Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Experience Is the Best Teacher, But TV Can Teach Kids the Alphabet

It's back-to-school time. Ahhh! The memories.

As young children we all learned the alphabet. 'A' is for apple. 'B' is for... You know the drill. Boring. But effective.

Kids today need something more extreme. They need the ultimate alphabet lesson. What if we use TV ep titles to teach the alphabet to our children? What would they learn?

  • 'A' as in Anxiety (''Mister Novak'')
  • Dial 'B' for Virgin (''Married with Children'')
  • 'C' Is for Model (''Living Dolls'')
  • 'D' Is for Date(''Family Ties'')
  • 'F' Is for Framed (''L.A. Heat'')
  • Dial 'G' for Grindl (''Grindl'')
  • 'H' Is for Hurricane (''Armstrong Circle Theatre'')
  • Dial 'J' for Janitor (''The Honeymooners'')
  • Kooper with a 'K' (''Take Five'')
  • 'L' Is for Love and Larceny (''N.Y.P.D.'')
  • 'M' Is for the Many Things She Lifted (''His & Hers'')
  • 'N' Is for Nightmare(''Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law'')
  • Dial 'O' for Murder (''Hack'')
  • 'P' Is for Paul (''The Crew'')
  • 'S' Is for Seduction (''Dallas'')
  • 'T' Is for Traitor (''Iron Horse'')
  • 'V' as in Voodoo (''Yancy Derringer'')
  • 'X' Equals Murder (''Johnny Midnight'')
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Keeping Up with the Millers

    No. Not the Joneses. The Millers.

    Last night you may have watched Wentworth Miller in ''Prison Break.'' He played Michael Scofield, the structural engineer who plans to break his brother out of prison.

    Miller. That seems like a pretty common name. I wonder. Is that surname also common in TV Land? Yep. Turns out that Miller is the most common surname in television history. More than 50 primetime network TV series have featured a character having Miller for a last name.

    What's the second most common surname? You're probably guessing Smith. Johnson. Williams. Jones. Maybe even Brown. All good guesses since these names ARE the five most popular surnames according to the United States Census Bureau. It has to be one of these, right? Nope. None of them. The second most common TV character name is....Cooper. Cooper? Yep. All the way down there at #62 on the list of most common names in the United States--but very popular on TV. Do the Brits really influence American TV that much?

    And what about the surnames Brown and White? How does TV do with names that may reference race? These names are apparently very taboo for TV characters. Brown is the 15th most popular TV name (US Census: 5) while White is the 60th most popular TV name (US Census: 14).

    Just click on "(+/-)popular surnames" to see the 10 most popular surnames for TV characters in primetime network TV history.

    (+/-)popular surnames

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    The Long and Shorty of It

    We must be officially entering the early portion of the fall TV season. ''Palmetto Point'' premiered yesterday on the i network, while ''Rome'' and ''Parco, PI'' debuted on cable. And ''Prison Break'' premieres on Fox tonight.

    Since the new season is upon us, I'm introducing a new feature in the far right sidebar: TV Shorty Watch.

    Shorty Watch tracks the number of times a series airs. If a series airs three of fewer times on its debut network, I call it a TV Shorty! If a series airs four or more times, then that skein drops off the list.

    (Note: I use airings rather than episodes. That simply means that if you watch Fox's two-hour presentation of ''Prison Break'' tonight, then you will watch a single airing even though you'll see the first two eps.)

    I'll update this feature daily.

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    It's Not the Asking That Is Difficult, But the Finding

    In my previous entry I discussed the long tail of media and the importance of niches. In this entry I want to briefly touch on the importance of external relationships when trying to direct customers to long-tail media.

    And to do this, I'm just going to describe an example of how you will navigate the future digital TV Guide. Wait. Let me make that statement more correct. I'm going to describe an example of how the future digital TV Guide will navigate you.

    Let's say that you're watching the TV show "Apple Pie" on TVShortiesVOD. (The show is airing on TVShortiesVOD because it's a TV Shorty. A short-lived TV series. ABC aired only two of eight "Apple Pie" episodes in September 1978 and then banished it from the airwaves.) After you watch the final ep, you hit the 'Suggest TV' button on your remote. What happens?

    Here's one scenario.

    The system finds the name, Steve Tesich, because he was the playwright for "Nourish the Beast," from which "Apple Pie" was adapted. The system then follows his link to GoogleLives which automatically finds everything that Tesich has done in the past from GoogleWords, GooglePics, GoogleVideo, GooglePlays, GoogleRadio and GoogleMusic.

    But the system thinks you have refined taste and cross-references these findings with GoogleAwards so it only considers award-winning media. The system finds the movie, "Breaking Away," because Tesich won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Since you just watched a TV adaptation, the system then recommends that you next watch the TV series, "Breaking Away."

    With a single button push, the TV Guide does the grunt work so that you can watch another TV show adapted from the words of Steve Tesich.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    Niche Guys Finish Last

    If someone asked you to write one sentence to describe what must happen for a company to deliver long-tail media to the masses, what would you write?

