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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.

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Trial and Error


October 2007 Archives

This Too Shall Pass

October 31, 2007 1:53 PM

I guess all good things do come to an end. So enjoy that jack o’ lantern while it lasts. Soon it’ll be a rotting carcass.

Check out this time-lapse 44-second video on YouTube on the death of a pumpkin:

SiTV’s Twist on Digital Strategies

October 30, 2007 9:30 AM

Last week Latino-centric network SiTV launched a new Web site at entertainment.sitv.com. SiTV is an English-language network tailored for young Latinos, ages 18 to 34. The network is found in about 15 million homes today.

I spoke with the network’s Lisa Black, senior VP of digital media and business development, about SiTV’s digital strategy. SiTV faces a business imperative to be hipper and cooler and more agile with new media, given the demographic it’s aiming to cater to.

The focus of the new site is social networking and content sharing. But more than that, SiTV looks to its Web sites to feed the network. “It’s definitely a launching pad for the network,” she said. She expects about 50 percent of the content for the network will come from online, while the other 50 percent is content SiTV produces, she said.

That strategy is an interesting twist on digital extensions. Most TV networks use the network to feed the Web site, but SiTV looks to the Web to feed the network.

Standout contributors to the site will have the chance to appear on-air, such as during interstitials, she said. “Depending how many views they get online, they can do interstitials and such on air,” Ms. Black said.

Robbing Banks and Tying Ties on Metacafe

October 29, 2007 9:00 AM

Metacafe launched a new channel last week called Director’s Cut. It’s sponsored by Adobe and is billed as a viewer-nominated, editor-approved channel that “honors the art of storytelling and the craft of filmmaking.”

The channel is live here.

Now I’m all for packaging content in new ways, and I also say kudos to Metacafe for snagging an advertiser to support the section.

But what I don’t get is that some of these videos have been around for a while, such as the video on how guys and gals shower differently.

So I sort of wonder: Is this what viewers want? Are they looking for a bookmark site for well-known online videos?

In any case, this video amused me.

Stop the Presses: Hulu Works Well

October 29, 2007 8:21 AM

Just a quick post this morning to let you know I tried Hulu this morning, the new online video venture between News Corp. and NBC Universal that went live today, and it worked well.

The interface is easy to use and the episodes loaded and played instantly.

More later as I tinker with it…


Fire Reporting

October 26, 2007 11:28 AM

FireFox News correspondent Adam Housley has been blogging regularly about covering the wildfires in Southern California.

If you’re looking for a compelling first-person account of the story, his site is worth checking out.

Looking for a Scary Thrill?

October 25, 2007 12:56 PM

All you horror film fans and slasher flick aficionados looking for your pre-Halloween fix might want to check out Lycos Cinema.

The site includes a new horror channel with classic flicks for free, among them “Night of the Living Dead,” “Attack of the Giant Leeches,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “The House on Haunted Hill.”

Now, I don’t do horror movies. I am scared enough just watching the surgery scenes on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

But I did check out the service and can report that it works super well. (Not just really well, but SUPER well.) Just go to the URL, click on the movie you want to see, sign up for the service (it’s a painless registration) and then the movie starts playing right away.

Nice job, Lycos.

Now, can you add a channel with happy talking animals for me?

San Diego Newsman Reports From His Own Burning Home

October 24, 2007 9:20 AM

It doesn’t get much more real than this. Larry Himmel, a correspondent for
Midwest Television-owned CBS station KFMB-TV in San Diego, reported outside his very own home as it was being eaten alive by flames in Southern California. Here’s the video the station posted to YouTube.

The clip has already garnered more than 160,000 views.

The Coolest Viral Video Ever

October 23, 2007 6:00 AM

Showtime created a viral video to support the second season of its original series “Brotherhood.” This video is mesmerizing and fascinating and totally mind-blowing.

While looking for a nontraditional way to promote the show, the network commissioned a champion card stacker to build a model of the Rhode Island State House, the home for the show, with playing cards. Card stacker Bryan Berg used 22,000 cards over three days to build the statehouse.

Showtime says it hasn’t done anything to promote the video, instead letting it grow virally. The network says the video is generating 25,000 to 30,000 additional views each day.

Next up: Showtime is planning a companion piece on how the card stacker plies his trade.

CNN Pushes 'Planet' Doc Across Platforms

October 22, 2007 9:03 AM

CNN will premiere its new documentary “Planet in Peril” on-air on Tuesday and Wednesday, and also will make it available via several digital venues.

This is an “unprecedented” multiplatform offering, CNN said. The network will offer the four-hour documentary via iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon.com.

“To treat 'Planet in Peril' as the groundbreaking documentary that it is, we felt compelled to make this investigation as available as possible in as many formats as possible,” said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S.

