Posts Tagged ‘NBC’


My Favorite Don Pardo Video

Monday, August 18th, 2014

pardoWord has just come down, Don Pardo has passed away. He was the announcer on Saturday Night Live since day one.

I’ve known his voice and face since I was a little kid. He worked on the NBC network and also Channel 4. In the fifties and sixties he was on my TV all the time.

I think this Live at Five intro best exemplifies who Don Pardo was and why he was so damned cool.

End of an era. Last of the staff announcers. Gone.

NBC’s Olympic Failure To Communicate

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

We’ve been watching the Olympics a good part of today.

“I know how this one came out,” Helaine said more than once.

That is the curse of the early 21st Century. She, along with some Facebook friends wonder why they’re suffering through tape hard drive delay? The results have already been on Twitter and Facebook. The cat’s out of the bag.

Steve Schwaid, the über competitive Bobby Valentine of TV news directors, tweeted:

Curious – does it bother you that nbc is not showing some of the major events live- like the Phelps/Lochte? Pls send me ur thoughts.

What we have here is a failure to communicate! All these events were shown live! Every bit of the Olympics is available live as it happens. The NBC Television Network (your local NBC station) is just one of many places to see the games, but it is by-and-large not the place to see them live!

NBC (seen on WVIT-30 here in Connecticut) is more a “Best of” channel with recorded coverage that’s been sliced, diced and produced for maximum TV effect. It will be the most exciting channel with the most motivating backstories… as long as you’ve kept your head in the sand until you watch.

That TV savvy people like Steve Schwaid and my wife don’t understand the game plan is NBC’s fault! Along with my complaints about the difficulty in seeing their streaming coverage, NBC has failed in explaining and showing people how to watch what they want to watch.

What NBC is doing as far as depth of coverage is concerned is unprecedented. They’re getting almost no credit for that! No one in their audience will get it without a little educating.

The Google Play Store shows NBC’s Olympics Live app with 100,000+ downloads and around 3,000 raters. That’s a sad installed base.

There’s almost two weeks of coverage left. I wonder if NBC’s online and secondary channel strategy will change?

Olympics Streaming Nearly Gets It Right

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

The photo above is the table tennis venue at the 2012 London Olympics. OK, no one was playing when I tuned in, but at least I was finally able to tune in. Mostly the online Olympic video has been a pain or a fail.

Earlier, Helaine called me to her computer. The free online Olympic streaming was hung up at the point where her Comcast credentials were requested. The process failed by returning her to the point where she was asked to specify our cable provider.

Oh, yeah. You need to subscribe to cable or satellite to get the free streaming. Cord cutters are not welcome!

As it turns out most flavors of Linux, the operating system on Helaine’s laptop, are suffering this same indignity. Considering the streaming seems to come out of a custom YouTube channel and YouTube videos are usually easily seen on her laptop this is a head scratcher.

The problem is Ubuntu and some other Linux ‘flavors’ don’t automatically load the DRM (digital rights management) software necessary to protect NBC’s investment. Finding this solution was not easy. In fact my last blog entry is a small attempt to make it easier for others following in my footsteps.

Helaine can now watch Rhythmic Weightlifting and the Javelin Catch even if they’re not on TV.

For my Asus Transformer Prime tablet the problem is a little more vexing. It’s not supported, period!

The “NBC Olympics Live Extra” app will let users watch more than 3,500 hours of live events on tablets and smartphones. But only customers who have a cable or satellite subscription will get full access — and the app is available only on Apple devices and a “select” list of Android phones and tablets. — (CNNMoney)

Not only isn’t my tablet ‘selected,’ neither are those made by Samsung. This isn’t rocket science. There are already loads of streaming sites that have figured out how to serve me.

The rating for NBC’s Android app speaks for itself. I’m not the only unhappy camper this evening.

Brokaw Gander Documentary Set To Air Again

Friday, March 12th, 2010

When I wrote about Tom Brokaw’s documentary and the 7,000 people stranded in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001 I didn’t expect it to be my most read, most commented blog post of all time! It surely was.

All my commenters were touched by the outpouring of love and graciousness from these residents of an isolated community in a thinly populated province. Everyone wanted to know when the story would air again? NBC was silent until Thursday.