    Here's what I would write.

    A company must have access to catalogs of niches with enough accurate information and connectivity--both internal and external--so that a system can use filters, relationships and/or recommendations in a single interface to help a customer repeatedly find new and satisfying selections, regardless of the sales volume for those selections.

    That's a mouthful. And it will definitely take more than one post for me to dissect that sentence. I'll start with niches for this post and then discuss external connectivity in a later post.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    They Shoot Viewers, Don't They

    I'm sure you've noticed that Fox is continuing to air expanded, two-hour editions of "So You Think You Can Dance" on Wednesdays. And I'm sure you've already heard about the O-Hurley/Monaco dance-off. I feel like we're in the middle of a dance marathon that might never end.

    Many shows have ep titles based on the 1935 novel & 1969 movie, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They." Did you ever wonder what else TV writers wanted to shoot? Here's a short list:
  • They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? (''That Girl,'' 3/12/1970)

  • They Shoot Managers, Don't They? (''The Partridge Family,'' 2/12/1971)

  • They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They? (''Happy Days,'' 11/16/1976)

  • They Shoot Hammers, Don't They? (''Sledge Hammer,'' 10/17/1986)

  • They Shoot Witnesses, Don't They? (''O'Hara,'' 1/2/1988)

  • They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They? (''Designing Women,'' 12/11/1989)

  • They Shoot Sources, Don't They? (''WIOU,'' 12/12/1990)

  • They Shoot Ducks, Don't They? (''American Dreamer,'' 6/22/1991)

  • They Shoot DJs, Don't They? (''Rhythm & Blues,'' 10/22/1992)

  • They Shoot Videos, Don't They? (''California Dreams,'' 11/21/1992)

  • They Shoot Baskets, Don't They? (''Class of '96,'' 1/26/1993)

  • They Shoot Mothers, Don't They? (''Melrose Place,'' 1/16/1995)

  • They Shoot Guns, Don't They? (''Double Rush,'' 1/25/1995)

  • They Shoot Urkels, Don't They? (''Family Matters,'' 5/12/1995)

  • They Shoot Turkeys, Don't They? (''Cybill,'' 11/19/1995)

  • They Shoot Ducks, Don't They? (''Family Matters,'' 9/26/1997)

  • They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (''Spin City,'' 12/10/1997)

  • They Shoot Blanks, Don't They? (''Melrose Place,'' 2/22/1999)

  • they shoot single people, don't they? (''Sex and the City,'' 6/27/1999)

  • They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They? (''Gilmore Girls,'' 11/12/2002)

  • They Shoot Reporters, Don't They? (''Wanda at Large,'' 10/31/2003)
  • Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Every Sitmom Has Two Names

    "Kicked Out" premieres on ABCFamily on Wednesday to document how real Moms and Dads introduce slacker 20-somethings to the real world. I'll bet they wanted to call it "Get a Life," but we all know that sitcom was about a 30-something slacker. Not a 20-something slacker.

    I laugh aloud when I think about how Carol & Mike Brady would've handled offspring like Chris Peterson.

    Speaking of Carol Brady. Did you ever wonder about Carol's maiden name? What about maiden names of other sitmoms?

    Well if you have, then today is your lucky day. Match the sitmom (left column) with her correct maiden name (right column). The answers are hidden after the table. Just click on "(+/-)answers" to show/hide the answers.

    SitmomMaiden Name
    1.Carol Brady ("Brady Bunch")a.Baines
    2.Peggy Bundy ("Married with Children")b.Bouvier
    3.Edith Bunker ("All in the Family")c.Bronson
    4.June Cleaver ("Leave It to Beaver")d.Donnelly
    5.Roseanne Conner ("Roseanne")e.Hanks
    6.Marion Cunningham ("Happy Days")f.Harris
    7.Peggy Hill ("King of the Hill")g.Kelp
    8.Clair Huxtable ("Cosby Show")h.Malone
    9.Elyse Keaton ("Family Ties")i.Mullenger
    10.Maggie Seaver ("Growing Pains")j.Platter
    11.Marge Simpson ("The Simpsons")k.Tyler
    12.Donna Stone ("Donna Reed Show")l.Wanker


    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Total Tube Time

    How can you measure the impact a series has on the audience over the lifetime of that show?

    Number of seasons? That works OK. But it doesn't really differentiate between shows like "Dallas" and "Law & Order." "Dallas" (and many other serial dramas) do so poorly in reruns in later seasons that the network doesn't even bother running repeats. On the flip side, "Law & Order" does well enough in reruns that NBC often uses the show to fill in programming gaps. During the week starting 28 Feb 2005, the "L&O" franchise aired 10 times. That's right. The four "L&O" series took up nearly 50% of the primetime airtime on NBC.

    Number of airings? Better. But not much. Did "60 Minutes" have more impact on the viewers than "Face the Nation" over the last 20 years? You bet. Even though the two shows had about the same number of airings during that time, "60 Minutes" attracted a far larger audience each week.