"Planet" will be available for download on iTunes for $1.99 per episode starting Thursday. Sprint cell phone users can watch the live broadcast on Tuesday and Wednesday on CNN Mobile Live. It also will be available on many cable operators' video-on-demand services.

For those who wish to watch "Planet" on DVD, Netflix will deliver the rental DVD after the program debuts. For purchasers, Amazon.com will take pre-orders and deliver a DVD set for $29.95 after the show airs.

An exclusive video trailer from the new REM song “Until the Day Is Done,” set to clips from the documentary, can be viewed here: www.CNN.com/PlanetinPeril.

At the same link, the network has posted a 20-minute excerpt from the documentary.

What Really Happened at 'Kid Nation'

October 19, 2007 9:38 AM

Want to know what really happened in New Mexico? Then check out your Friday video clip.

Because it raises the question: would you rather build a new town or hang with Michael Jackson?

Hallmark's Henry Schleiff Featured in New PSA

October 18, 2007 8:44 AM

It’s good to be the king.

Or the boss.

Because you can, you know, put yourself in your public service announcements.

Henry Schleiff, CEO and president of Hallmark Channel, will be featured in two new “Watch With Me” spots airing Oct. 23 and 29, promoting the network’s new PSA campaign urging parents to watch programming with their kids. He’ll introduce two movies for the network: “You’ve Got a Friend” airing Oct. 23 and “The Reading Room” running Oct. 29.

If you have a hankering to see Henry, click here to view the first spot.

Click here to view the second spot.

Adventures in Comcast Land: The Travails of a Cable Customer

October 17, 2007 8:55 AM

And you thought online video could be a pain in the butt to work sometimes.

Ha.

The cable guy still trumps the Internet when it comes to things not working well.

I received an e-mail this morning from my father-in-law, Garry Brooks, in Longboat Key, Fla., who had recently attempted to have two cable cards installed in his high-definition television. I’ll step aside now and just let him tell you in his own words about his “Adventures in Comcast Land.”


Tuesday 10/2: Ordered cable cards. Will be installed Saturday 10/6 between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Saturday 10/6 11 a.m.: Called Comcast to ask why no one had arrived. Comcast response: “Service tech on the way, will be there in a few minutes”

Saturday 10/6 Noon: Could not wait any longer; left note

Saturday 10/6 4:40 p.m.: Called Comcast. Response: “We never install cable cards on Saturdays.” Rescheduled for Tuesday 10/9.

Tuesday 10/9: Four men arrive, work for 3 hours, leave with job completed.

Tuesday 10/9: Five minutes later, stops working.

Tuesday Evening: Reschedule for Wednesday.

Wednesday: Three men arrive, work for three hours – one cable card working. Will reschedule for Friday.

Friday 10/12: Called Comcast. Response: “No appointment had been scheduled for Friday.”

Friday 10/12: Called Comcast again. Rescheduled for Saturday, October 13, 2007, 8:30-11 a.m.. Response: “Cable cards will be available for Saturday. Special arrangements have been made.”

Saturday 10/13: Called by Comcast at 10 a.m., was told cable cards not available on Saturdays; was put on hold for 20 minutes then disconnected.

Saturday 10/13: Called Comcast back, rescheduled for Monday 10/15, 8:30-11 a.m. Supervisor will call me before 11 a.m. and rep will call back as well.

Saturday 10/13 11:38 a.m.: Cathy from Comcast called and asked if supervisor had called. Said supervisor will call in 10 minutes.

Saturday 10/13 11:47 a.m.: Pam (supervisor) said she will have people here with multiple cable cards first thing Monday and will call back Monday morning.

Monday 10/15 10:15 a.m.: No telephone call and no technicians.

Monday 10/15 10:30 a.m.: Called Comcast executive problem resolution number. Left message. No one ever returned call.

Monday 10/15 11 a.m.: Two Comcast employees arrived. Problem resolved in about 2 hours.

Vote for Your Favorite Online Videos

October 16, 2007 1:00 AM

Quick quiz. How many of you can guess which video I will be voting for as the funniest Web video in TV Guide’s upcoming Online Video Awards Contest?

Here are the nominees for funniest video:

1. “The Landlord” (FunnyOrDie)
2. “Dick in a Box” (NBC)
3. “The Star-Spangled Banner” (JibJab)
4. “Water Boardin’ USA” (MyDamnChannel)

You know I’m picking “Dick in a Box.” It still makes me laugh.

But you can vote for whatever you want. TV Guide will announce today the nominees in 18 categories for its inaugural Online Video Awards. Voting begins today at www.tvguide.com/videoawards. Winners will be chosen by fan voting and the awards will be presented Dec. 1 in Santa Monica.

Other categories include best TV show site on the Web, comedy site on the Web, TV drama Webisode, sci-fi Webisode, TV reality Webisode, original series for drama, comedy, reality and talk, as well as other categories.

