Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mills on Theme

Alan Sepinwall draws our attention to a David Mills blog entry about Treme, which has some beautiful thoughts about the threading of themes through TV series and a now-poignant image of his empty chair.

"Theme operates at a submerged level in storytelling. You don’t need to be aware of David Milch’s thematic intent to be entertained or moved by an episode of NYPD Blue. But it’s in there. And the experience of the story, I believe, is richer for that."

State of Hulu

Brian Stelter and Brad Stone take a close look at Hulu, where it stands now and where it's possibly headed.

CNN Fixes

Politico's Michael Calderon drums up some suggestions for fixing the ratings-challenged CNN.

Jay Rosen expands on the ideas he stated in the article.

Political Viewing

A new study says Democrats watch more prime-time network TV, Republicans watch more sports. Charts are involved. ( Democrats or Republicans like charts more?)

Web TV & Ads

David Samuels considers options for advertising surrounding Web TV.

TV Series Endings

Oscar Moralde contemplates the challenge of how to end a TV series.

BBC Online News Up

Viewing of BBC News online is quickly on the rise.

Prime-Time Ratings: Tuesday

Tuesday night's fast nationals: The countdown clock definitely wasn't worth it, though V's and Parenthood's numbers might be enough to get them off the bubble.

David Mills, 1961-2010

In stunning news, writer David Mills, who wrote for Homicide, NYPD Blue, ER, The Wire, and the upcoming Treme and blogged under the moniker Undercover Black Man, died yesterday of a brain aneurysm. Alan Sepinwall shares memories of his friend. Also, there's an unsigned obit allegedly written by David Simon and fellow Treme writers. Jaime Weinman notes that the public outpouring of grief over Mills' death indicates the more public status of the TV writer today.

Peabody Awards

The Peabody Award winners for this year were announced today; among the winners: Glee, Modern Family, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and In Treatment. The official press release has some good commentary from Peabody head Horace Newcomb: "To those who say all media content is the same, or presented from a single perspective, we offer this great range of material as a response. Our selections demonstrate that great work available in 2009 varied widely and appealed to viewers and listeners with very different tastes interests, and concerns."

Myles McNutt takes issue the impreciseness of the Peabody's descriptions of their selections of shows like Glee and Modern Family and, by extension, the concept of honoring entire series in this way.

Bubble Predictions

Media Life investigates the season renewal bubbles via survey results; NBC has the most shows thought to be on the bubble.

L&O Record on the Line

NBC's decision whether or not to renew Law and Order for a Gunsmoke-record-breaking 21st season might hinge on if TNT is interested in extending its syndication deal for the show. Also, it's ratings for NBC have steeply declined.

Nielsen Changes

Nielsen will start factoring DVR viewing into local ratings now, and the company will also begin factoring duplicate viewing (for instance, viewing a program both "live" and on demand) into its average audience ratings. Advertisers aren't thrilled about either of these moves.

Spectrum Fight

Broadcasters are gearing up to fight the FCC when it tries to take spectrum space away from them to give to wireless companies.

YouTube Reality

Marlee Matlin couldn't get a TV network to sign on for her reality TV series about the lives of deaf people, so she's taken it to YouTube instead. Matlin says, "YouTube is akin to having my own [TV] network."

Free TV

Free TV used to mean broadcasting; now it can mean online TV. Richard Siklos considers the implications of the latter.

ABC's Countdown to Fail

Had to link to at least one article about ABC's unbelievable stupidity in running a countdown clock for V throughout the entirety of Lost, even at one point obscuring a piece of narrative information with the graphic. OK, make that two articles, as Alan Sepinwall also generates some appropriate rage. And here's yet more outrage.

RT @StephenAtHome: last night's V countdown may have been ruined by Lost, but at least i've got my countdown fan fiction

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Late Night Online

The AP's David Bauder writes of late night TV sketches and shows appearing online, "Testing is ongoing, but so far the conclusion is that online release of video clips or the full programs doesn't cut into viewership for the programs themselves." Yes, I think they might want to keep testing that. But ABC's head of marketing claims, "What we see is that the online experience is helping us build the audience, rather than cannibalizing it."

Vince Gilligan Interview

Vanity Fair has an interview with Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan.

More Anti-Spoiler

There's been grumbling about a Hollywood News article that, without warning, spoiled a key event in the 100th episode of Bones. Sarah at Motivators TV, who has actually seen the 100th episode, responds with an anti-spoiler plea.

State-Run TV Deficient

The Moscow bombings were only cursorily covered by state-run TV in Russia, at least until things were cleaned up and government officials wanted on camera.

Nurse Jackie Tweets

Nina Bargiel assesses Nurse Jackie's @DrCoop twittering as a transmedia experience.

French Reality

Legendary reality TV production company Bunim-Murray has been acquired by a French company.

The Hub

Yet another new channel from Discovery will launch in October. This one, The Hub, is a partnership with the toy company Hasbro and is aimed at 2-12 year-olds.

Law & Order Analysis

There's a dearth of scholarly analysis of "ordinary TV" (using that term to distinguish it from "quality TV"), so Noel Kirkpatrick helps us out with an astute narrative analysis of Law and Order using last night's episode (with guest star Tony Hale) as the central example. Bonus: clips of comedians like Chevy Chase and Stephen Colbert playing serious on the show in past episodes.

iPad as Video Viewer

iPad marketing is focusing heavily on the device as a video viewer, despite the lack of Flash capability.

