TV Tech: The 10 Dumbest Moves Of
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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.
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
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.
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...
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.
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
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
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?
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!"