Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Real sports – HBO, Austin on

Even if you are not an avid sports fan, but have HBO access, it might be worth catching the current episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

One of the “stories” in episode 145 is about local Austin boxing coach Ann Wolfe. She is unique in any number of ways, Wolfe went 24-1 as a female boxer, including one massive knockout fight where she beat then defending World Champion, Vonda Ward as well as 7x other world titles. Wolfe went on to start her own gym and coaching, she’s out on Bastrop Highway. One of her current boxers is Austin’sJames Kirkland who is the WBO NABO light middleweight champion.

The show take you through Wolfes’ background and well as how boxing became her savior, it also shows some of her unsual training metheods. It also shows some some notable Austin landmarks from Wolfes past, including Brackenridge hospital emergency wing, where she used to spend the night with her kids when homeless. Wolfe is unique in other ways too. A couple of Travis Counties finest also feature when they stop Wolfe and another of her boxers, for driving in a stolen vehicle. It’s a look at a different way of life here in Austin.

Time Warner Cable, Tiers and tears

Over on, Omar Gallaga is reporting that Time Warner Cable have annolunced the tiers they are going to use for capping and overage-charging for their broadband cable offering. For the last couple of weeks this has been a hot topic on the interweb thingy, and has generated piles of bile, some useful analysis but much of it missing the point.

There is no doubt, there are out there amongst us interweb users, some leaches and obsessive, compulsive overachievers. In opposition to the TWC changes people are marching out all sorts of claims and justifications for being big-data users, why they are the “bleeding edge”. What they do today, will be the norm’ in a few years time. Well, that maybe, but probably not.

Time Warner Cables business model is under attack on all fronts. They are doing what all nascent monopolies do when under attack, they push the boundaries of what can get away with. This usually more broad in America than in Europe, because America is the great defender of free enterprise, freedom of choice, and commercial innovation. No amount of facebook pages is going to change that.

Only, we just don’t have any of those things really when it comes to digital communication. Cellphones here in the US are restrictive, expensive, fragmented and fine examples of monopolistic practices. Some of the best cellphones in the world are now crippled when sold outside the US, so that when they are used in the US, they don’t get full network, 3G speeds, meaning the “network” operators can charge and tie you to multi-year contracts, oh and it’s OK coz we get “free” phones.

Cable TV here in the US has hardly changed in 30-years. The addition of HD has been done in a haphazard, fragmented way with no real innovation. Unlike Europe where broadcast, often free to air, HD offers many more channels and multi-screen viewing, interactive services etc. See for example what Sky and the BBC have done with that little red-button in the UK. Why is it for example, that when watching a “home shopping channel” you have to dial 1-800 and wait, press buttons and speak to a person? Broadband, is bi-directional you know…

When the cutover to broadcast HDTV happens here in the US, it will be a pure swap, no new advance services, just the same old channels, mostly showing repeat programs(not in HD) and thats about it. What most Americans will find is that the signal will break up frequently during rain storms and other bad weather thats affects b roadcast quality. Unlike conventional TV(non-digital) though, you won’t get a degraded picture, you’ll get nothing at all.

And so, back to Time Warner Cable. I’m a triple play subscriber. I don’t watch much TV, mostly I record a few shows per week and only watch them on Sunday evenings. I have my home phone service through TWC, although heaven knows why. No one has the number, and I don’t use it for outgoing calls, especially now I don’t work from home. Many people don’t have “home” phones now, they use their Cellphones, I should join them, except my cellphone has no docking station and really isn’t suitable for a 2-hour conference call using any kind of headset.

Here is another example of lack of innovation in the US. When was the last time you saw a phone in the US that was your cellphone when outside the home, and when inside the home, used the broadband service to connect rather than wireless, and allowed you to switch seamlessly between the two as you walk out of the house, without dropping the call?

I think that in the 2.5 years I’ve had my TWC service, I’ve watched maybe 5 on-demand movies. This is an area that most people focus on when analyzing the effects of broadand usage capping by TWC. It’s clear, isn’t it?

TWC have every reason to stop you downloading legally or otherwise, movies from the Internet or watching them online. If they can stop or price that to discourage, THEY can charge you for the same movies, either through subscription channels, or on-demand.

So, lets recap. TWC offers four services:

– Basic cable inc. subscription channels
– Basic internet cable broadband connectivity, soon to be tiered by usage
– Landline telephone service(wired)
– On-demand movies(chargeable)

The threats to their business are:
– Declining use of basic cable, subscription channels and on-demand movies because people get their entertainment elsewhere.
– Telephone service is under attack from cellphones and VOIP, Vonage, Skype etc.
– Basic broadband is underattack from “unlimited” subscription and pre-pay cellphone data plans, 802.11 wireles in coffee shops, down at Austin City hall etc.
– Basic cable is stagnent, uninteresting, overloaded with cheap promotional shows and home shopping networks and 24-hour news channels that basically make the news up as they go along.
– Consumers are also increasingly savy, well you’d hope so. What many realize is that it’s all data. The cable you watch, the telephone calls you make, the on-demand movies, even if you do everything the TWC way, it all arrives and leaves your house as data.