    That's what led me to define Total Tube Time, which simply estimates how much time American households spent watching the series (in terms of household hours).

    And now for the big question. During the last 20+ years, which series has the highest Total Tube Time?

    I won't tell you the answer here--just look to the far right margin above "Previous Posts" for this new feature. I'll periodically update this section to include longer time periods and make some minor corrections. If people like the feature, I'll provide top ten lists by genre.

    For those who care, here are more details about Total Tube Time.

    First, caculate Tube Time for every show. Take the number of households watching a show and multiply that number by the show's duration (in hours). If 10 million households watch a show for 30 minutes (1/2 hour), then that show has a Tube Time of 5 million household hours. If 10 million households watch a show for 3 hours, then that show has a Tube Time of 30 million household hours.

    Finally, calculate Total Tube Time by taking the sum of the Tube Times for every airing of that series.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Four camera phones see more than two cameramen

    Can you believe the nerve of local TV news? They use tip hotlines for viewers to develop potential story leads for them. They use audio reports from eyewitnesses until the news van arrives. Why even have reporters?

    It's only going to get worse. As camera phone quality improves and cities become unwired, these eyewitnesses will be pup reporters. Streaming video with superimposed audio. Networks will rely on sheer numbers since somebody at the scene is likely to have enough camera presence.

    I wouldn't be surprised if network newcasts negotiate exclusive deals with service providers. If you call with a story, you'll automatically be sent to one network even though you've never seen that news team.

    This item (and headline) was a Commercial Break in the book for "Studio 5B," but I recently read this story in Broadcasting & Cable about everybody being a reporter. Since my item doesn't seem as original anymore--except the part about exclusive agreements with service providers, I removed the Break from the book and included it here, verbatim.

    All is not lost. At least you get a better example of the content, tone and length of the ~100 Commercial Breaks that you'll read in the book. And remember. All headlines play off some saying or proverb.

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    Causes and Effect(ive) Awards

    It seems like there is an organization that confers awards to TV shows for every cause. Of course, organizations promote human equality (race, gender, sexual orientation, capability). But what about other causes? Here's a sample.

  • The Humanitas Prize for "stories that affirm the dignity of the human person, probe the meaning of life, and enlighten the use of human freedom."

  • The Humane Society confers Genesis Awards to shows that "raise the public understanding of animal issues."

  • The Environmental Media Association's EMA Award for shows that "increase public awareness of environmental problems and inspire personal action on these problems."

  • PRISM Awards that "recognize the accurate depiction of drug, alcohol and tobacco use within entertainment programming."

  • The American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award for shows that "foster the American public's understanding of the law and the legal system."

  • Cable Positive's POP Award to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

  • The International Society for Excellence in Christian Film & Television recognizes shows that "portray Christians and Christian values in a positive light."

  • The EDGE Award (Entertainment Depiction of Gun Education Award) honors shows that "effectively promote firearm safety and discourage gun violence."

  • Planned Parenthood confers the Maggie Award to "recognize the year's out-standing media coverage of sexuality education, contraception, abortion rights, sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health issues."

  • The National Council on Crime and Delinquency confers the PASS Award to shows that depict "stories about people and programs that promise to protect children against neglect and abuse, and against involvement in crime."

  • The SHINE (Sexual Health IN Entertainment) Award from the Media Project.

  • And that's just the beginning. There are more.

    But what about the cause to recognize (and reward) popular culture for promoting literacy and awareness of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? The Sloan Foundation has a low-profile program. And the American Film Institute is working with the Air Force and the Army Research Office to train scientists to be screenwriters, as reported here.

    And that's as much as I can find.

    Isn't it time for some organization to step it up and do something higher profile? Shouldn't the community take the EMA's lead and work with shows to promote minor story lines and act as a consulting resource for larger stories? "Numb3rs" works with Caltech experts to make sure that the mathematics is correct, but only because the producers really wanted to go the extra yard. All on their own. And only because they identified accuracy as one of their main objectives.

    Maybe the organization should initially take advantage of the two main human motivators: fear and greed. Confer high-profile dishonors to shows that present STEM inaccuracies. Reward producers with a high-profile award, as well as a cash prize, for accurately portraying STEM.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Good Grief! It's Hidden Howie

    "Hidden Howie" debuts tonight on Bravo.

    We know all about the wacky Howie Mandell and his antics. His appearances on "The Tonight Show" as a field reporter. His voice on "Bobby's World." A latex glove on his head. And his career-making role on "St. Elsewhere." But we forget about less memorable appearances, like his starring role in the series, "Good Grief!"

    One of the episodes of "Good Grief!" is named "The Good, the Bad and the Mariachis" (11/11/1990)--an obvious takeoff of the famous 1966 Clint Eastwood movie. But "Good Grief!" is not the only series to name an ep after this famous western.