NCAA Viewing

Media Life points out that CBS hasn't gotten the ratings bump from the NCAA tourney that other big TV events have gotten lately, but there are actually more people watching the tournament this year over last year; all those extra people are watching online, though.

Prime-Time Ratings: Monday

Monday night's fast nationals:It was ABC's turn to shine. Also, a little good news for Chuck fans, as it's numbers went up after two weeks of declines. Maybe that fan campaign is actually having an impact.

In other ratings news from TV By the Numbers, USA leads cable, MSNBC beats CNN, Nightline beats Letterman and Leno.

Martha Channel

Martha Stewart may be getting her own cable channel soon, but Joe Flint wonders why Hallmark doesn't just give over their whole channel to her.

Internet Over TV

An Arbitron and Edison Research survey finds that more people, if forced to choose, would give up TV rather than the internet. I wonder how the responses might change if they were told they wouldn't be allowed to watch TV on that internet.

Retrans Podcast

Print coverage of retrans just not doing it for you? Then you're in luck: here's a podcast on retrans!

Selling 3D

The New York Times on the marketing strategies for getting you interested in a 3D TV set.

Crime TV

Thomas Umstead looks at Investigation Discovery, a new cable channel focusing on crime-related programming.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Homicide Appreciation

The Guardian's Jim Shelley weighs the merits of Homicide against The Wire.

CNN Freefall

The ratings picture for CNN is not pretty.


Stations are looking with excitement toward Oprah's exit, as her ratings and revenues have declined in recent years; B&C says, "The real opportunity is proving to be stations’ ability to cut costs rather than find the next big thing."

Cable in Congloms

Hollywood Reporter analyzes the state of the cable units within the major media conglomerates.

News Ethics

The New Yorker story of an ABC News documentary in the 1990s that inadvertently covered the shooting of a man in Zambia raises ethical questions about journalistic responsibility.

Gateways, Not Set-Tops

The FCC broadband plans calls for gateway devices for TV, not set-top boxes. Leslie Ellis explains what that means.

Rebranding Guide

Running a cable channel that has too many old people watching it? Grego and Atkinson tell you how you can fix that by rebranding your network.

Making Treme

A behind-the-scenes look at the production of David Simon's Treme for HBO:

WrestleMania Reaction

Noel Kirkpatrick shares his thoughts from a newbie perspective on the big WrestleMania event that aired last night.

ABC Family Demo

ABC Family hopes to dominate the 18-49 demographic this summer.

Prime-Time Ratings: Sunday

Sunday night's fast nationals: CBS is feeling good today.

Ad Oops

Turner Classic Movies, a commercial-free cable channel, accidentally ran a Toyota ad between movies Sunday night.

Scheduling Problems

Tim Goodman wonders if the long hiatuses for FlashForward and V have hindered those shows' chances of survival.

Viewing Stats

Media Life presents some TV viewing and advertising stats from Nielsen in anticipation of the upcoming upfronts.

Women on TV

Eric Deggans asks: "Has there ever been a time when we've had more interesting women on cable television?"

Miami Medical Profile

The New York Times profile of Jerry Bruckheimer's latest offering to network TV, Miami Medical, has a few good bits on procedural storytelling and production.

New In Media Res Issue

In Media Res this week:
  • Monday – Sue Sallinger (Rollins College) presents: “Code Red: When (plat)Form and Content Collide”
  • Tuesday – Dan Leopard (Saint Mary’s College of California) presents: “The Documentary Method of Interpretation”
  • Wednesday – Enrica Picarelli (Università degli Studi di Napoli "L'Orientale") presents: ““I’m hoping that it comes true”: FlashForward's marketing campaign”
  • Thursday – Noel Kirkpatrick (Georgia State University) presents: " Anime's (Post)Human Instrumentality Project”
  • Friday – Casey Brienza (University of Cabridge) presents: “Categorizing Manga by Standardizing the Paratext”

DirecTV 3D

DirecTV will carry ESPN's new 3D channel, plus a pay-per-view and an on-demand channel. Glasses not included.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lost Cost

ABC is selling 30-second spots during the Lost finale for $900,000.

Hulu Debate

Michael Learmonth summarizes the latest in the discussion over whether Hulu should erect a paywall or not.

Prime-Time Ratings: Saturday

Saturday night's overnights: a typically lackluster evening led by basketball at the start.

Italy & New Media

Time magazine presents a look at how the internet has affected Italian television and the control of traditional media wielded by Silvio Berlusconi.

Daily Show Behind-the-Scenes

Ryan Koo has posted his notes from a discussion with Daily Show head writer Steve Bodow, and there's a lot of great info here about how the show is written and produced.

Media Industry News

Catch up on the latest in media industry news via my latest Antenna blog post.

Family TV

Mary McNamara considers the return of family television: "Between the recent renaissance of the family comedy and the increasing popularity of kinder, gentler crime-solving shows, the long-lost family hour has quietly reconstructed itself. After years of being dominated by shows about graphic police work, medical procedurals and the sexual antics of friends and colleagues, the television landscape is once again dotted by homesteads, ringing with the sound of multigenerational and mostly non-profane voices."