MSNBC will telecast “Operation Yellow Ribbon” this Saturday, 12-1 p.m. ET and Sunday, 1-2 p.m. ET, hosted by NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. Originally broadcast during NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, “Operation Yellow Ribbon” is the story of the town of Gander, Newfoundland where, on September 11, 2001, 38 jumbo jets carrying nearly 7,000 passengers were diverted.

I cannot recommend this beautifully shot and produced documentary more highly. If you can’t be around this weekend, make sure you record it–it’s that good.

After you watch it, please come back and let me know what you think. I suspect you’ll be as deeply affected as Helaine and I were.

Tom Brokaw’s Gander, Newfoundland 9/11 Lookback

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

On March 11, 2010 NBC announced this documentary would re-air. More details here.

Helaine and I were watching Olympics coverage this afternoon when Tom Brokaw was brought on to introduce a feature piece about Gander, Newfoundland’s part on September 11, 2001. I already knew much of the story. Helaine hadn’t heard any of it.
From Gander Airport’s website:

On September 11, 2001, 39 heavy aircraft were diverted to Gander International Airport when airspace was closed in the United States because of tragic terrorist hijackings. Runway 13/31 was converted to a temporary aircraft parking ramp. The airport terminal was turned into an aid centre as food and clothing was distributed to stranded passengers. The airport and its surrounding community afterwards received high praise for their response to the tragedy.

gander airport 9-11-01.jpgAll of a sudden Gander’s 10,000 residents had 7,000 guests¹!

The piece started slowly. At two minutes in it was obvious they’d buried the lede, until I realized this was no two or three minute piece. Brokaw and team had produced and NBC was showing a full length documentary!

It’s a shame to say if NBC had told its audience they were about to see a full length documentary they would have bailed in droves. They probably did anyway in which case they missed a truly wondrous story.

There are few superlatives to describe how kind and generous these Newfoundlanders² were. They opened their schools, homes, and wallets.

Back here in the family room I was crying like a little baby. OK, I’m a soft touch for crying, but this real story is a real tear jerker.

In the crush of news this 9/11 story was mainly lost. Without this Brokaw package it was destined to become more obscure. I was surprised at how many abandoned links I found while trying to find some interesting quotes for this entry.

Mostly the Twitteratti seem to agree with my assesment:

  • cukawen : Watching the brokaw special on #gander on 9-11-01…all I can say is wow.
  • porcupineridge : Great NBC/Tom Brokaw story on Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11 ground stop. Why can’t I find it online?
  • villageous : Just saw Tom Brokaw’s report on Gander, Newfoundland. Compassion people everywhere showed that day truly is lasting legacy of 9/11.
  • trs614xc : this tom brokaw segment about Gander, Newfoundland’s response to grounded flights on 9/11 is one of the most touching things i’ve ever seen
  • RoccoDeMaro : Tom Brokaw is a legend. But his never-ending, meandering piece on Gander / 9-11 felt like a trip to my wife’s grandmother’s house.

Thanks Rocco. There’s one in every crowd!

I agree with “porcupineridge.” Why can’t I find it online?

¹ – To say Gander is rural is an understatement! I landed there for refueliing on a westbound Overseas National Airways DC-8 transatlantic flight in the mid-70s. We flew in over a deep pine forest without seeing a sign of civilization. I figured we’d see the town on the way out, but again, nothing but pine trees until we were back over the Atlantic.

² – Originally this entry contained a less elegant nickname describing Newfoundlanders. Brian J. Mallard of Memorial University in St. John’s told me, “The majority of us do not like the term.”
My apologies to anyone offended. It was a poor attempt at showing affection.

Bob Ryan – The Weatherman Pushes Back

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Bob Ryan is a weather fixture in Washington, DC. He’s been on the NBC owned station for around 30 years. Today he is my hero. On this pre-blizzard day when his station will probably show huge viewership he’s in the news.

From the Washington Post:

A dramatic change may be ahead for Washington’s weather forecasts. And it has nothing to do with Friday’s much anticipated snowstorm.