    If you're not good and you're not bad, what else can you be? TV writers pondered this question for decades, and here's what they thought best filled in the blank for "The Good, the Bad and the ______":
  • Ficus (''Quark,'' 3/10/1978)

  • Beautiful (''B.J. and the Bear,'' 2/16/1980)

  • Profane (''Falcon Crest,'' 4/2/1982)

  • Priceless (''The Master,'' 3/23/1984)

  • Dead (''Tour of Duty,'' 11/19/1987)

  • Ugly (''Just the Ten of Us,'' 3/17/1989)

  • Urkel (''Family Matters,'' 4/19/1991)

  • Pharmacist (''Grace Under Fire,'' 10/20/1993)

  • Hansens (''The Boys Are Back,'' 10/19/1994)

  • Not-So-Appealing (''Mad about You,'' 10/29/1995)

  • Wealthy (''Sliders,'' 3/22/1996)

  • Hairless (''The Jeff Foxworthy Show,'' 4/7/1997)

  • Luau (''Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,'' 5/21/1999)

  • Cursed (''Charmed,'' 2/15/2001)

  • Lawyers (''The Education of Max Bickford,'' 1/6/2002)

  • Lazy (''Off Centre,'' 1/20/2002)

  • Funny (''The Parkers,'' 5/5/2003)

  • Geeky (''Jake 2.0,'' 10/8/2003)
  • Monday, August 15, 2005

    Tommy Lee Takes Us to School

    Tomorrow (Tuesday) you can watch "Tommy Lee Goes to College."

    If you don't enjoy it that much, just think back to yesteryear. Instead of watching mediocre reality shows during the summer, the networks presented some of their busted pilots. At least networks are making an effort and are spending money on new entertainment rather than showing crap just to recover some sunk costs.

    Speaking of busted pilots, if you want to know everything there is to know about older busted pilots you should check out the work of Lee Goldberg.

    What about busted pilots since 1990? I won't include unsold pilots that were aired as movies since the networks really hedged their bets from the beginning on these shows. I'm only including pilots with running times of 30 or 60 minutes.

    24 Aug 2005: I did not include busted backdoor pilots, such as "Boss Swap" and "Husband Swap," in this list.

    Corrections (in italics or strikethrough)
    24 Aug 2005: Corrected airing dates for ''Harlan & Merleen'' and ''The Omen.''
    24 Aug 2005: Added ''We'll Take Manhattan.''
    24 Aug 2005: Removed ''Fast Company.''
    02 Sep 2005: Removed ''Greyhounds.''
    07 Sep 2005: Added ''Flockens,'' ''Bodyguard,'' ''King of the Mountain,'' ''Project Tin Man'' and ''America Behind Closed Doors,''
    07 Sep 2005: Added aka for ''Close Encounters.''
    07 Sep 2005: Corrected airing date for ''Lookwell!''

