The Big Deal In Kansas City

My tech story on FoxCT today is about Google’s plunge into the cable TV/Internet provider market&#185. They are about to wire Kansas City with fiber to-the-home. That’s the holy grail for online speed addicts! It’s very exciting to geeks like me.

For non-geeks it means Comcast Google is bringing competition to cable, an industry that mostly operates in monopolistic fiefdoms.

Google has made the loudest noise talking about the Internet aspect of the deal. That says a lot about the future of television and broadcasting, doesn’t it. Scary for me.

For $120/month subscribers will get hundreds of channels of HD programming (Google has not yet made deals with all the cable channels including many big names like ESPN, so exact lineup is still fuzzy) plus 1 gigabit bidirectional Internet service with no caps or restrictions. I checked today. My download speed is 1/50th of Google’s! My upload speed is slower still.

Because fiber has much more available bandwidth the quality of video, even from broadcasters like my station, should be far superior. Right now cable and satellite heavily compress broadcasters signals. They’re trying to squeeze as much into their coax as will fit. You can see the difference.

For $70 Google will offer a 1 gigabit Internet only package. This is a nod to the growing (but still small) community of cable cutters.

Beyond that, for a $300 installation charge (waived on the other plans) Google will provide 5 megabit Internet access guaranteed free for seven years! Somehow Google has figured out how to install fiber for under $300. When Verizon was still rolling out FIOS their cost was north of $600.

On paper (and without knowing the full TV Channel lineup) Google’s offering is looks superior to traditional cable.

With some minor exceptions cable’s never really been in a competitive situation. You’ve got to figure they’ll offer something better or cheaper than today’s packages.

As bad as cable’s reputation for customer service is, Google’s is worse! Try reaching a human should your Gmail fail or Google removes your website from its search engine! Will they fix that? Is Google even capable of meaningful human-to-human contact?

Lots of people will be watching what goes on in Kansas City. Most likely blood will be spilled. Both Google and the cable operators have lots of cash to throw around and a vested interest in protecting their turf.

Who knows, the public may even benefit! How often does that happen?

&#185 – Disclosure: I own a small position in Comcast within my 401-K. Comcast owns WVIT, one of our competitors at FoxCT.

The Numbers Are In

Nielen ratings are in for last night’s debate

The Nielsen ratings are in for last night’s debate. I’m confused by the list of stations aggregated which doesn’t include Fox News and MSNBC, both of which would add significantly to the final total.

If these overnight numbers stand, the ratings are well below other recent debates.

OK–I’m a little surprised. I thought for sure there would be a lot more interest considering all the buzz.

DMA Rank Market RTG Rank RTG SHR (000) 21 St. Louis 1 52.1 82.0 649 48 Memphis 2 49.5 67.0 330 26 Baltimore 3 47.1 66.0 515 9 Washington, DC (Hagrstwn) 4 44.6 68.0 1030 29 Nashville 5 44.0 66.0 424 46 Greensboro-H.Point-W.Salem 6 42.2 61.0 285 32 Columbus, OH 7 41.5 63.0 377 43 Norfolk-Portsmth-Newpt Nws 8 41.4 59.0 298 58 Richmond-Petersburg 9 40.3 55.0 211 18 Denver 10 39.7 65.0 586 24 Charlotte 11 39.3 54.0 426 7 Boston (Manchester) 12 39.3 58.0 944 22 Portland, OR 13 39.0 74.0 450 31 Kansas City 14 37.7 61.0 350 16 Miami-Ft. Lauderdale 15 37.2 52.0 573 38 West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce 16 36.4 55.0 282 27 Raleigh-Durham (Fayetvlle) 17 36.2 54.0 377 51 Buffalo 18 36.1 54.0 230 25 Indianapolis 19 35.3 59.0 379 53 New Orleans 20 34.8 48 209 11 Detroit 21 34.3 55.0 661 59 Knoxville 22 34.3 51.0 185 61 Tulsa 23 34.1 55.0 178 45 Oklahoma City 24 34.0 55.0 231 40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 25 33.5 48.0 245 52 Providence-New Bedford 26 33.5 50.0 211 15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 27 33.4 59.0 569 19 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 28 33.4 52.0 479 62 Ft. Myers-Naples 29 33.3 51.0 164 28 San Diego 30 33.0 59.0 349 50 Louisville 31 33.0 48.0 218 17 Cleveland-Akron (Canton) 32 32.9 55.0 505 37 San Antonio 33 32.9 48.0 261 20 Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 34 32.7 55.0 454 4 Philadelphia 35 32.1 51.0 941 44 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 36 32.1 50.0 218 23 Pittsburgh 37 32.1 51.0 371 6 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 38 32.0 62.0 779 13 Tampa-St. Pete (Sarasota) 39 31.7 49.0 569 49 Austin 40 31.6 52.0 201 36 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 41 31.5 46.0 265 64 Dayton 42 31.4 50.0 161 1 New York 43 31.3 48.0 2317 8 Atlanta 44 30.9 52.0 714 3 Chicago 45 30.7 51.0 1067 14 Seattle-Tacoma 46 30.3 58.0 541 30 Hartford & New Haven 47 30.2 45.0 306 47 Jacksonville 48 30.0 47.0 196 33 Salt Lake City 49 29.9 63.0 261 35 Milwaukee 50 29.2 49.0 262 34 Cincinnati 51 28.3 49.0 256 42 Las Vegas 52 27.9 46.0 196 5 Dallas-Ft. Worth 53 27.7 46.0 671 2 Los Angeles 54 26.4 50.0 1484 12 Phoenix (Prescott) 55 24.8 47.0 448 10 Houston* 56 0.0 0.0 0 Weighted Avg. of 55 markets* 33.2