Co-Viewing Apps

MTV is trying to take advantage of our apparently growing urge to use social media while watching TV with a special iPad app.

House and Grey's Problems

A recent Johns Hopkins study has shown that House and Grey's Anatomy don't depict ideal health care industry procedures. For instance, the study found 58 instances of sexual misconduct in Grey's the second season alone. (Think the other med students were jealous of the one who got to co-author this study?)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Smallville Suit

A group of Smallville producers have sued Warner Bros. for breach of fiduciary duty, arguing that the studio failed to maximize licensing revenue when it sold the show into syndication to its corporate partners.

If retrans bores you, this will probably put you in a coma, but it's just as relevant as that as far as determining where programming revenue should fairly go, and it points to a larger issue, the 1990s revocation of the financial interest and syndication rules, which dramatically changed TV programming.

New Flow Issue

Prime-Time Ratings: Friday

Friday night's fast nationals: basketball won again, but the surprise of the night was that Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution did as well as it did.

TV Character Sweet 16

RedEye's TV Character bracket tourney heads on to the second round. Sue Sylvester takes on Stewie!

Treme Possiblities

Many are extremely hyped for David Simon's new TV project Treme (which premieres on HBO Sunday, April 11) but Aymar Jean Christian makes us stop and think about the ways in which Treme could possibly go awry.

UK Ratings

TV By the Numbers has just started covering TV ratings in the UK, which I think are intriguing to see, so I'll link to the first entry: you'll see that their soap operas dominate the ratings, Glee's a hit, The Good Wife isn't, and FlashForward's going over no better there than it is here.

By the way, if you want more on this, Britain's ratings measurement service is called BARB (Broadcasters' Audience Research Board) and their website is chock full of good info.


This is another article I missed while at SCMS, but it's a good read: TV studio employee and pop culture writer Annie Stamell gives you some reasons not to spread or read spoilers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Big Love Big Mess

Chloë Sevigny recently gave an interview in which she said that the recent season of Big Love was awful. A crapstorm resulted, and now she has apologized, blamed exhaustion, as well as the interviewer, and claimed the quote was taken out of context. That has irritated TV critics, though they mostly seem bothered that she felt she had to apologize for merely offering an honest opinion. The original interviewer Sean O'Neal has responded to the absurdity of the context claim, while Daniel Fienberg has penned a stirring essay lamenting that actors and celebrities aren't allowed to be honest and journalists get ripped for trying to report honest quotes. Myles McNutt also comments.

24 Done

It's now official: this is 24's final season on TV. Lots of coverage already (and I'll add more here as I come across it): an official Fox statement, articles from the LA Times, Variety, New York Times, New York Times again, and B&C, and an interview with showrunner Howard Gordon.

The Masked Scheduler has an awesome essay about the development process of 24, the Teri Bauer season one finale, and the decision to go no-rerun, each of which involved crucial decisions that changed the course of the show and even TV history.

David Simon Profile

This is an article from ten days ago, but I missed it due to being out of town, and it's too good to not post now: a lengthy, in-depth profile of David Simon.

Truth in Branding

Speaking of programming and demographics, James Hibberd has a humorous graphic mocking History, Discovery, and TLC for their line-ups and making a larger thoughtful point about truth in network branding and audience targeting.

Oxygen Goes After Lifetime

Oxygen is marketing its channel to advertisers by characterizing Lifetime viewers as older, poorer, dumber, and with a boring mom's fashion sense.

International Education

US showrunners and writers will be lending their expertise to international channels under a new joint venture.

3D Cost

Even if 3D TV is aesthetically viable, Ryan Lawler is skeptical about its financially viability.

Prime-Time Ratings: Thursday

Thursday night's fast nationals: Not too much to get excited about; CBS took the night with basketball, but ratings were soft all-around. And looks like FlashForward can start packing its bags.

Retrans Solutions

Sheila Seles concludes her retrans education series with suggestions for how both cable and broadcasting can forge a more secure future for themselves rather than staying stuck in neutral and fighting over dwindling traditional revenue.

More Friday Fun: Siskel & Ebert

Take a break from lamenting the demise of At the Movies by watching ten of Siskel and Ebert's snarkiest movie takedowns. And here are seven classic At the Movies moments.

Nick Producer Profile

The New York Times profiles Dan Schneider, producer of Nickelodeon shows like Drake & Josh and iCarly.

CW Ad Double

The CW is doubling the amount of ads that accompany its online programming in an attempt to better monetizing internet viewing. (The Wall Street Journal has a piece on this, but it's subscription only.) Joe Flint has more.

Spike Site

Spike TV is trying to better exploit the web in connection with its Ultimate Fighting Championship programming.

CBS & iPad

Some blogger detective work has uncovered evidence that is testing out video files that will play on the iPad.

NBC Recovering?

Josef Adalian sees signs of NBC's recovery.

Friday Fun: Actor Ads highlights five commercials featuring great TV series supporting actors before you knew they were great TV series supporting actors, including Francois Chau from Lost and Joshua Gomez from Chuck.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Character Tournement

Can't get enough of filling out tourney brackets? RedEye invites you to participate in their TV character tourney. Sue Sylvester versus Chuck Bass: How could that be a first-round match-up?! That's darn near a final-worthy pairing there.