    Here's the mostly-complete list of busted pilots that aired on network TV since 1/1/1990 (in backwards chronological order):
    ''R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street'' (ABC, 7/31/1998)
    ''Extreme Blue'' (UPN, 12/11/1996)
    ''The Colony'' (ABC, 7/4/1996)
    ''Adam'' (ABC, 7/3/1996)
    ''The Bureau'' (ABC, 6/29/1996)
    ''Long Island Fever'' (ABC, 6/27/1996)
    ''Guys Like Us'' (ABC, 6/26/1996)
    ''Pier 66'' (ABC, 5/25/1996)
    ''Real Funny'' (ABC, 4/6/1996)
    ''American Bounty Hunter'' (UPN, 3/5/1996)
    ''The Nerd'' (NBC, 3/2/1996)
    ''A Perfect Life'' (UPN, 12/26/1995)
    ''Family Values'' (UPN, 12/26/1995)
    ''Shadow-Ops'' (UPN, 12/25/1995)
    ''Trial by Jury'' (UPN, 12/11/1995)
    ''Divas'' (Fox, 9/19/1995)
    ''Fast Company'' (NBC, 8/14/1995) (aired as 2-hour show)
    ''The Omen'' (NBC, 8/8/19958/9/1995)
    ''Grownups'' (ABC, 8/2/1995)
    ''Time Well Spent'' (ABC, 7/29/1995)
    ''Kansas'' (ABC, 7/27/1995)
    ''The Last Days of Russell'' (ABC, 7/22/1995)
    ''Bodyguards'' (ABC, 7/6/1995)
    ''Philly Heat'' (ABC, 7/1/1995)
    ''Mystery Dance'' (ABC, 6/29/1995)
    ''The Best Defense'' (ABC, 6/19/1995)
    ''Dark Eyes'' (ABC, 6/8/1995)
    ''First Gentleman'' (CBS, 8/27/1994)
    ''Arly Hanks Mysteries'' (CBS, 8/20/1994)
    ''Couples'' (ABC, 7/2/1994)
    ''Related by Birth'' (ABC, 7/2/1994)
    ''Black Sheep'' (Fox, 6/30/1994)
    ''Police File'' (ABC, 6/25/1994)
    ''Greyhounds'' (CBS, 6/24/1994) (aired as 2-hour show)
    ''Locals'' (Fox, 6/23/1994)
    ''The Wyatts'' (Fox, 6/19/1994)
    ''Profiles'' (ABC, 6/2/1994)
    ''Friends and Lovers'' (NBC, 3/5/1994)
    ''New Year'' (ABC, 7/17/1993)
    ''Buddies'' (NBC, 7/14/1993)
    ''Harlan & Merleen'' (CBS, 7/13/19937/12/1993)
    ''Country Estates'' (ABC, 7/10/1993)
    ''The Circle Game'' (ABC, 7/7/1993)
    ''Partners'' (ABC, 5/27/1993)
    ''1775'' (CBS, 9/5/1992)
    ''The Boys'' (ABC, 8/29/1992)
    ''Driving Miss Daisy'' (CBS, 8/21/1992)
    ''Just Desserts'' (ABC, 8/15/1992)
    ''America Behind Closed Doors'' (CBS, 8/6/1992)
    ''Ultimate Revenge'' (CBS, 7/22/1992)
    ''Moe's World'' (ABC, 7/19/1992)
    ''The Streets of Beverly Hills'' (ABC, 7/13/1992)
    ''Crow's Nest'' (ABC, 7/9/1992)
    ''Jumpin' Joe'' (ABC, 7/9/1992)
    ''The Witches of Eastwick'' (ABC, 7/3/1992)
    ''Up to No Good'' (ABC, 7/3/1992)
    ''Yesterday/Today'' (NBC, 7/3/1992)
    ''Firehouse'' (Fox, 2/14/1992)
    ''Angie, the Lieutenant'' (ABC, 2/1/1992)
    ''Perfect Crimes'' (CBS, 11/8/1991)
    ''Rewrite for Murder'' (CBS, 9/14/1991)
    ''Mimi & Me'' (CBS, 9/7/1991)
    ''Acting Sheriff'' (CBS, 8/17/1991)
    ''Passion'' (CBS, 8/17/1991)
    ''Claws'' (CBS, 8/10/1991)
    ''Vidiots'' (CBS, 8/10/1991)
    ''Coconut Downs'' (ABC, 8/6/1991)
    ''Big Deals'' (CBS, 8/3/1991)
    ''The Owl'' (CBS, 8/3/1991)
    ''Howie and Rose'' (ABC, 8/2/1991)
    ''Deadline'' (ABC, 7/31/1991)
    ''The Julie Brown Show'' (NBC, 7/28/1991)
    ''Lookwell!'' (NBC, 7/25/1991)7/28/1991)
    ''Miss Jones'' (ABC, 7/12/1991)
    ''Sunday in Paris'' (NBC, 7/8/1991)
    ''K-9'' (ABC, 7/6/1991)
    ''The Silver Fox'' (ABC, 7/6/1991)
    ''Belles of Bleecker Street'' (ABC, 7/5/1991)
    ''Danger Team'' (ABC, 7/3/1991)
    ''In the House'' (NBC, 7/1/1991)
    ''K-9000'' (Fox, 7/1/1991)
    ''Maverick Square'' (ABC, 6/29/1991)
    ''Five Up, Two Down'' (CBS, 6/5/1991)
    ''Clippers'' (CBS, 6/3/1991)
    ''Our Shining Moment'' (NBC, 6/2/1991)
    ''Tag Team'' (ABC, 1/26/1991)
    ''The Brotherhood'' (ABC, 1/2/1991)
    ''Hammer, Slammer & Slade'' (ABC, 12/15/1990)
    ''Partners in Life'' (CBS, 8/31/1990)
    ''Anna'' (NBC, 8/25/1990)
    ''Steel Magnolias'' (CBS, 8/17/1990)
    ''Ladies on Sweet Street'' (ABC, 8/16/1990)
    ''Ghost Writer'' (Fox, 8/15/1990)
    ''Piece of Cake'' (CBS, 8/15/1990)
    ''I'm Home'' (Fox, 8/8/1990)
    ''Mulberry Street'' (CBS, 8/8/1990)
    ''The High Life'' (ABC, 8/3/1990)
    ''Lola'' (CBS, 8/1/1990)
    ''The World According to Straw'' (Fox, 8/1/1990)
    ''Shangri La Plaza'' (CBS, 7/30/1990)
    ''The Knife & Gun Club'' (ABC, 7/30/1990)
    ''Project Tin Man'' (ABC, 7/30/1990)
    ''King of the Mountain'' (Fox, 7/28/1990)
    ''Close Encounters (a.k.a. Matchmaker)'' (CBS, 7/27/1990)
    ''Just Life'' (ABC, 7/26/1990)
    ''Hollywood Dog'' (Fox, 7/25/1990)
    ''Hurricane Sam'' (CBS, 7/25/1990)
    ''Checkered Flag'' (ABC, 7/23/1990)
    ''The Bakery'' (CBS, 7/20/1990)
    ''Poochinski'' (NBC, 7/9/1990)
    ''Turner & Hooch'' (NBC, 7/9/1990)
    ''Dad's a Dog'' (ABC, 7/6/1990)
    ''Bar Girls'' (CBS, 7/5/1990)
    ''Beanpole'' (ABC, 7/4/1990)
    ''Be Careful What You Ask For'' (NBC, 7/2/1990)
    ''The Jackie Bison Show'' (NBC, 7/2/1990)
    ''Charlie'' (ABC, 6/28/1990)
    ''Bodyguard'' (NBC, 6/22/1990)
    ''Dr. Ruth's House'' (ABC, 6/22/1990)
    ''We'll Take Manhattan'' (NBC, 6/16/1990)
    ''Flockens'' (ABC, 6/15/1990)
    ''Where's Rodney?'' (NBC, 6/11/1990)
    ''Sisters'' (CBS, 5/24/1990)
    ''Anything for Laughs'' (ABC, 5/6/1990)