Oh, and for the piece de resistance: Pearl was nominated in the actress category for original Web material. Yes, that’s Pearl the foul-mouthed toddler landlord.

God, I love Web video.

How to Create a Sexy Online Video Guide

October 15, 2007 2:10 PM

A wheel.

Who would have thought a wheel would be the answer?

But it is.

Here is, without a doubt, the coolest online program guide I have ever seen. Go to www.current.com and click on “On TV.” You’ll see the new online/on-air program guide for the network, which is designed to reflect the whole dual-screen synergy of the network, because about 30 percent of what’s on air runs on the Web site, too.

So here’s how it works. When you go to the online guide, you can click on the spokes from the wheel, and an embedded video pops up with details on what’s on the air at a particular time (down to the minute), the video itself and information on the producer and the assignment.

It’s totally different from a traditional program grid and very cutting-edge.

The new program guide is part of the relaunch of the network’s Web site today.

Ghost in the Video Player

October 12, 2007 10:05 AM

I’m not really into scary things. Don’t like horror movies. Not into blood and gore.

So when I got an email today about a new site that Discovery’s Travel Channel has launched for its “Most Haunted Live” program with user-submitted sightings of ghosts and haunted houses, I was a little nervous about checking it out.

Would I see a ghost or some other spooky creature?

Fortunately, the answer is neither since I couldn’t get any of the video to load. Whew.

Then I spotted a tab for “videos” and clicked on that, which took me through to the home page for Travel Channel. Once there, I clicked on the video tab again. Yet again selected “Most Haunted Live,” going in through the front door rather than the back door this time.

And, let’s see, five minutes later, the video was still loading… Maybe there’s a ghost in the video player.


One Year Later: How Google Wants to Make Money With YouTube

October 11, 2007 10:02 AM

In case you were wondering how the heck Google was going to monetize YouTube, the answer—one year after the purchase—is that it will use AdSense.

Yes, at long last, the expectation that Google would loop YouTube into its massive network of Web sites has been confirmed.

Google announced earlier this week that after testing video ad units earlier this year, it’s now letting any AdSense Web site embed select YouTube videos and make money from those videos with ads.

But that’s not all. Remember when YouTube said in late summer that it would offer overlay ads on top of video from select YouTube partners? Those overlays also will run on the sanctioned YouTube videos on the AdSense Web sites.

Revenue is split three ways between Google, the content partner and the Web site.

To watch a video on how this new program works, visit.
http://adsense.blogspot.com/

Pimping My Soap Star Girls

October 10, 2007 11:35 AM

I’ve already maxed out my votes, using my five allotted ones last night to vote for Ashlee, one of the two finalists for SoapNet’s reality series “I Wanna Be a Soap Star.”

(Sure, it’s not as big as “American Idol.” But who cares!)

This is the one reality show I follow year in, year out. And for the first time ever—it’s about time because the show is in its fourth season—SoapNet is letting fans have a say. Fans can vote either via a toll-free number or online at SoapNet.com through this evening.

Viewer votes will count for 50 percent of the final decision to determine which of the two soap wannabe chickadees, Jimena or Ashlee, wins a contract role on “Days of Our Lives.”

You can vote here: http://soapnet.go.com/shows/soapstar4/vote.html

Even if you have never seen the show, you can still vote. How, you ask? Just click on the “videos” link on the above page to watch the performances of the two finalists.

The winner will be revealed live on the air on Oct. 16.

It's Not Easy Being Green

October 9, 2007 6:00 AM

In late August I posted a blog item about a Current TV contest to solicit green-centric user-generated videos.

As part of that post, I wrote about recycling programs in Austin, Texas, a city I had recently visited. As it turns out, the place I stayed in Austin has an Austin mailing address but is not technically in Austin proper.

Allen Chen, editor of Austinist.com, was kind enough to share some information on Austin’s recycling programs.

Here they are.

http://austinist.com/2006/09/25/keep_austin_perty.php
http://www.ecology-action.org/
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/landfilldiversion.htm
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/recyclingdropoff.htm
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/recycling.htm

The Next Iron Chef and 90 Blogs

October 8, 2007 8:35 AM

If you had any questions about the power of blogs as a marketing vehicle, consider this. As part of an online-driven campaign for Food Network’s reality show “The Next Iron Chef,” which premiered last night, the network ran ads on TV-centric sites like Zap2it, People.com and EW.com, as well as ads on food-centric blogs to reach food enthusiasts.

All total, the network placed ads on more than 90 food and TV-related blogs, such as tvgasm.com, laobserved.com, chocolateandzucchini.com, thetvaddict.com, dcfoodies.com, ahamburgertoday.com, cocktailchronicles.com, smellingthecoffee.com and others.