Henry Jenkins Interview

The LA Times features an interview with transmedia (and other things) scholar Henry Jenkins.

The Extended and the Ankled

Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly's contract has been extended, while Private Practice showrunners Robert Rovner and Jon Cowan have ankled their posts. (Pardon the Variety speak there, but someone has to keep their great slang alive when they die, which will probably be pretty soon.)

South Park's Edge

Joshua Alston wonders if South Park has lost its edge; Jaime Weinman offers his thoughts on the matter.

Public TV Helpers

The FCC Chairman says public TV stations won't have to give up spectrum space for broadband reallocation, while a Frontline producer says PBS needs funding reinvention and deeper partnerships.

Canadian Retrans Links

Jaime Weinman has links to more info on Canada's adoption of retransmission fees.

Pilot Development Roster

The LA Times has a good rundown of the pilots currently in development and the latest casting news.

Comedy Pilot Advice

Emmy winning writer Ken Levine has some suggestions for how to write a good comedy pilot.

Comcast/NBCU Diversity Problem

Megan Tady highlights a key problem with both Comcast and NBCU: a lack of diversity on the air and in executive suites.

Cablevision Going 3D

Cablevision is preparing to offer 3D programming.

Discovery Apps

Discovery is figuring out ways to exploit mobile applications for its shows, the latest being a Mythbusters app. Can't wait to see what they come up with for Sarah Palin's TLC show. I'll let you generate your own jokes for that.

Prime-Time Ratings: Wednesday

Wednesday night's fast nationals: Despite what sounds like a horrible season (I'm not watching, just following the TVittering of it for now), Idol outdid last week's result show. A March Madness-displaced Survivor helped CBS take second for the night.

Cable v. Broadcast

Turner Networks has released ratings numbers showing cable's viewing share exceeding broadcast's, but the latter has at least closed the gap slightly over last year.

The Hills Ending

The upcoming season of The Hills will be its last.

Network News Praise

An anonymous Mediaite article argues that broadcast network news today is far superior to cable network news, despite proclamations of the former's fade. Excellent in-depth info in this piece supporting the claims made.

Nielsen Competition?

Starcom Media Group Exchange might use a deal with media researcher Rentrak Corp. to position themselves as a competitor to Nielsen, offering viewing data from 15 million set-top boxes versus Nielsen's 12,000 meters.

Palin Reality

Sarah Palin will have a reality/documentary series about Alaskan life on TLC. Wayne Friedman has more.

22 Short Films About Springfield

As part of his ongoing quest to analyze television episodes that "exemplify the spirit of [their] time and the properties that make television a unique medium," Noel Murray features The Simpsons' brilliant "22 Short Films About Springfield" and its artful pop culture references.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leno-Conan Emmy Watch

Could Leno end up facing off against Conan not only in the same category but for the same show at the Emmys?

State of the Miniseries

Cory Barker writes about the current state of the network miniseries, which is pretty much encapsulated by this sentence: "A broadcast miniseries hasn’t been nominated for the Best Miniseries Emmy since CBS’ Elvis in 2005."

Social Media is the Future

Brian Solis argues that social media is the future of broadcast media. And something about a Golden Triangle. And a chart. (Sorry, just about linked out at this point.)

TV Everywhere

A group of technology executives discussed the future possibilities for TV Everywhere, and among those possibilities is HBO's involvement.

IP Protection

TV and other industry groups want government help to fight online piracy.

CW Profile

Steve Sternberg profiles The CW's programming, viewers, and strategies.

Nickelodeon Ads

Movie ads have surpassed food ads on Nickelodeon, though both still trail toy marketers.

Top Hulu Videos

Chadwick Matlin has the list of top Hulu videos from last week, with Family Guy at the top and Katherine Heigl's Wardrobe Mishap (?) in second place.

Cable Rating Demos

Joe Flint has first quarter cable ratings info: Lifetime and History are getting younger; E! is up in good demos; CNN and Hallmark Channel have some work to do.

Out of Home Viewing Habits

In perhaps their least surprising finding ever, Nielsen determined that 18-34s watch more TV outside of the home than older demographics do. But even predictable findings become compelling when put into chart form, and that and additional demographic and genre breakdowns of outside viewing percentages are available in the full report entitled "Out of Home Television and Other Video Viewing Behaviors of U.S. Adults."

Ailes Interview

Phil Rosenthal interviews Fox News guru Roger Ailes.

Google TV Details

Will Richmond outlines what Google TV will bring us.

Cable Stimulus

Cable companies are getting in on the stimulus action (and maybe trying to do something good? I'm sure!) through supporting broadband development for low-income housing.

At the Movies Canceled

The legendary At the Movies has been canceled. Josef Adalian blames "simple neglect from local stations across the country, most of whom probably couldn't be bothered to give the show a decent time slot, let alone any promotion." The Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal has more. James Poniewozik considers the reality judging show context, Ken Tucker reminds us that Siskel and Ebert weren't always beloved for their method of TV-based movie criticism, and Dave Itzkoff reflects.

Roger Ebert himself offers his thoughts and announces that he has plans in the works to launch a new movie reviewing show for TV that will also have a strong online presence.

