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STRANGE BUT TRUE TALES FROM TECH

Dec 22, 2003  •  Post A Comment

It was another wacky year in the world of new TV technology. Every time you picked up the remote or your favorite industry publication, you came across something strange but true. Whether it was stress, or perhaps due to sitting too close to a flat-screen TV, industry officials seemed to go out of their way to say or do the most embarrassing things.
As we bring a close to 2003 let’s look back at some of the year’s oddest moments:
Could You Rewind That, Please?
TiVo gets a free product placement in the HBO comedy “Sex and the City.” However, the digital video recorder’s debut is spoiled when the episode suggests that TiVo’s receiver will stop working if you sit on the remote control.
Doomtown
NBC airs high-definition TV promos of the critically acclaimed but poorly rated “Boomtown” at 2,000 retail stores. “Boomtown” winds up, however, with more viewers at Circuit City than in New York City. The series is canceled after just two episodes.
Well, Recuse Me!
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell gushes over TiVo before a gathering at the Consumer Electronics Show, saying that it’s “God’s machine.” Later, perhaps forgetting that his agency may be asked to rule on a feature that would permit DVR owners to exchange recorded shows with others, Powell says: “Is there a way to share a program with my sister? She loves TV as much as I do.”
Oh, That Little Thing?
A lawyer for ousted Gemstar executives Henry Yuen and Elsie Leung vows to contest their dismissals. “There is no good faith or substance basis for terminating Elsie Leung or Henry Yuen,” Stanley Arkin says.
A few months earlier, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed contempt of court charges against Yuen and asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to jail and fine him after he failed to testify in an ongoing probe of the company’s accounting.
What a Discovery!
Twice a week, TiVo starts automatically switching the channel on its receivers to the Discovery Channel. Although Discovery is an investor in TiVo, the DVR service says the switch is not intended to help the channel’s ratings. A spokeswoman says TiVo is using the Discovery signal to download company infomercials in the early morning hours.
However, some TiVo owners are puzzled to find their TVs tuned to Discovery when they wake up in the morning. Says one poster at a TiVo message board: “If you leave it on ESPN and then turn on the TV in the morning thinking you can see the last half-hour of `SportsCenter,’ and it’s on Discovery and it’s some guy redecorating slipcovers, it’s a pain in the neck.”
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions .com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.