a few more links. It turns out if you click on the “channels” button, you’ll see a list of all the network content on AOL Video. Still, we want it even easier. Don’t make me click so much. Don’t hide stuff. Tell me right away that you have network content.

'Quarterlife' Trailer

September 13, 2007 7:54 AM

It looks a lot like “thirtysomething.”

Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick are making television again, only this time the critically-acclaimed duo are doing it for MySpace.

Just to whet your appetite before the Nov. 11 premiere, here’s a trailer:

It looks to have just the right mix of angst, hugging and smooching.

Google + YouTube = Volume

September 12, 2007 9:47 AM

I saw an interesting tidbit this morning on Silicon Alley Insider. A JMP analyst crunched some ComScore numbers to report that in July, compared to a year ago, Google has increased its worldwide users by 20 percent, United States users by 18 percent and time spent on its sites by more than 100 percent. What’s more--drum roll please--visits to YouTube now comprise 28 percent of total minutes spent on Google worldwide.

So if you’re wondering how Google is going to monetize its traffic-devouring baby that’s rife with pirated fare and my pet cat tricks, bet on the world’s biggest search engine to find a way.

How? It’s like that old “Saturday Night Live” skit on the bank that only makes change. Volume.

For Your Lloyd Fix…

September 11, 2007 11:00 AM

Admit it. You think Lloyd is one of the best parts of “Entourage.”

But now the season is over. You’re missing Ari, sure. But you’re hurting for Lloyd.

Have no fear, my friends. Rex Lee, the actor who plays the lovable Lloyd, will appear next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on a new online video series launched by socialcasting site Paltalk.

The show is “Hollywood Now with Joanne Colan,” who also fronts videoblog Rocketboom. It will run every Wednesday at 8 p.m. as a real-time interactive video chat. I guess that means you’ve got to be ready for appointment viewing online.

The show kicks off tomorrow with Jimmy Jean-Louis from “Heroes.”

But here’s the caveat: you will need to download the Paltalk software to watch the show.
However, the download takes only 10 or 20 seconds.

Paltalk counts more than four million users.

Nice Skin, Clive …

September 10, 2007 9:30 AM

I always like to think of Trial & Error as a full-service blog. I’m not just here to review your Web video. I’m also here to help guide you to the most captivating Web video there is.

So to that end, I thought I’d provide the link for Clive Owen’s new flick. No, not the one that bombed at the box office this weekend. But the one he’s doing for Lancome. Credit given where credit’s due—the New York Times ran a Sunday feature on Mr. Owen, one of my three favorite British actors (you’ll have to guess the other two), a week ago and pointed out that he’s the new face for Lancome, a gig which probably helps offset the most paltry box office returns for his big screen turns.

Since you won’t find the 20-second spot on traditional TV here (because, really, what can you find on traditional TV anymore these days), I’ve kindly provided the YouTube link.

Now, go buy your Hypnose.

Going Green for 30 Days

September 7, 2007 12:28 PM

Any TV networks out there still struggling with streaming your video effectively (don’t want to name names, but you know who you are), might want to check out Healthination.com.

The videos always work and are super simple to use with that favorite feature of mine—the big play button.

Why, may you ask, am I bringing this up today?

Because I am watching Healthination’s very cool new series, Project Greenhouse.

It’s about an ordinary dude who goes green for 30 days.

Totally green.

As in no carbon footprint at all.

You gotta check it out.

User-Generated Campaign Ads Just as Good as the Pros'

September 6, 2007 10:13 AM

I bet you didn’t know Trial & Error is a bipartisan blog.

Or is that nonpartisan? Or maybe unbiased?

At any rate, it’s time to devote some ink to Republican presidential candidates!
(Much as it pains me. …Wait, scratch that. … I am unbiased.)

So we’ve talked about Hillary and Barack and showcased their fans’ online videos. Now let’s see what’s up with Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts who has thrown his hat in the ring.

His campaign partnered with Yahoo’s Jumpcut editing service to let users create campaign ads. So he’s got a bunch of rules. Like you gotta pimp him in the ads! So don’t be thinking you can get away with any Chevy Tahoe tomfoolery here.

The site provides photos, videos and audio clips. The rules? “Users can feature Mitt’s biography, his family, his record as governor, or his agenda for a stronger America. In fact, the ad can have practically any theme a user chooses as long as they support the campaign creatively and responsibly.”

Despite the fact that you have to drink the Kool-Aid (which I actually think is great and helps maintain some necessary control in a user-generated free-for-all world), the videos are really fantastic. I checked out several and, although they didn’t sway me politically, I will say they are just as good as the ones the campaign itself is producing.

Here is the contest: “Team Mitt: Create Your Own Ad!”

The winning ad will appear on TV the week of Sept. 20.

Still Not a Fan of High School Sports

September 5, 2007 2:17 PM

I promised a week ago that I’d go check out Hearst’s new online high school sports project, highschoolplaybook.com.

So I am finally getting around to it. For starters, I love the simplicity of the site. With just a gray background and minimal graphics, finding and playing the video is easy. Plus, kudos to Hearst for eschewing the link for “full-screen” and just calling it “big.” (That’s the button you click on to make the video full-screen.)

However, when I visited the introduction video—a peppy sort of music video number—it stuttered several times for about two seconds each time before it played again.

I am ready to be DONE with stuttering video.

Anyway, once I clicked through on links for local markets, the videos all played fine and I didn’t encounter any more buffering trouble.

Still, I think the site needs better organization. After I left the home page, I was never really sure what I was viewing or how to get around easily.

Go Behind-the-Scenes on an Independent Film

September 4, 2007 4:08 AM

I have found an online series that I LOVE.

Warner Bros. and RealNetworks are producing an online reality show called “On Set, On Edge.”

It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making and, most interestingly, the financing behind the independent film “Jack and Jill vs. the World.”

The series documents the challenges of indie filmmaker Vanessa Parise to make the romantic comedy, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Taryn Manning.

Each episode is short, probably less than five minutes. Each one also has a true story arc, tension and conflict. (Not a bad idea!)

I especially love the part where Ms. Parise faces the heart-wrenching prospect of having to cut several pages from the script to meet the budget.

Plus, the video doesn’t have any stopping and stuttering. It just works. It works and the content is good. Who woulda thunk?

So check out the first few episodes at www.film.com/onset.