Web-TV Hybrid

B&C's Marisa Guthrie points to WNET's web-TV hybrid Need to Know as a model for the digital future: "Stories will be presented online first, where they will be developed throughout the week via multimedia content from staff and freelance contributors as well as a small pool of member stations; audience input will also be in the mix. The Web content will culminate with a linear television broadcast Fridays at 8:30 p.m., co-anchored by Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham."

Global Syndication & Formats

B&C highlights some of the factors that encourage international syndication versus format licensing of daytime shows.

Conan & Fox

Conan O'Brien might not end up on Fox due to affiliate issues.

Cable is Doomed Response

Paul Rodriguez really didn't like Max Fisher's "Cable is Doomed" article from The Atlantic, and he offers his informed response. Matthew Lasar also has a response.

Business Killer

Ben Grossman argues that CBS streaming March Madness for free is madness: "Learn from what happened to print publications and Hulu: Giving the milk away for free is a wonderful way to put great people out of jobs."

UPDATE: B&C offers an overview of streaming sports.

Studying The Wire

Slate's Drake Bennett looks at why so many college courses on The Wire have launched and outlines how professors are teaching it.

Parenthood's Parenthood

Amanda Ann Klein analyzes Parenthood's representation of parenting.

Retrans News

Your latest in retrans news:

Seinfeld Assessed

Nicole Laporte wonders if Jerry Seinfeld has lost his touch.

Prime-Time Ratings: Tuesday

Tuesday night's last nationals: With CBS's NCIS twins on repeats, Idol really rolled, while Parenthood was up, making a second-season renewal more of a likelihood.

In other ratings news, heath care reform coverage helped to give CNN a rare boost.

Daytime News

As a soaps fan, I was pleased to learn a few days ago that Days of Our Lives has been renewed for another season. It's probably the equivalent of a death row appeal at this point, but it's still much better than hearing of another soap opera cancellation.

By the way, at an SCMS panel on the future of soaps I attended this weekend, panelists Sam Ford and C. Lee Harrington pointed out that Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful are both still doing ok in the ratings and, as importantly, do very well in international markets.

In other daytime news, Rosie O'Donnell reportedly wants back in.

UPDATE: Sam Ford added a great comment to this post, so I've bumped this up to highlight that. (It's showing O Comments to me on the main page, but it's there, just click through on this post.)

TV on the Phone

Fox Mobile has unveiled a TV and movie service for your phone called Bitbop. (Who comes up with these names?)

SyFy Tweets

A digital media exec at SyFy runs the channel's Twitter account, which can be highly informative about how they operate and market their business. Just this morning came a series of tweets explaining why having SyFy shows on Hulu doesn't help them that much:

Q) @largosensei how many hulu views/iTunes episode purchases does it take to be equal to a live viewer?
A) Doesn't work like that. In terms of ads, ratings let TV advertisers know how many people watch our shows, and thus watch their TV commercials. So a Hulu viewer isn't seeing a TV ad (they are seeing a different Internet ad), so we can't count them for TV advertisers. We do track the viewing and ad income from Hulu and other sources, but it does not roll into ratings. And it's not especially big.

Q) @patricemichelle Will the way it counts change in the future?
A) Yes. It's been changing & will continue to change.

Ownership Rules Lifted

FCC rules limiting cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcasting outlets have been lifted in advance of May briefings about the issue.

Joe Flint has a great comment on this: "Not really sure there are that many companies looking to combine newspapers with television any more. It'd kind of be like combining the horse with the buggy."

Family Guy Transgression

Family Guy is in trouble again, this time for mockery of Terri Schiavo, and Schiavo's family is calling for the show's cancellation.

Kids Upfront

Cynopsis' Daisy Whitney takes a look at the state of the upfront market for children's programming.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mamet Memo

A 2005 memo from David Mamet to the writing staff of The Unit, a show he was an executive producer for, has just surfaced online, and it's full of useful writing advice (and surprisingly few swears).

Adam Barken has tweeted a response to this: "Everyone's loving the Mamet memo. As a Mamet fan, always love hearing the guy. But as right as he is about action being conflict, he's pretty wrong about TV As a Visual/Film Medium. Maybe The Unit was, but it's closer to radio than he allows. And its best creators from Milch to Sorkin to Kelley and Chase have all been verbal geniuses first and foremost. But then, so has Mamet, so... there you go."

TV Technology History

Gawker presents an informative and just downright cool history of TV technology via Popular Science magazine articles.

MTV's Missed Chances

Wayne Friedman reviews two deals MTV didn't make, for MySpace and for YouTube.

Spectrum Strategy Bad

The Dallas Morning News editorial board comes down against the FCC's plan to take spectrum space away from broadcasters.

Prime-Time Ratings: Monday

Monday night's fast nationals: champagne corks are popping at ABC, as Dancing With the Stars dominated the night and had its most-watched opening ever, and Castle approached series-best numbers. On NBC, Chuck was steady.

In other ratings news, Discovery's Life was the top-rated cable program of last week.

IFC Rebrand

IFC jumps on the rebranding bandwagon with a new slogan and a slew of original programming, especially focused toward audience segments that the network dubs "Authentic Influencers" and "Responsible Rebels," also known as "the attitude of its influential 70% male audience." That's great to hear, because I was getting worried that television wasn't targeting young males enough.