    Friday, August 12, 2005


    In my previous post I linked to an article about telecoms delivering cable channels directly to your TV. That's a great idea if you want to watch something live.

    But what's next?

    Personally, I think we'll see advances in VOD.

    Don't we already have VOD?

    Yes and no. Premium cable channels already provide VOD. Think HBO and "The Sopranos." Some networks provide VOD news coverage. Think "ABC News."

    I reckon the next development will be for shows like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives." Network series with avid audiences that have access to VOD. And the main challenge will be to provide VOD without losing the watercooler effect for these shows.

    Here's one concept of how to make VOD work for watercooler shows. ABC gets revenue from commercials to partially pay production costs. If you stop watching commercials, then ad revenue goes down. ABC needs to find a way to release "Lost" at 9PM on Wednesday and entice a large audience to watch it in real time (with commercials). I think ABC will start bribing audiences with monetary contests--watch this show live and you'll be entered in a year-end drawing where one viewer will win $5 million. Every week you watch the show live, you win an additional entry in the drawing. If you didn't watch the show live, you can still win an entry into the drawing--watch the show on ABC-VOD sometime within 12 hours of its release time and do not fast-forward through the commercials. You can access the show on ABC-VOD anytime after that, but you will not win an entry. After one week, the show is taken off ABC-VOD.

    I want to highlight three features of this concept.

    First of all, the network provides enough incentive for the audience to watch the show the night it's released and watch the commercials. They improve the watercooler effect since more people will watch as long as they can watch at their convenience without decreasing ad revenue.

    Secondly, the networks can still air repeats and sell DVDs if they don't keep shows on VOD forever. The purpose of VOD in this case is to allow the audience to see the show at its convenience. By keeping the show on VOD for one week, you entice the audience to watch it at some point before the next episode airs.

    Lastly, the Nielsen Media Research Co. will also be happy with the cutoff date for viewing since they can still provide weekly ratings and provide new stats about viewing habits (households watching on 1st day, 2nd day, etc.). New stats means more money.

    Whistle to MTV While You Work

    Well it's about time. A major telecom is finally testing whether cable-on-the-PC is a good idea. We've always had the option of using a TV tuner, but that only provided local stations. Now Time-Warner is delivering CNN and ESPN (and other channels) directly to computers for some customers in San Diego. Read more about the trial here.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005


    Or at least that should be Blockbuster's new name, based on their recent report: "Blockbuster movie-rental chain said its earnings fell to a $57.2 million loss in the second quarter because of 'malaise' in the movie world."

    Networks have adapted nicely to biz changes in how movies are delivered, but Blockbuster has not. Remember the early '90s when people actually anticipated the TV premiere of a feature film? The main effect on networks was simple--they had to present less original content than today since they could rely on theatrical films to fill airspace and find audiences.

    Which brings us to the trivia question. In the last 20 years, which theatrical films were rated #1 for the week?

    "Jurassic Park" (5/7/1995, NBC)
    "Pretty Woman" (10/17/1993, ABC): a repeat showing!!
    "Fried Green Tomatoes" (5/2/1993, NBC)

    Tuesday, August 09, 2005


    You'll notice a new feature in the near right sidebar: "On This Date." Initially, I'll just use my database to generate a list of series that premiered on the date shown at the top. Over time, I'll add additional items (famous firsts & lasts, etc.) to a different section of the same sidebar.


    The Verdict Is In

    As you may have heard, NBC will no longer air "The Law Firm." We, the jury, have found the show to be guilty of sucking, and we (almost unanimously) voted by not watching.

    This cancellation is noteworthy for two reasons:

    1. "The Law Firm" joins the pantheon of TV Shorties! NBC only aired two of the eight episodes.

    2. We're finally seeing some significant effects of vertical integration this summer. The remaining six episodes of "The Law Firm" will be shown on Bravo, the younger sibling of NBC in the NBC-Universal family. What other shows recently took advantage of conglomera?

