I don't know about you, but every Tuesday as I'm watching yet another and even more incomprehensible episode of Lost, and wondering how in the game of God I've given up six years of my life to this thing, I inevitably say to myself: "Boy, if only that runty, evil little swine Ben Linus were here, he'd explain what the hell this is all about and I could enjoy it again." Well, at last, ABC has answered my prayers. Well, one of them anyway. I'm still waiting for the big-screen TV and the car.
ATT is starting to roll out its ATT-Uverse service, a broadband version of satellite or cable television, in a big way. Uverse is now available in 22 states, including Florida, where AT&T reps are going door-to-door to flog the service. One of the principal selling points: A show recorded on the Uverse DVR can be seen on any receiver in the house. That is, you can start watching a show in the living room, pause it, and finish up in the bedroom.
Don't think that's gone unnoticed at the Big Kahuna of satellite television, DirecTV. The company has been working on a program called Multi Room Viewing for several months now, and finally is testing a beta version. The good news: You can get it right now if you've the most current version of DirecTV's DVR. The industry journal Multichannel News' satellite-TV blog has instructions for downloading the software, along with the precise equipment requirements to make it work.
Earlier this year, broadcast television took a big step into its Internet future by expanding and for the first time heavily promoting Hulu, which allows Fox, ABC and NBC programming to be viewed on the net. Now cable has done something similar. Comcast has launched Xfinity TV, which will allow the company's customers to watch thousand of hours of cable shows and movies online.
Anybody with Comcast digital cable and Internet service can now visit Comcast.net or Fancast.com, sign in with their Comcast email user name and password, and watch for free. Comcast is calling it a beta program, which means there are going to be plenty of glitches at first. And the financial viability remains to be seen -- right now, Comcast isn't paying cable channels anything for for the extra use of their material, just letting them screen commercials. The cable nets may not go for that in the long run. But whatever Xfinity looks like in the end, it represents a television future without antennas or cable boxes -- and possibly without local stations -- as TV goes broadband.
Comcast and GE on Thursday finally sealed the deal they've been talking about for months, with Comcast obtaining NBC Universal for $13.75 billion. That leaves America's largest cable company in control of NBC, Telemundo, USA, Bravo, Syfy, the Weather Channel and about two dozen other cable channels.
The deal still has to clear several regulatory hurdles, and so-called consumer advocates -- who always seem to be fighting the last war -- will no doubt fight a scorched-earth campaign to keep it from happening. If Comcast owns all these cable networks, the reasoning will go, it can charge more to cable subscribers while jerking rival companies around.
That argument completely misses the point of Comcast's pursuit of NBC, which is that cable is a dying industry. There are a zillion ways for networks to get their programming to you these days that don't involve cable, including cellphones, satellites and -- most ominously for the cable companies -- broadband. Broadband is eventually going to threaten not only cable but broadcast television stations themselves. Why should NBC (or any other network) pay its balky and often troublesome affiliates to be middlemen when it can pipe the programming directly to you?
Comcast wants to get into the content business because it sees the end of the cable business looming on the horizon. It will be interesting -- and, no doubt, depressing -- to see if the government will get in the way of a far-sighted company's prudent attempt to deal with technological upheavals in its industry.
If you want to see how television is splintering into what seems like a million different delivery platform, just take a look at NFL coverage. Not only will all of NBC Sunday Night Football games be available on the web this fall, Direct TV is experimenting with making its NFL Sunday Ticket package -- which enables subscribers to see up to 14 live games every Sunday -- available on your computer.
The NFL Sunday Ticket package will be available only in Manhattan this fall. For $350 ($50 more that television subscribers pay), fans who can't get Direct TV because their line of sight is blocked by skyscrapers will be able to pick up the games on a computer or cell phone. If all goes well, Direct TV will start rolling out the offer across America next fall.
But no need to wait until then if you want to watch football on your laptop. All 17 Sunday-night games will be available at NBC.com and NFL.com. The sites' videoplayer will allow the high-definition stream to be be replayed in slow motion or switched to four different camera angles. By next season, it'll probably come with telestrator software, too, so you can diagram plays for your buddies or dog.
Fat people dancing. Fat people passing gas. Stupid, bitchy high school students. Donald Trump gone bad. (Okay, Donald Trump gone worse.) When it comes to picking the summer's worst TV show, we've got an embarrassment of riches.
A couple of months ago, ABC announced it was joining NBC and Fox in the online video service Hulu. This week ABC's programming is finally turning up on the site. Grey's Anatomy became available Monday, and other shows like Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Scrubs and I Survived A Japanese Game Show will start popping up over the next two weeks. The rest of of the ABC corporate stable -- ABC Family, Disney Channel, Soapnet and more -- will follow. Just repeat after me: We don't need no stinkin' digital TV set.
When Rick Sanchez last fall began integrating the social-networking site Twitter into his afternoon CNN show, most people thought it was a weird novelty from a network trying desperately to preserve its ratings against a charging MSNBC. Now Sanchez is the most recognizable face during CNN's daylight hours, and Twitter is everywhere -- every anchor and reporter in television news (and even the poor peasant TV critics who write about them) uses it to chat up readers and viewers.
Now, however, the beast is loose from its cage. Twitter is about to launch a takeover of television. The Twitter braintrust isn't calling it that, of course. The've merely announced that they're teaming with Reveille Productions (Ugly Betty, The Office) and Brillstein Entertainment (The Sopranos) to develop an reality competition show in which fans try to find hidden celebrities. (Because, you know, people like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears sometimes are out from under our gaze for entire quarters of an hour and what's up with that?) But mark my words -- this time next year, we'll all be speaking in 140-character bursts, and sentences like this one will be things of the p