Hulu Limits

Chadwick Matlin criticizes Hulu for limiting access to its site via browser bans.

Movie Stars on Networks

Sissy Spacek has signed on for a network pilot, and Brad Adgate points out that this makes five Oscar winners now cast in broadcast network pilots: Spacek, Kathy Bates, Forest Whitaker, Jon Voight, and Mary Steenburgen.

Program Ownership

Deborah McAdams reports on a GAO study that finds little room for independent production in TV: 80% of the programming in prime time is owned by the broadcast networks themselves, while cable operators carry few independent cable networks. The full GAO report is entitled "Factors Influencing the Availability of Independent Programming in Television and Programming Decisions in Radio."

Chuck Renewal

Will NBC renew the low-rated Chuck just out of sheer desperation?

Spanish-Language Thriving

Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S. is excelling.

Local Ratings Changes

A media group has advocated a new way of measuring local Nielsen ratings, which don't yet measure DVR usage, while Nielsen thinks set-top-box data could solve existing problems with local ratings measurement.

American Family Movie

HBO has a TV movie version of the landmark PBS series An American Family in the works. I'm just hoping this leads to the original series being released on DVD; it might be the most important show in TV history not on DVD.

Jersey Shore Exported

Look out, world: Jersey Shore will be airing in 30 countries starting this week. As if the terrorists didn't hate us enough already.

Monday, March 22, 2010

DirecTV-Dish Fight

Yet more TV companies fighting.

Canadian Retrans

More news about our northern friends: Canadian broadcasters are getting retrans fees. More on this from the NYT.

Canadian Screens

According to a recent study, Canadians spend more time online than watching TV, but the upside for TV is that they watch a lot of it.

OWN Profile

New York Magazine speculates on what Oprah Winfrey's OWN network will be like, even the possibility that Oprah herself may not be on it much.

Twin Peaks Remembered

Marking its 20th birthday (and thereby making my generation feel old), The Guardian looks back at Twin Peaks with a series of interviews.

Cable Doomed

OK, so broadcast is doomed, TV Everywhere is doomed, and now it looks like cable is doomed too. No wonder cable dramas are so dark.

Down With the Dark

Salon's Heather Havrilesky complains about the unrelenting darkness of many of today's cable dramas: "Personally, as much as I once craved a dark tragidramedy back when every channel was filthy with hugging and learning, these days I find myself repelled by the unrelenting nihilism of a handful of the darker-than-thou cable shows."

ABC & Amanpour

Some of the beleaguered staffers at ABC News aren't very happy about Christiane Amanpour coming over from CNN.

UPDATE: Tom Shales wrote a scathing review of this move and Amanpour's, and ABC News responded.

Good Stuff on TV

Next time you hear someone complain that there's nothing good on TV these days, show them Ed Martin's inventory of great current TV. And if that doesn't work, then kick them in the shins.

Friday Fun, Monday Style

You missed out on a Friday Fun entry last week because of my trip to SCMS, so here's a Monday treat to make up for it: one guy splits himself in two to perform twenty-two TV theme songs.

Nielsen Three-Screen Usage Report

Nielsen has just released another great report, this one on TV, internet, and mobile usage in the US, which includes stats on how much time we spending watching TV, watching TV while surfing the web, watching TV on the web, watching TV on mobile phones, and watching TV on DVRs.

Alex Pham highlights one idea to come from the report: the internet doesn't seem to be killing off TV. And TV By the Numbers notes that DVR numbers are up, but are still relatively small compared to traditional viewership.

Limited Viral Spread

Wayne Friedman says ad makers are having a tough time figuring out the formula for making commercials go viral: "Either the Internet isn't doing its job, or creatives are getting lame...The bigger picture could be an old-age concern about advertising: What may be great creative may have nothing to do with selling products."

TV Everywhere Going Nowhere?

It's not just the old ways that are apparently doomed; Mark Glaser says we can start digging a grave for Comcast's TV Everywhere concept too.

Affiliation Death

Steve Safran says the grand old days of local affiliation with a network are numbered and stations better prepare for a different future: "The old model won’t die, exactly. But it’s not going to be sustainable the way it still is. So, I ask, since the networks are finding ways to reach their audience (and the audience’s money), why aren’t the affiliates doing the same?"

Multichannel News also warns of dark days ahead for broadcasting.

Soap Fan Testimonial

Darryl Pinckney writes beautifully in Harper's about his As the World Turns and Noah & Luke fandom.

Pinckney also talked to NPR's Bob Garfield, and if only Pinckney was interviewed by someone who wasn't such an elitist jackass about soaps, I might have learned something from it.

3D Content

The only way 3D TVs will take off is if there's enough 3D programming out there to attract consumers, says a consumer electronics website. Sports programmers are doing their part; you'll soon be able to see hockey, the Home Run Derby, and the Masters if you have a 3D set.

Prime-Time Ratings: Sunday

Sunday night's fast nationals: people continue to like Undercover Boss, while they aren't so keen on Jamie Oliver (which is a bummer to me).


Lengthy profiles of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, financier mogul Carl Icahn, who wants to buy Lions Gate next, and Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Warner Bros.' Telepictures Productions.