    "Rock Star: INXS" (Viacom, partly demoted from CBS to VH1);
    "The Princes of Malibu" (NewsCorp, demoted from Fox to Fox Reality);

    "Veronica Mars" (Viacom, UPN show rerun on CBS);
    "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic" (Viacom, CBS show rerun on VH1);
    "The Biggest Loser" (NBC-Universal, NBC show rerun on USA);
    "Battlestar Galactica" (NBC-Universal, SciFi show aired on NBC).

    Two summers ago "Queer Eye" (NBC-Universal, Bravo show rerun on NBC) was one of the first shows to taste the fruits of corporate tree.

    Sunday, August 07, 2005


    Did you know that "American Dad" actually was the most at something? (Besides most disappointing, at least in my opinion.) "American Dad" had the youngest median age (24.2 years old) of any series on the big four networks last season.

    If you're interested in other demographic stats like this, I refer you to a recent online column at the Hollywood Reporter.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Hazzardous Observations

    Thankfully, the DoH movie is finally in theaters. Now can someone make the commercials stop? Please!

    I continue to ask "Why?" as if I'm in complete bewilderment, even though I know the answer deep down. I just don't want to admit it.

    I realize it's the 20th anniversary since DoH left the TV airwaves. (The last telecast was Friday, 8/16/1985 on CBS.) But is that a good enough reason?

    I see that there was mild interest in the 2000 TV movie, "Hazzard in Hollywood," which first aired on Friday, 5/19/2000 on CBS. But only 5.8 million homes tuned in to watch "DoH: HiH." Even "Providence" drew more households (9.9 million homes) during the same time period. To make matters worse, only 100,000 fewer homes watched "The Best Commercials Never Seen 4" on ABC, which aired opposite "DoH: HiH." Does that mean we should put "The Best Commercials Never Seen" in theaters? Don't be silly. We already have. Don't the Fanta commercials deserve to be called some of the best ever?

    I think it comes down to one simple thing. Demographics. (And we know all about exploiting demographics in TV.) I doubt the majority of moviegoers this weekend even saw "DoH: HiH" five years ago. That's because they would've been 10-14 at the time, and they wouldn't have been interested in the show and less interested in the actors.

    All I can say is that movie execs have done it again. Take an old TV show with a strong fan base in the 30-something age group. Update the storyline, but don't change it too much. Maybe just enough to upset the old fan base to generate buzz and free advertising. Replace the old actors with actors that teens and tweens adore (Knoxville, Simpson). Throw in enough sentiment for the parents (Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds). Advertise. Advertise. Advertise. Extreme press junket. And then, waalaa! A box office hit.

    Looking for a recent similarity? How about "Starsky & Hutch?" It opened in theaters on March 5, 2004 with a similar formula. It grossed $28.1 million that first weekend (Exhibitor Relations). Since DoH is being released during the summer instead of March, I would expect the DoH movie to double that total this weekend. I also expect DoH's box office take to tail off quickly for the 2nd weekend.

    Some will argue that an audience is ripe for the movie because CMT re-launched the series in February of this year to great numbers. (Nielsen Media company reports 23 million viewers tuned in that first weekend. The true meaning of that number is unclear to me since CMT showed a weekend marathon.) I call that re-launch part of a wonderful advertising campaign to prop up a poorly-reviewed movie.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Just Visiting

    As you look over the nominees for the 57th Annual Emmy Awards this year, something should jump out at you. Cloris Leachman was twice nominated as "Outstanding Guest." She was nominated for "Malcolm in the Middle" in the comedy series category and for "Joan of Arcadia" in the drama series category.

    This guest double play occurs more often that you'd think. Since the first "Guest" Emmy in 1986, seven performers have now been nominated for "Outstanding Guest" twice in the same year. Can you name the other six performers and their series?

    2005: Cloris Leachman ("Malcolm in the Middle" & "Joan of Arcadia)
    2001: Jean Smart ("Frasier" & "The District")
    2000: Henry Winkler ("Battery Park" & "The Practice")
    1994: Marlee Matlin ("Seinfeld" & "Picket Fences")
    1993: Gwen Verdon ("Dream On" & "Homicide: Life on the Street")
    1991: Colleen Dewhurst ("Murphy Brown" & "Avonlea")
    1989: Jack Gilford ("Golden Girls" & "thirtysomething")

    So far none of these performers had to compete with themselves for an Emmy since their nominations were split between the comedy and drama series categories.

    got mobisode?

    A mobisode is a mobile phone series episode that is specifically developed for and exclusively delivered to cell phones.

    Verizon delivered weekly one-minute mobisodes for series like "24: Conspiracy," which was adapted from "24." V Cast subscribers also watched mobisodes for "The Sunset Hotel" and "Love & Hate."

