When Fox announced that it would withhold its TV shows from Hulu and its own website until eight days after their original air date, a lot of people assumed that piracy would increase as a result. Now, TorrentFreak claims to have proof.
The site tracked BitTorrent downloads for two Fox shows — Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef — over the last week, when the delay began. Sure enough, during the first five days, downloads of the latest Hell’s Kitchen episode rose by 114 percent compared to the previous three episodes. Downloads of MasterChef spiked by 189 percent, with the season’s finale likely accounting for higher demand on BitTorrent.
Nobody is ever going to list the TV remote as one of the most important inventions of all time. Maybe not even of the second half of the twentieth century. But if the remote had never been invented, life would be meaningfully different. Think about it: if we all still had to get up from our couches and trudge across the room to change the station, there’d be no such thing as channel surfing. (Then again, we’d be thinner from the calories we burned.) Dealing with more than a handful of stations would be impossibly unwieldy, too–no remote control, no 500-channel universe.
In short, the TV remote matters–and it’s it worth pausing to remember some of the most significant models to appear since 1950, plus a not-so-significant curiosity or two. (Click on the images below to see the ads, patents, and magazine pages at a much larger size.)
96.7 percent of us Americans have one or more TVs in the household. That’s a lot of TVs–but it’s fewer than before, say a new study by the Nielsen Company. Previously, 98.9 percent of us had TVs in the house.
So did the drop–the first one in two decades–happen because people are watching Internet TV in lieu of old-fashioned cable or terrestrial TV? Nielsen says it’s a factor, but it stresses another (distressing) one: low-income households which can’t afford TVs, especially after the digital transition rendered old analog sets useless without an adapter.
Cord-cutting is sometimes dismissed as a myth. And it’s true that no data shows TV watchers fleeing to the net in massive numbers just yet. But I feel in my bones that an awful lot of people are going to do so over the next few years–it’s just a matter of how many and how quickly. I mean, wouldn’t there have been a time in the 1990s when any study would have showed that only a tiny group of folks were listening to MP3s instead of CDs? And wouldn’t it have been a mistake to conclude then that this digital-music stuff wasn’t going to amount to much?
For eons now, I’ve been struggling with a question that some of you have been confronting, too: is the Web a rich enough source of information and entertainment that I can get rid of cable TV service? So far, I haven’t cut the cable, and I keep saying that one big reason why is the usefulness of continuous TV news coverage of really big stories. But stories don’t get much bigger than yesterday’s discovery and killing of Osama Bin Laden. And the TV coverage I saw didn’t make a great case for cable being indispensable.
In the time before President Obama made his address, I mostly watched NBC News and CNN. Nobody who wasn’t involved in the operation knew much about it at this point, so the anchors on these channels mostly tapdanced to fill time. They told us, over and over again, that this was huge news. (Really?) But they didn’t even ask many of the questions I was asking–such as “how about al-Zawahiri?”–let alone attempt to answer them. The screen was full of talking heads, but they were saying very little.
Although doomsday predictions can be dangerous for any technology, I’ll gladly join the chorus of people who think the remote should be put out to pasture. But before that can happen, a lot of things need to change in the phone and TV industries, all of which will take a very long time.
Last Gadget Standing nominee: Gefen Auto Volume Stabilizer
Ever notice how TV commercials and movie trailers are decibels louder than the shows? If so, you’ll appreciate Gefen’s use of Dolby Volume Technology to level the volume on TV programs and commercials for a consistent audio experience. A simple solution for home entertainment systems, this tiny device automatically equalizes audio from different sources so everything is heard at the same audio levels. Channel surfers will appreciate the stability. And music listeners will enjoy a consistent level of volume when enjoying random CDs. The Auto Volume Stabilizer incorporates Dolby 5.1 digital decoding and converting to 2-channel audio. It also supports both digital (TOSlink; S/PDIF) and analog (L/R) audio formats. It will work with most popular home entertainment devices on the market, including television sets, A/V receivers, CD players, DVD players and more. Multiple audio sources can be connected at the same time, and accessed with the included IR remote or a tiny selector on the device used to switch between sources.
Glad to see lawmakers putting partisan politics aside for the issues that really matter: A bill that forces television broadcasters and cable companies to ratchet down the volume on commercials passed in the U.S. Senate, and will be taken up by Congress after the November 2 elections. The House of Representatives has already signed similar bills, leaving only minor details to iron out. Once approved, it’ll require FCC regulations within a year, and enforcement a year after that. Nonpartisan, sure, but still slow as ever.
