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News Analysis
TV Tech: The 10 Dumbest Moves Of 2011!
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (December 29, 2011) -- Let's face it. It wasn't a great year for the TV technology industry. TV sales were flat; home 3D became better known as 3DOA; streaming companies invested heavily in new services but persuaded relatively few Americans to give them a try; and pay TV providers, with the exception of DIRECTV, saw their subscriber totals dwindle.

Of course, the nation's sluggish economy didn't help the cause with many consumers deciding to cut spending until things got better.

But we also have to be truthful here: Some of the industry's problems were self-inflicted. Unforced errors, as they would call them in tennis. All year, TV technology companies goofed, blundered and stumbled their way into various troubling situations.

Since everyone is doing their obligatory year-end stories now, I thought it would be instructive to compile the '10 Dumbest Things In TV Technology Industry In 2011.' I offer these 10 dumb-headed moves in the sincere hope that the companies don't repeat them in 2012.


So here are The 10 Dumbest Things In TV Technology In 2011:

10. 3D TV
I have to be honest. Nothing was dumber than 3D TV in 2011. But I will post it here as #10 because I want to write about it first.

TV makers thought they were so smart, so clever, that they could sell anything, even something like 3D TV, which research had shown that consumers were not interested in!

For their efforts, the TV makers helped diminish interest in the TV category as a whole, they focused so heavily on 3D in their advertising campaigns that it turned consumers off on buying any TV. In a down economy, that was really dumb.

9. The BBC Puts a New 'Wrinkle' In Dumb
In January, a 53-year-old British TV 'presenter' won an ageism discrimination case after she charged the BBC fired her because her wrinkles were more visible in High-Definition.

Now this has been a growing concern among broadcasters and actors in the United States and the U.K. They are afraid that producers will only hire the young if their shows are in high-def.

But what makes this case particularly dumb is that the BBC actually told Miriam O'Reilly, a news reader on the BBC show Countryfile, that she might be fired because of High-Definition. O'Reilly testified -- and a British court tribunal believed her story -- that a BBC producer warned her prior to the firing that "she had better be careful about those wrinkles when High-Definition comes in."

The producer added that high-def was "crunch time" for O'Reilly's career, and a BBC director suggested she get Botox before her show switched to HD.

For their dumb remarks, the BBC was slapped with a 150,000 pound judgment.


8. Houston Anchor Flips Off HDTV Audience

As I just noted,
HDTV's crystal-clear picture has been a cause of nightmares for many TV anchor people, particularly those who sweat over such things as facial blemishes and wrinkles.

But Owen Conflenti, an anchor at Houston's KPRC-TV, has only himself to blame for allowing the high-def cameras to humiliate him in front of his southeastern Texas audience -- and thanks to YouTube -- the entire world.

You see, Owen was on the air lin February when a colleague off-camera made a joke. Thinking the audience could not see his right hand extended away from his desk, the anchor gave the colleague 'the finger' while he continued to read the news report.

Problem is, the high-def audience was able to see the gesture because of the set's widescreen; standard-def viewers had no clue what Owen had done.

Some Internet pundits called for Owen's ouster, but the anchor is still on the air for KPRC, hopefully a lot less dumb than he was last February.

7. Cox Plays 'Musical Chairs' With HD Channels
Cable and satellite operators have often used questionable tactics to inflate their HD channel counts, but Cox Communications gets the prize for the most questionable of all -- and the dumbest.

The cable operator this year has issued press releases in at least two markets saying they offer more than 100 High-Definition channels. The problem is, Cox counted 46 "High-Definition" Music Choice channels.

That's right. Music Choice doesn't have 46 HD channels; it's a music service!

Music Choice does offer 46 channels that feature audio playbacks of popular songs accompanied by still images of the album from which the song comes. But they are not video channels. However, because the still images are of a high resolution, Cox apparently felt (and still feels) that it's okay to call them HD channels.

This would just be slippery, and not necessarily dumb, but a local newspaper in at least one of the markets caught on to the gambit and wrote about it. (Although TVPredictions.com reported it first, I must add.) And now Cox looks really dumb.

6. Comcast Offers Zero HD Channels In One Market - Zero!!
Think your TV provider doesn't have enough HD channels? What if you lived in a town where the local cable TV provider didn't offer any High-Definition channels?

That's right. Zero HD.

Not possible, you say. Well, don't tell that to the high-def owners who live in the Du Quoin, Illinois area. Their local cable TV provider, a company called Comcast -- yes, that's right, the nation's largest cable TV operator -- doesn't offer a single HD channel in Du Quoin, a Southern Illinois town which has a population less than 10,000.