    Why are mobisodes only one-minute long? There are a few reasons, but available battery power is the main reason. (Production costs for an experimental market are another reason. Adoption issues are a third reason.) Longer episodes require longer download times and longer viewing times. It takes power to download data and illuminate the LCD. In an effort to reduce download times, "Conspiracy" ran at 15 frames per second (fps) instead of the usual 30-fps that you're used to watching on TV. But even that compromise didn't fully solve the problem.

    That brings us to the obvious question. How quickly can we expect these mobisodes to expand their running time?

    To answer this question we have to break-down the problem into three main areas:
    1. battery energy density: How much power can the battery deliver?
    2. component power requirements: How much power does the cell phone require to present mobisodes when operating at 100%?
    3. power management: How can we better use components so that they operate as close to 0% power draw as long as possible?

    Here's the punchline: You can expect program length for quality video to increase by ~30x over the next three years with improvements in performance and/or availability of products using current technologies (Lithium-ion batteries: 7x; LCDs: 2x; transmitter/receiver; 1.5x; better compression: 1.5x) . The estimate for batteries is detailed below. The estimates for the other four items are educated guesses.

    Fuel cells may eventually replace Li-ion batteries, but that's at least seven years away. OLED screens may eventually replace LCDs, but that's at least four years away. Both fuel cells and OLED screens promise to further improve battery lifetime. (E-ink displays promise to decrease power requirements even more, but these displays are even further in the future.)

    This rough estimate used the following assumptions:
    1. A single mobisode currently requires 10% of the available battery power for download and playback. (Based on no data. WAG.)
    2. Subscribers are satisfied with the video quality of 15-fps. (Theatrical films run at 24-fps. Stop-action video runs at 12-fps. Considering that the first videos on cell phones played at 2-fps, this isn't a bad assumption.)
    3. Subscribers are not willing to allocate any more of the present-day battery power for watching video, but they are willing to allocate all additional battery power for this purpose.
    4. G3 regulatory and infrastructure issues are not barriers in the US.

    Let's look at battery energy density. High-capacity Lithium-Ion cell phone batteries, like the OEM Extended Capacity battery for the Samsung SCH-A890 cell phone, pack a lot of power. This battery has an energy density (~120 Wh/kg) that is more than twice the energy density of most other Lithium-ion batteries and three times the energy density of most Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH). (Data source: I evaluated ~30 replacement cell phone batteries at and compared them with the specifications for BEX300HSEB/STD at

    The standard battery for the Samsung SCH-A890 cell phone has the same energy density as the OEM-EC battery but 1000mAh instead of 1700mAh. That means you can increase your total available battery power by 70% if you use a different battery. And that's probably the best you can do. A cell battery with 1700mAh is the highest capacity available, and a Lithium-ion battery with an energy density of 120W/kg is probably the highest attainable with that battery chemistry.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Clearing the Room

    On Sunday I listed the series that draw typically crowds into your living room. But what about the other extreme? What about those series that, if you watch, you can watch without family interruption--because you are more likely to be the only person in the room?

    During the regular season (September 20, 2004 through May 29, 2005), 14 series on primetime network TV averaged less than 1.30 viewers per household:

    1.23 viewers per watching household: "Summerland"
    1.24: "The Benefactor"
    1.25: "The Mountain"
    1.26: "The Starlet" & "PrimeTime Live"
    1.27: "BMOC: Big Man on Campus"
    1.28: "Extreme Makeover" & "The Bachelor"
    1.29: "Will & Grace" & "America's Next Top Model" & "Jake in Progress" & "SI Swimsuit Model Search" & "Dateline NBC" & "20/20"

    In the JICYWW (Just in case you were wondering) file. Four airings drew no more than 1.10 viewers per household:

    1.05: "The Mountain" (9/29/2004 @ 9PM)
    1.08: "Summerland" (2/6/2005 @ 8PM) & "One Tree Hill" (9/30/2004 @ 9PM)
    1.09: "The Starlet" (3/10/2005 @ 8PM)

    That's almost solitary confinement!

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    Idleness Is the Mother of All Remotes

    Did you ever think about the future of TV remotes?

    One day your remote might simply be your cell phone. Imagine this. Your subscription is tied to your mobile phone number. All you need to do is program your TV for your cell phone number and then click away.

    Don't be leary. Now your subscription is very portable. Of course, you'll get programs streamed to your phone. But more importantly, you can go to Adam's house and program your mobile number on his TV. Even though he doesn't subscribe to HBO, you can still watch the 6th season opener of "The Sopranos."

    Why should you miss TV history just because you have cheap friends? And why should your subscription remain idle when you're not home?

    (This short blurb with headline is an example of one type of "Commercial Break" in the forthcoming book. I wrote this "Commercial Break" for "The Colin Quinn Show." I don't classify his series as a TV Shorty and none of this text will appear in the book, but I want you to sample this section. What's the connection between remotes and "The Colin Quinn Show"? Colin Quinn was the announcer and sidekick on MTV's "Remote Control." And the hidden triva? I reference two sidekicks from "Remote Control" in the text.)