Bob Ryan, the most-watched television weather forecaster in Washington and a fixture at WRC (Channel 4) for nearly 30 years, is considering leaving the station and jumping to rival WJLA, people familiar with the discussions said Thursday.

bob-ryan-dc.jpgDon’t get me wrong. I am not happy because Bob may be leaving WRC. Moving is never without risk both to the talent and stations. I am happy because for the first time in a few years someone on-the-air in local news has some leverage in contract negotiations.

The trend in my business has been falling salaries, not rising. This is the first I’ve seen where that trend might be bucked!

What boss or owner doesn’t want to buy the same thing for less? Bob’s station is owned by NBC which has been very aggressive in that regard.

Some of the cuts anchors and reporters have were huge. Often they’ve been accompanied by added responsibilities and/or reduced benefits and security. All the cuts have been taken with impunity.

Bob Ryan is pushing back against bosses who’ve forgotten that can happen.

Granted, we’re talking about a guy who should receive no sympathy over compensation. If Bob Ryan isn’t making 7-figures he’s certainly in the high hundreds of thousands per year. As a longtime AFTRA member he’s got a very nice pension plan. This is not about whether his family will eat or not.

There will never be another Bob Ryan in Washington. The kind of following he has, built over years when TV stations had much more commanding audience numbers, just can’t happen today. He knows that. They know that.

I will be very curious how this turns out. So will every other high profile on-air performer. It’s more than idle curiosity.

Living The Fantasy: Conan’s Last Tonight Show

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

In broadcasting you usually don’t know you’re doing your last show! That’s part of the reason it’s every broadcaster’s fantasy to have one chance to go off as a class act (or flaming a-hole) and say all those things you always wanted to say, but couldn’t. Tonight was Conan’s night.

This is a very complex story with heroes and villains.

Briefly, NBC made some serious mistakes and tried to get Conan to share the blame.

Correctly, Conan refused to hold hands with the guy getting electrocuted! That one move of defiance has jumped started whatever Conan will do next.

At the same time Conan’s 11:35 PM show was an unquestioned ratings disaster. His recent actions may have bought him a pass from the public, but the industry knows he underperformed in nearly every possible way.

Was he too hip for Middle America? Maybe. Personally I think the show should have stayed in New York.

In the end NBC looks foolish and vindictive and pays through the nose. If anyone outside the business cared about NBC’s Jeff Zucker they’d wonder how he’s staying employed through all of this? I’m wondering.

Would you still be employed after a decision you personally made proved so costly?

Jay Leno, who also shouldn’t be the villain right now, turns into the poster child for Dear Abby’s&#185 famous, “Time wounds all heels.” He is the Hannibal Lechter of late night television!

Jay’s crime was beating out David Letterrman for the Tonight Show and then winning in the ratings even though he is less smart, less talented and certainly less funny than Dave.

He is literally a victim of his own success. I guess that’s sad, though I feel no sympathy.

I’ve had friends who should know tell me Jay isn’t a nice guy. Is that true or just sour grapes? No way to know.

That characterization has gotten a lot a play recently. Jay is injured by it.

So, Conan gets a last show and an “A” list line-up for it. Tom Hanks said, “In our house, you will always be the host of The Tonight Show.” Will Ferrell sang off-key. Neil young sang on-key. Steve Carell gave him his NBC exit interview.

In his valedictorian address Conan said: “I hate cynicism, It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Finally, he walks away with a boatload of money.

Money can make life easier, but it is not the key to happiness. Satisfaction comes with accomplishment.

Conan will be back.

&#185 – I find no evidence on the Internet she is the originator of that line though I always thought she was. Whatever.

I Told A Friend To Get Out Of TV

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

next-generation-weather-satellite-goes-o.jpgI got a call yesterday from a friend. She’s a meteorologist and former intern I’ve helped with her career. She has reached a crossroads.

The job is no longer fun. Her company’s viability is questionable (as are some of their cost cutting practices now showing up on-the-air). She is being asked to do more with less–that less often being her own sleep! It’s not a good situation. She doesn’t see it getting better.

I told her to get out. That’s advice I’d never given before–advice which came surprisingly easily.

“There are going to be fewer, not more jobs,” I told her. “There will be ‘central casting’ where one meteorologist serves a bunch of stations.”