So, here we have a high-noon showdown. The customers don’t understand why part of their data service should be metered and priced seperately from the other parts of the same data connection. The cable company, in this case, TWC, is playing the typical, dumb, fat and happy monopoly that can and will charge as it sees fit, easy things first and trying to paint a small section of their customers as the problem.

TWC should be forced to compete for my business, not get it on a plate. After all, if I don’t subscribe, I can’t get anything back for the ugly, 1920’s style cabling and poles that litter my street, having to have the trees cut back to protect their golden-egg.

First, TWC should be forced to unbundle it’s TV service. The cable channel selections should be offered in more flexible groupings or by individual channels. It is simply way past time this should have been done. I’d pay a premium for about 8-channels total and would prefer more bandwidth than more channels.

Second, the broadband service offered by TWC should be split into two. A bulk data backbone service and a last-mile service. The bulk data backbone service has to be sold, on a tiered/metered service to companies that handle the last-mile service. TWC is more than welcome to compete as a last-mile provider. Yep, this is effectively turning TWC backbone into a “utility” by the back door.

Third, irrespective of the first two, the home telephone service offered by TWC should be unbunlded. If the first two recommendations are adopted, this becomes largely irrelevant as the last-mile providers will need to provide advanced services, or just compete in race-to-the-bottom cheap pricing. If race-to-the-bottom pricing is the only innovation, then overtime TWC will just rebuild it’s monopoly through acquisition. This is exactly what allowed AT&T to come back from near death to semi-monopolist(and yes, I know it’s not the same AT&T and it didn’t really come back, it’s just branding, but the point remains.)

Fourth, again irrespective of the first three, TWC needs to design, develop and deliver REAL digital cable offerings. This isn’t just the same old channels and a 1980’s style programming guide sent down a digital channel. It’s interactive TV; it’s online HD games delivered without a PC or gaming system; it’s an interactive YouTube channel; it’s interactive news; it’s bidirectional video calling; it’s something that America and especially here in Austin we could be proud of.

Arguing about broadband caps/tiering, overage pricing is just missing the point, and will end up in tears in 10-years time, TWC will be the next GM looking for bailouts to subsidize it’s “essential” services. And please Omar, suggesting stimulus money now for TWC is just rubbing salt in.

30 Days and Badass Cinema

BadassMorgan Spurlock’s show on FX, 30 Days, started its new season at the beginning of June. I’ve been recording them on my DVR and finally watched the first two during a lazy Father’s Day on the couch. The first episode features Spurlock returning to West Virginia, his home state, to spend 30 days as a coal miner. If you’re not familiar with the show, the idea is that someone with a particular point of view spends 30 days living a an opposing point of view to see how the other side lives. Spurlock typically subjects himself to the treatment at least one or two episodes each season and uses others to fill out the rest of the shows. Former NFL Cornerback, Ray Crockett, is featured in last week’s episode.

During the episode, there are a couple of shots of Spurlock clearly sporting an Alamo Drafthouse Badass Cinema t-shirt. Hooray for plugging everyone’s favorite Austin theater chain. You can pick up your very own Badass Cinema shirt at the Alamo Drafthouse store, but the version with Pam Grier that Spurlock wears in the show in apparently out-of-print. I tried finding a photo of it on Alamo’s Flickr page, but didn’t have any luck. As always though, somebody on Flickr has my back.

Photo via Gudrun on Flickr

Sorrows of a late adapter

Show World is no longer a weekly section in the local daily. Quietly and with no announcement that came to my attention, the little tabloid disappeared from the Sunday edition. The Life section contained an abbreviated television page that highlighted certain programs for the week to come and showed the evening schedule only, and only for yesterday. We’re now going to have to go out of our way to make sure not to miss such recent gems as Daredevil: el hombre sin miedo (“the man without fear”) or The Atomic Fireman (a Cantinflas item).

There is now an on-line listing, which does show the Spanish-language stations but doesn’t show their non-cable or non-broadband numbers. It’s going to be a big nuisance to boot up the computer just to make sure not to overlook those American movies dubbed into Spanish with a certain verve. Most are action movies, but there are movies of other kinds, including a Herbie movie recently. Other occasional Sunday favorites are enjoyed in their original language; among them are charro movies and society comedies from the golden age, as well as any and every Cantinflas movie that appears on the schedule.

Television came into my life late and has been a presence only sporadically. I think it’s been almost a decade that we’ve been enjoying our first color TV, a great change, although it boasts the 13-inch screen that the old black-and-white model did, and brings in only those channels that a rabbit-eared antenna can capture.