Hulu Subversion

Jay Yarow reports on claims that Hulu is undercutting its network partners with its online ad sales, which may not be the most forward-thinking strategy for the future of the service.

Edge to YouTube?

Clint Boulton reports on the possible advantage that YouTube has in the lawsuit brought by Viacom: its strong brand.

Retrans = Consolidation

Liberty Media Corp.'s John Malone believes that the retrans fight will lead to even more consolidation in cable, with smaller distributors squeezed out.

HCR Cable News Coverage

Eric Deggans on how the cable news channels covered the health care reform debate: "As the fight to pass health care legislation progressed on Sunday, the tenor of the struggle changed depending on what channel you watched."

Expanding Curb

Here's an intriguing new way of airing programs in syndication: TV Guide Channel has grabbed the syndication rights to Curb Your Enthusiasm (first of all, yes, that's right, TV Guide Channel has Curb), and rather than cut the 29 minute episodes down to fit into a half-hour commercial time slot, the channel will schedule a full hour for the show and fill the extra time with panel discussions about social issues the show raises. No mention in the article about any censorship of the show's graphic content.

Twitter Experiments

CNN's John King is using Twitter as a focus group for his new show, while a character on Nurse Jackie will be shown Tweeting during this season's second episode, and his tweets will be posted on Twitter in real time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Online Design

AdAge considers the challenge of designing an engaging interface for online TV.

Fox News Upscale

AdAge provides a lot of numbers about Fox News and its upscale demographic.

Plea for Chuck

Chuck is struggling in the ratings, and fan Magnus Anton Lekay is trying a strategy I haven't seen much before: pleading with Nielsen households to watch. He's even providing specific instructions to maximize the viewing impact (don't DVR it, for instance; watch it live including the ads) and delineating the different types of Nielsen schemes (meters, diaries), making this campaign both intriguing and educational. I don't know if there are enough Nielsen households who will come across his blog entry to make it matter, but at its core, the idea is more productive than the usual campaign to encourage everybody to tune in; after all, if you're not a Nielsen viewer, your TV viewership technically doesn't count for anything.

Back Home

Just returned home from one of my favorite Society for Cinema and Media Studies conferences ever. Check out #scms on Twitter if you want some small doses of what took place; hit up Antenna for a few longer reports on each day; and a great Saturday workshop with showrunners Cuse, Lindelof, Kring, Grillo-Marxuach, Moses, and Warshaw was videorecorded, so I'll post the link to it once it's up somewhere.

Only downside is I'm now way behind basically everything both work and personal (I haven't even watched last Tuesday's Lost yet, for goodness sake). Because of that, it will probably take me a few days to get News for TV Majors back up to speed, but I would expect that by Wednesday, it'll be news as usual.

Finally, thanks to Bärbel Göbel for filling in for me over the past week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cable Networks and their Shows

An almost-mid-season review of SyFy's Caprica, the studio's struggle and many reasons to check out this serial and the problems it has encountered with generating audiences thus far.
"The show is so layered, so deep, so cerebral, that what it really needs, I think, is to break a little out of its bubble."

TV Trends

Another "More Internet Users Erode Traditional Media" story.

March Madness Upsets Ratings Thursday

Flashforward fizzles on its return night and March Madness had an easy time in ratings.

FCC Broadband Plan

Will the FCC Broadband Plan open internet access to all? Will it lessen the digital divide? The Honeymoon is over.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Which shows are the biggest revenue earners? Problematic list, but food for thought.


LG is indeed supporting Sky’s forthcoming 3D channel by supplying TVs to pubs and other venues, but retracts an earlier statement that they had sold 15000 TVs to Sky directly.

Powerful Public TV

American PBS can show for about 2% of US television viewers returning to the station on a daily basis, most public stations, for example in Europe, have numbers that are at least 40 -50%. This explains why BSkyB (over 30% of its shares governed by News Corp.), does not want the BBC to take part in the new project Canvas.

Latest on the FCC

All the latest on the retransmission consent rule, broadband plan, the speed race, and google taking on TV.

If you want to read about some basics, read it here.

French Television uses Milgram Experiment Model for Reality TV

This article is in German, but here the English in brief:
France 2, in a documentary, discussed the most perverted reality TV competitions. Shows in which people free willingly hurt themselves, are degraded, degrade their 'opponents', public dissections... you get the gist. The directors wanted to finally end discussion about the power of television and proof that TV erodes our minds. A public execution, by the masses, through TV.
While an interesting experiment, the fact that the Milgram experiment reached the same numbers, without a TV set, just makes this somewhat trivial. Still worth a read.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

True Blood and Other Serious Series News

HBO's True Blood has become a ratings sensation in its second season and is scheduled to return to TV on June 13.

Battle Star Galactica's James Callis has found a new TV home on Eureka.

Timothy Olyphant is a gunslinger again. FX's Justified.

New Broadband Plan

The airwaves reallocation could appeal to broadcasters. Will the FCC offer them a big percentage of the auction proceeds? The FCC's new Broadband plan reads like a lot of good ideas, but with its spectrum reclamation proposal could become another failed project.

Prices for TV Ads Down

Advertising in prime time is getting cheaper.
The networks still battle over ratings, however. Mr. Trump is fighting, too. Although mass audiences bring in less money than target audiences.