Eva Longoria’s Sex Tape

October 5, 2007 12:30 PM

Just in case you haven’t been able to find this on your own, here is a link to the Eva Longoria sex tape floating around the Internet.

It’s That Time of the Year at Lifetime

October 5, 2007 9:00 AM

It’s October, so it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As Lifetime does every year, the network has unleashed a host of public service initiatives, including a range of new digital ones.

That includes a mini Web site that features a series of celebrity videos from stars talking about what it means to support each other.

From a purely Trial & Error standpoint, the site is simple and easy. I especially liked how the videos flowed through from one to the next, because frankly, I wouldn’t think to click on each one in this case. That’s a smart technical solution by Lifetime, because I doubt most consumers would choose to play each one individually. But having them play automatically once you start works quite well. Especially touching and cool was the video of Whoopi Goldberg and her agent, Cara Stein, a breast cancer survivor.

The goal of the campaign is to encourage more women and men to become part of a support system to promote early detection, donate to or volunteer for local charities and offer hope and friendship to those facing breast cancer, Lifetime says.

Buy Radiohead for Whatever You Want

October 4, 2007 9:41 AM

Allow me to digress from online video for a moment.

English rock band Radiohead is releasing its newest album "in Rainbows" online at www.inrainbows.com and you can pay whatever you want for it. The album won’t be available in stores, on Amazon or iTunes. Nope—the band is sans label and doing it solo.

So in support of this bold new effort, one that frankly puts the artist and the consumer firmly in control of their destinies, I went online and paid about $10 for the album, the same price I would pay for an album on iTunes.

Now, I’ve never been a Radiohead fan. And that’s simply because I’m not familiar with the band’s music. But in support of this daring new test of online consumption of media, I encourage all of my blog readers to buy the album.

Stand up!

Make a point!

Pay whatever you want! Because how many times will you have the chance to do so?

Take the opportunity and let’s see where it goes.

Music now, TV next.

Credit given where credit is due—I first read about this on Wayne Karrfalt’s Cynopsis Digital.

Sweet New TVGuide Is Good, But Slow

October 3, 2007 7:36 AM

So the new guide for TVGuide.com is up and running at www.video.tvguide.com. It’s supposed to make video easy to sift through on the TVGuide site.

The layout is really terrific for the new site, and somehow TVGuide has managed to stuff a ton of information into the home page and make that information easy to digest.

A handy search bar perches atop the page. Under that lie the links, complete with thumbnail images, of both full episodes and Web clips. To test the service, I searched for Patrick Dempsey. The site delivered a slew of links to episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC.com as well as a host of clips from “Access Hollywood” and red-carpet events. Most of the videos played; some didn’t.

Here’s the best part of the revamped site. The new home page contains a list of some of the most recently heard songs on popular TV shows. Now that’s handy. Because, really, how many times do you think, “I know that song! What is it called?”

But now that I am going back to look at the song list again, the site is refusing to load ... for several minutes.

One Click Away on Amazon

October 2, 2007 11:37 AM

Battlestar GalacticaSo I got a helpful email today from Amazon’s public relations department. Turns out the folks over there read yesterday’s blog on my return to the Amazon Unbox.

Here’s what I was told: “Amazon Unbox uses 1-click purchasing. As long as you are signed into your Amazon account, all you have to do is hit the buy button for the television show or movie you would like to rent or purchase and you’re set.”

Now, I am a regular Amazon customer and I certainly thought I was logged into my account yesterday. And I’m all for 1-click shopping. But I decided to return today and give it another shot using these directions.

I jumped over to Amazon and immediately spotted the hello message. Good, the site knew it was me. So I searched for Amazon Unbox and then scanned titles for the freebies. I chose Sci Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” and clicked the “1-click” button. And boom—that was all I had to do. No more buttons or pages—the show just went straight to the Unbox player.

Almost like magic.

The Amazon Unbox Shun Is Over

October 1, 2007 12:49 PM

I couldn’t avoid it any longer.

Even though I banished Amazon Unbox from my computer last year for conduct unbecoming a Web video service (namely crashing and turning my computer to sludge while downloading and watching videos), I went back to it today.

I know what you’re thinking. I should stick to my guns and give it the Heisman forever.

But, really, what choice do I have as I endeavor to be an equal-opportunity basher, er, tester of Web video download services?

So with NBC pairing up with Amazon and Fox offering shows for free, I had to download the service again.

The Web interface is much cleaner than it was a year ago, and I was able to find shows immediately. I opted for Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” since it’s free for the first few weeks of the season.

Now here’s the part of the service that’s annoying. You have to buy the show just like anything else you buy from Amazon. So you have to go through a few Web pages to get to your cart and click out and all that jazz.

Sure, the service worked fine. It loaded, it played, the video zinged along. But I still prefer the sheer simplicity of the iTunes purchase. You hit “buy show” and boom, it’s bought. And you do it all from one program.