The lack of HD is such a sore subject in the town that the Du Quoin city council last January held a hearing. But city councilmen had to acknowledge that Comcast had six years left on its local franchise contract. So there wasn't much Du Quoin could do.

According to Comcast's web site, the cable operator still doesn't offer any HD channels in Du Quoin. So I am going to give a dumb trophy to the Du Quoin city council for awarding such a long contract to Comcast -- and one to Comcast for pissing off every HD owner in the town.



5. DIRECTV's $30 Video On Demand

While it may not be the dumbest thing of 2011, it certainly was the biggest flop of the year.

In the spring of 2011, DIRECTV and its studio partners launched a
$30 Video on Demand service, called Home Premiere. The satcaster charged $30 per viewing of movies made available 60 days after their theatrical release and at least one month before their DVD or Blu-ray launch.

Some analysts, particularly the Wall Street know-nothings, praised the venture, saying it could revolutionize the home video and movie theater industries. Smart-minded types, though, asked, "Who on earth would pay $30 to watch a movie once?"

Roughly five months later, we got the answer to that question: almost no one.

DIRECTV quietly pulled the plug on Home Premiere and company CEO Mike White acknowledged publicly that the price was too high.

Oh really?

By the way, I am only calling this the 5th dumbest thing of the year because DIRECTV and the studios eventually came to their senses and dropped the service. But if they bring it back...

4. And Universal & Comcast Try To Bring it Back!!
A month after DIRECTV ran for the $30 VOD exits, Universal Pictures and Comcast announced they were teaming to test -- ok, get ready to laugh; I mean, really, really laugh -- a $60 Video on Demand service!

And get this: The trial would launch with the Eddie Murphy comedy Tower Heist.

$60 to watch an Eddie Murphy movie!!

A week later -- and after much ridicule in the media and elsewhere -- the two companies issued a statement saying they were putting the idea on hold.

3. TiVo & DIRECTV: Out to Launch
TiVo once had more than four million subscribers, but it started to lose them hand over fist in 2005 when DIRECTV ended their partnership to license TiVo DVRs to the satcaster's subs. However, in 2008, TiVo used its impressive patent portfolio to help coerce DIRECTV to renew their partnership and develop a new HD DVR.

As part of the deal, TiVo promised not to sue DIRECTV for patent infringement, no small concession considering the DVR company had taken rival satcaster Dish Network for more than $100 million in a patent violation case.

But TiVo was anxious for the DIRECTV partnership to begin anew because, well, it was losing subscribers hand over fist.

In retrospect, though, TiVo might have been too anxious. And maybe, just maybe, TiVo didn't look at the fine print in that new 2008 agreement because...

More than three years went by before DIRECTV finally launched a new TiVo DVR! More than three years! And in those three plus years, TiVo's sub totals shrank all the way to under two million.

To make matters worse, DIRECTV 'soft launched' a DIRECTV-branded HD DVR on the same day (December 7, 2011) that it launched the TiVo HD DVR. And the DIRECTV HD DVR has several impressive features that the DIRECTV/TiVo HD DVR does not, including the capacity to record 5 shows at once.

Hmm, I think I smell some dumb here. Real dumb.


2. Best Buy Cancels Orders -- Right Before Christmas!

Best Buy has had a tough year, with TV sales flat and all. But this Christmas season, the CE retailer shot itself in the foot with a bullet full of dumb.

A few days before Christmas, BestBuy.com notified some shoppers that their orders placed in November and December were being canceled. The company apologized but said demand for the products was higher than expected.

Best Buy said the cancelations represented less than one percent of all orders, but the publicity made the retailer look like Mr. Scrooge.

Next holiday season, do you think online shoppers will trust Best Buy to deliver their gifts on time?


Dumb!

1. Netflix Alienates the World
How do you all but ruin one of the most successful companies in the world? How do you take one of Wall Street's hottest stocks and turn it into a laughing stock?

Apparently, you let Netflix CEO Reed Hastings do whatever he wants.

The online video rental service was on top of the world last summer with more than 25 million subscribers (and growing) when Hastings decided to raise prices, split the service's offerings into two (streaming and discs) and even split the company itself into two different web sites.

Subscribers reacted with outrage, but instead of reversing course, Hastings tried to apologize and apologize and...apologize. But his apology tour couldn't stop at least one million subscribers from unsubscribing. (And the next Netflix financial report will likely show more defections.)

For this unique accomplishment, Netflix and CEO Reed Hastings gets the trophy for doing the "Dumbest Thing In TV Technology in 2011!"

What do you think? Offer your comments below!

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