For no particular reason other than that it’s Friday, let’s take a guided tour of the evolution of TV in America from the late 1930s through the early 1970s–as shown in commercials and promotional films from RCA, which was once practically synonymous with consumer electronics in this country. You may take moving images, color screens, remote controls, and displays small enough to tote around for granted, but they were all startling breakthroughs in their day.
In what’s become an annual tradition, TiVo determined the top ads of Super Bowl 44 “using aggregated, anonymous, second-by-second audience measurement data about how 30,000 TiVo subscribers watched the game, and for the first time, determined not just the most viewed commercials, but instead the most engaging ads throughout the game.”
1. Doritos – “House Rules”
2. Snickers – “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”
3. Focus on the Family – “The Tebows Celebrate Life”
4. Doritos – “Underdog”
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors – “Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt”
6. E*Trade Financial – “Baby Love Triangle”
7. Bud Light – “Observatory”
8. CareerBuilder – “Casual Fridays”
9. TruTV’s NFL Full Contact – “ Punxsutawney Polamalu”
10. Hyundai Sonata – “Brett Favre MVP, Still Playing at 50”
If you missed any of the commercials, or just want to catch them again, hit Hulu, CBS, or YouTube. What were your favorites?
I’m not at the IFA consumer-electronics exhibition in Berlin this week, but Sony Chairman Sir Howard Stringer is–and the Financial Times is reporting that he’s going to announce an ambitious initiative to build 3D products–everything from HDTVs to laptops. It’s the latest bit of 3D boosterism from an entertainment and electronics industry that’s increasingly gaga for the technology.
Me, I’m instinctively skeptical of anything that’s in 3D except the real world–the effect fails to work for me as often as it succeeds, and the glasses give me a headache. (I blame the fact that I wear glasses anyhow, and must jam the 3D ones over my normal specs.) I’ll believe it’s the next best thing when it stays popular for more than, oh, nine months.
The San Francisco-based web phenom has partnered with Reveille and Brillstein Entertainment to develop an unscripted TV skein described as “putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format.”
Side note: The Twitter TV series was created by Amy Ephron, whose sisters Nora and Delia came up with 1998′s AOL-inspired You’ve Got Mail–an earlier attempt by Hollywood to cash in on an online trend. It was the first thing that jumped to mind when I read about the Twitter show, even before the Ephron connection dawned on me. Wasn’t 1998 about the time that AOL jumped the shark?
No, wait–part of the reason behind the delay is the mess that is the government’s $40 coupon program for converter boxes–too many people who need the coupons don’t have them. My buddies at consumer electronics info site Retrevo aim to help with a Good Neighbor Coupon Exchange Program. They’re serving as an intermediary to put people with extra coupons in touch with folks who can use them. And they’re also offering a 20-page survival guide for the whole transition.
Today, however, the House of Representatives failed to fall in line: It didn’t pass the bill. Unless someone throws a hail-mary pass to extend the deadline through other means–and it sounds like that could still happen–some Americans will turn on their TVs come mid-February and find nothing but static.
I’ve been trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of the delay or not, and I’m still grappling with the issues. Over at ZDNet, my friend Sam Diaz makes a cogent argument in favor of just pulling the trigger on analog and moving on: There’s been tons of advance warning about the switchover, and some folks will fail to be ready even if you delayed the transition to 2019. And a delay would cost the broadcasting industry millions.
But the people who are still receiving analog TV are, almost by definition, the most helpless of TV watchers. They’re technophobes. Or people who watch very little TV but might need it in case of emergency. Or folks so poor that the fact they can’t get a $40 converter coupon is an obstacle.
I keep having these visions of my grandparents fiddling with their little portable TV and wondering why they can’t tune in Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and the CBS Evening News. My grandma and grandpa have been gone a long time, but there are plenty of other grandparents out there, and some of them will be flummoxed by the transition.
Of course, you could make the argument that the best way to get stragglers on board is to deprive them of TV by completing the damn switchover: If analog broadcasts disappear on Feburary 17th, it’ll nudge some folks to head out to RadioShack and buy the coverter boxes they should have known about a long time ago.
Anyhow, I’m going to throw the decision in your lap while I continue to think about it. What’s your take?