Nielson Goes Online

Big online data exchange eXelate has struck a deal with Nielsen to merge offline online data with Nielsen's valuable PRIZM household data.


I'm leaving on a jet plane headed for Los Angeles to attend the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference through Sunday. Because handling the usual blog duties will be more than I can fit in between delivering a couple of papers, attending panels, getting a tan, and bumping into famous TV stars, I'm handing the baton over to Bärbel Göbel, a dissertator at the University of Kansas, who will provide a few links each morning to keep the blog chugging. If you'd like to keep up on SCMS events, check for #scms on Twitter or visit Antenna for daily blog updates (I'm blogging about Saturday's events, which will allegedly include a panel with Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, and Tim Kring, among others). Your regularly scheduled blogging will return on Monday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Versus, DirecTV Make Up

Ending yet another carriage squabble, Versus is now back on DirecTV's lineup.

Fringe Change?

Jaime Weinman muses on the feasibility of turning Fringe into an outright serial.

C-SPAN Archive Online

C-SPAN's entire video archives have been posted online at That's over 160,000 hours of C-SPAN footage. Lisa Miller would lose her mind (oh please let someone out there get that reference).

SyFy & Twitter

Huffington Post has a two-part interview with Craig Engler, SyFy's Senior Vice President and General Manager of Digital Media, about how his use of Twitter has helped him to engage with SyFy fans (part one and part two).

International Growth

Diane Mermigas looks at the challenges and opportunities for American cable networks' global growth.

Demo Conflict

The Tribune Company is finding The CW's prime-time line-up in demographic conflict with the syndicated programming that surrounds it on its 13 stations that air The CW. Says a Tribune insider, according to B&C, “Part of the problem is that our primetime is trying to be hipper than our TV stations."

Social Showtime

Showtime will target television academy members with social media to try and drum up more Emmy recognition for its shows.

MTV News

Lady Gaga snubbed MTV by premiering her new music video on E! instead, Sara Libby argues that MTV makes bizarre choices with what it chooses to censor and what it chooses to show, and MTV2 is rebranding itself.

Prime-Time Ratings: Sunday

Sunday night's fast nationals: CBS won the night.

More on Retrans

B&C gives us a point-counterpoint on retransmission battles, Marisa Guthrie tells us what to expect moving forward, and Mike Farrell and John Eggerton offer five ways to fix the retrans problems.

Kids' Market Up

Industry sources says the ad market for children's television is trending up.

Broadband Reaction

The FCC has set out to make broadband the cornerstone of future communications opportunities, with a national plan to be announced Tuesday. Reaction is starting to roll in: NPR wonders if the plan will come up short, David Murphy considers who will be upset by these plans, the FCC insists broadcasters will be happy with the plans, but the FCC will likely have to encourage (re: pay or fine) broadcasters to give up spectrum space, and former FCC chairman Reed Hundt foresees the internet trumping TV.

Future Madness

Mike Reynolds looks at the future possibilities for the men's college basketball tourney, with the NCAA free to opt out of its deal with CBS after this season's event.


CNN programming will all be in HD by late spring.

Network Economics

B&C's Claire Atkinson says that now that networks are getting retrans cash and ad revenue is up, they had better deliver: "With costs reined in and revenues seemingly on the rise, there are no more arguments for not being able to run these businesses effectively. It remains to be seen if big media is up to the task, and can truly position these businesses for the evolving media landscape."

Elsewhere in B&C, Marisa Guthrie speaks to producer Thomas Schlamme about the changing economics of network TV production.

State of the News Media

The Pew Project Project of Excellence in Journalism has just released its State of the News Media report for 2010, and it's mostly dour news for everyone except Fox News. The cable economics section shows Fox News' profit dominance, while the section on local news is a pretty sad read.

In other Fox News and local news news, Los Angeles's KCAL news keeps plugging away in prime time despite the struggles of local news, while some staffers at Fox News allegedly express concerns about Glenn Beck. Some are questioning the credibility of the Beck article, though.

Upfront Predictions

Networks are starting to posture about how great the upfronts will be, but early signs aren't promising.

Trade Troubles

The industry trade papers are struggling.

NBC & Mobile

NBC is thinking heavily about the future of mobile TV.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Matt Nix Interview

Daine Haithman interviews Matt Nix about the work of a showrunner on a cable show (USA's Burn Notice) and a network show (Fox's upcoming The Good Guys).

Global Discovery

Discovery Communications is a model of corporate cable success, and its looking to further grow its global value.

Ad Age News

A set of AdAge pieces: NBC Entertainment Marketing president Adam Stotsky talks about NBC's challenges and opportunities in advertising the network on TV and beyond; consolidation is squeezing out smaller marketers; CBS is looking beyond TV for March Madness; ad placements are getting more precise; and cable networks keep renaming and rebranding themselves.

State of TV Criticism

Jason Mittell shares his insights on the state of academic and journalistic television criticism in a digital media environment.

SAG & AFTRA Play Nice

The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have agreed to jointly bargain again on renewing their TV and theatrical contracts, which will be up in 2011.

24 to NBC?

NBC is reportedly mulling over picking up the Fox-canceled 24. Paul William Tenny weighs the pros and cons, says the cons take it. Cory Barker concludes the same (only more so).