If asked tomorrow to do weather for Connecticut, Albuquerque and Grand Rapids, I could. Most on-air mets could. Looking out the window is overrated when you’ve got as many observational sources as we have.

Her small station is a prime candidate. A friend in Palm Springs tells me the NBC station there is already getting their weathercasts from someone at their sister station in Las Vegas. He wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t read about it in the newspaper.

There are tradeoffs. Two stations can’t be live at the same time. Some local forecasting quirks would have to be learned.

Mostly the public wouldn’t notice (as my friend the Palm Springs broadcast executive didn’t notice)–except the finished product would be more sterile. If you’re recorded, live interaction becomes a casualty. It’s the kind of fatal wound that bleeds slowly, but steadily.

I’m not sure broadcasters can afford the luxury of quality over cost. Many, like my friend’s employer, are upside down in their financing. Money to pay off notes trumps every other expense.

More-and-more this is what’s happening to local radio. One disk jockey can do a handul of shows every day if all the waiting between the songs is eliminated. It’s called voice tracking and it’s done because it costs less–not because it’s better. It decidedly is not better&#185!

Back to my friend. She sees her career as a dead end. If she stays, what is she staying for? It is an environment where company loyalty is a one way street.

She has other skills. I suggested she go with those and set up a small business in the community she’s grown to like. She’s in a relationship. That’s much more important than a boss who sees her as an interchangeable part and will always be looking for ways to let her go.

I’ve never given this advice before. I never thought I would. Most people don’t understand the financial pressure all media is under–not just print.

My friend does.

&#185 – If you really want to be depressed about the state of radio, read Jerry Del Colliano’s “Inside Music Media.” He is brutal in his assessment heavily leveraged companies have eviscerated local radio.

Ed McMahon

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

ed-and-johnny.jpgFor the past few days I’ve been torn as to whether there should be an Ed McMahon entry in the blog. Though a huge presence on television he struck me as a man with little personal integrity. He sold what can politely be called “crap” on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and never really changed. Seemingly he’d shill any product.

His moral code aside, where he was really excellent was as Johnny Carson’s announcer/sidekick. Howard Lapides coined the term we liberally sprinkled Ed’s way. It was “FL” for fake laugh. If Carson intended something to be funny then it was funny to Ed! His laugh was loud and recognizable.

Don’t underestimate this power. The Tonight Show was ‘sweetened’ in real time by Ed. No post-production house could add a laugh track that would help as much.

I have one Ed McMahon story and it involves my very secretive friend from the San Fernando Valley and his spectacularly beautiful wife. I asked if he could get me tickets to see The Tonight Show and he asked her. She had been a page at NBC. She’d even appeared on The Tonight Show giving Johnny the prize envelopes on Stump The Band!

Her specialty was making sure you’d be seated “DIF” or “down-in-front.” That’s where I sat. Thank you Sue.

There are few places I’ve been that immediately seemed so eerily familiar–Mission Control in Houston and the big digital clock at the shuttle launch facility in Florida, CNN’s newsroom, the floor of the NYSE and Carson’s studio on West Alameda in Burbank. I’d seen it a thousand times before I ever set a foot inside.

The crowd entered and politely sat. We were excited. As taping time approached the band played a number and Ed came out to warm everyone up.

“There seems to have been a mistake–a clerical error,” he said.

The audience sighed worrying what was wrong and how it would affect our best laid plans.

“I don’t know how,” he continued, “but Johnny, Doc and I have been scheduled to work on the same night!”

The audience went nuts!

I remember that moment as if it was yesterday–in fact it is the only part of my Tonight Show experience I remember.

Is Hockey Now Watchable?

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I’m probably late to this story, but I tuned across NBC’s HD coverage of the NHL and was pleased at what I saw. The rub on hockey is it’s too fast and the puck is too small for television. That just isn’t so with HDTV where there’s more resolution and clarity.

As important, maybe more important, is the 16×9 screen dimensions. That wider image brings much more of the ice into view. You can see plays develop. You can see the action off the puck. Even in wider shots you can see the puck clearly!

The NHL isn’t without other problems. I know few players, recognize few names. There are teams I don’t recognize either. The season is interminably long with too many teams in the playoffs.

When I’ve got more time I’ll give the NHL another chance, but only in HD.