I don’t think we’ll be buying a converter box before next February, when, without one, ordinary television reception for people like me will disappear. That’s when television itself will probably disappear from my life. I’m not late about everything and I still remember all the DOS commands, but I don’t have a cell-phone. Yet.

The Pickup Artist on VH1 – Filmed in Austin

pua_trailer_111x71.jpgVH1’s latest reality show is called The Pickup Artist. From their description, it’s about “eight lovable losers who’ll be tutored on how talk to and romance women”. They’ll be learning from a guy named “Mystery”. Try to hold your laughter. It gets better once “Mystery” actually appears. He looks like a goth Bob Schneider.

Why am I even talking about this show?

Well, my friends, it’s set in Austin. It looks like they’re living in a sweet pad out on Lake Travis. There are several shots of downtown and the first episode takes place at a club called The Foundation, which I guess is where Element used to be?

I don’t think I’d recommend watching it, but if you want to be able to watch a show and say, “I know where that is!” then be my guest.

Anybody know if they’ve completed filming? I’m guessing that most shows finish filming before they air.

Update Oh yeah, you can also view a preview for free on iTunes.

The Nuge at KLRU this morning

I missed this last week in the SXSW frenzy, but apparently Ted Nugent taped an episode of Texas Monthly Talks this morning down at the KLRU studios on the UT campus. Did anybody see him?

That’ll be interesting. Evan Smith, the show’s host and editor of Texas Monthly, is sure to ask him about his governor’s ball performance earlier this year.

I did a quick check of the schedule for that show on KLRU and it doesn’t look like it’ll air until at least early May. I’ll definitely have to make a note to watch for that one.

The Austin Movie Show begins its rise to world domination


The Austin Movie Show has been picked up by its first affiliate! KVIA which is an affiliate of the new CW network will start syndicating the Austin Movie Show in El Paso, Las Cruces, New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. While it is the first small step, we hope this will snowball into more affiliates and much bigger things. Our last live show will be this Sunday at 10:00 p.m. on Time Warner cable channel 16. After that, the show will still air at the same time for us Austinites, but will no longer be live since we have to tape early in the week to get to send the tape out. If you know anyone in the syndicated markets, the show will air at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons on the affiliate.

In related news, The Movie Musketeers will be at the Alamo on South Lamar for the 7:45 p.m. showing of Mike Judge’s new film, “Idiocracy”. If you’re so inclined, go check out the film and then come talk to us to give your opinion on camera after the movie. It’s fun, painless and doctor approved. Don’t be shy!

Austin Daze Interviews ACL Producer Terry Lickona

For its 60th issue, Austin Daze continues to score great interviews. In addition to talking to director Kevin Smith, the Daze folks conducted a Q and A with “Austin City Limits'” producer Terry Lickona (pdf), in which he reveals that Van Morrison, the Raconteurs and Cat Power will all be taping segments during or after the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

We also find from Lickona out which shows caused the most tension for the ACL staff, including a taping featuring a certain someone who’s become famous for on-stage meltdowns:

The show we did just a couple of years ago with Ryan Adams was kind of a weird experience because he was having some kind of temper tantrum that night. He couldn’t get his guitar in tune and he kept blaming the guitar tech for not doing it right. After every song he would hand his guitar back to this guy and then he would go sit there on the corner of the stage and wouldn’t say anything. And the audience is sitting there saying, “What’s up with him? What’s his problem?” And finally, at the end of the show he was
so pissed off he took his guitar–I don’t know what kind of guitar it was or how expensive it was–but he just took it and smashed it to bits on the stage and handed it to the first person in the
audience and walked straight out the door, out of the building and was gone. Nobody saw him
for the rest of the night.

Lighten up, it’s just fashion

While watching a Project Runway Season 3 sneak peek they showed a few people who completely missed the boat and sent the judges into WTF?!-laden tizzies. And you’ll never guess what flash of lime satin and black lace graced my screen!
Stephen McMillan Moser! Beloved scribe of After A Fashion! Horrors!
I’m sorry they didn’t pick you Stephen, but you’re still awesome. I love you!

Bad TV Alert with an Austin Twist

I’m embarrassed that my first post on Austin Metroblogging is about something so cheesy as Rock Star: Supernova, but there is an Austin connection. Patrice Pike is one of the contestants, she of Sister Seven fame and Austin residence. If you can put up with the tired rock star jargon (“right on, right on, my brother”), Dave Navarro in general for more than five minutes, and what appears to be a wig on Gilby Clarke, then its an entertaining show. There are some good performances.

I thought Patrice put in one of the stronger performances last week, but there is some strong competition. That crazy South African girl, Dilana, seems to fit well with Tommy Lee and gang. If I was Patrice, I’m not sure I’d want to win. That would involve touring with Supernova and probably signing an indentured servant-type contract with the producers. I’d just want to stick around long enough to develop some national name recognition. She has an excellent chance of going far into the competition.

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