Two Point Conversion – Good Idea

I drove home for dinner as Helaine was watching the Tampa Bay – Washington football game. It’s good to have a wife who loves sports and is an adamant Philadelphia Eagles fan.

My enemy’s enemy is my friend. Go Tampa Bay.

With under two minutes to go, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown, leaving them down by a point. A kick (aka: PAT) from the two yard line would tie the game. A 2-point conversion would put them ahead.

John Gruden, Tampa Bay’s coach, elected to go for the two point conversion. He literally put the game on the line at that point, because if the attempt failed, Washington would certainly run out the clock.

Listening in the car, I heard Gruden’s choice second guessed. Coming home, I heard the same thing from my wife. The proper play is to kick the safe PAT and hope for the best in overtime.

I disagree.

First, you have to assume the PAT is a gimme. Last year, all season, Lawrence Tynes of Kansas City missed two – and he still had a 96.7% success rate! No one else missed more than one. So, by going for the two point play, you’re taking a ‘sure’ tie off the board.

On the other hand, if you tie, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get the ball back. Even if you do, will you ever have an easier place to score from that the two yard line?

Yes, you’re giving up a tie – seldom the final result. What you are doing is securing the chance to win right there. I like that idea. Just having the opportunity to score and probably win is more than you’re guaranteed in overtime and more than many unhappy teams get.

Today, Gruden was successful. If the play would have failed (the refs did review it), he would have been a major goat… but he still would have done the right thing.

Sunday With The Eagles

I got home from the JDRF Walk bushed beyond belief. Still, the Eagles were playing on TV, and as a good fan I wanted to watch.

When I say “on TV,” in this case I’m talking about on TV somewhere other than Connecticut. In order to see the game, I had to find a place where they were showing the game. I headed to “Eli’s on Whitney.”&#185

Me in a bar is sort of laughable. I don’t have anything against alcohol – I just don’t drink.

I take that back. Two or three times a year I’ll have a Bailey’s, which is closer to chocolate milk than booze.

Eli’s is centered around a large rectangular bar with seating on three sides. On the walls above the bar, and the walls inside the bar, are TVs. On Sundays, every NFL game is shown. The more popular games have multiple sets. ‘Glamor’ games with Cleveland or Kansas City (or both) have just one.

I walked in around 1:15 PM. The bar wasn’t particularly crowded, so I found a spot near one of the TVs showing the Eagles – Oakland game.

There were groups of people watching together, but I stood off to the side, against a wall, by myself. The only person I knew, at the bar with a date, was watching a different game.

I ordered a Diet Pepsi and some fried mozzarella. I also told the waitress, though I’d be drinking soda, I’d be tipping like I was drinking alcohol. I didn’t want her to spend the afternoon thinking I as a low value customer (which, to her bosses, I was).

The day started very poorly for the Eagles. On the opening kickoff, kicker David Akers fell to the field, writhing in pain. There was a penalty, and amazingly, Akers tried again… only to fall down in pain again. Another penalty. A scrub came in to make a very short kickoff on the third attempt.

All day long that would be a major advantage for Oakland.

The Raiders scored first, then the Eagles. With Akers unavailable, Mark Simoneau came in and missed the point after. The score was 7-6.

Donovan McNabb, the favorite quarterback of nearly everyone but Rush Limbaugh, seemed out-of sorts. Passes went too far… or too short. There were lots of passes which could easily be labeled, “intended for the security guard.”

Oakland’s Warren Sapp dropped one sure interception of a McNabb pass and caught another.

Though the score remained close, the Eagles were going nowhere. Luckily, as bad a day as the Eagles were having, they were playing a team whose entire season will be worse!

Let me cut to the chase. The Eagles went ahead. Then, as time ran down, Oakland tied the score. The Eagles got the ball back with 2:15 to go, moved most of the length of the field, ending up on the 5 yard line with :12 remaining.

Unbelievably, David Akers limped out onto the field. His short field goal attempt was good!

As the ball left his foot, he fell to the ground, again in pain. Close-up shots showed he was crying.

Yes, it was great that the Eagles won, but even better was what David Akers showed. He’s a long standing pro with nothing to prove. But, when called upon, he showed he had heart.

I would guess it’s any sports player’s fantasy to make the big play that wins the game. To do that under the duress of acute physical pain only makes the final victory sweeter.

Actually, I’m just guessing. I was never on anything more athletic than the math team.

&#185 If you’re reading this from somewhere other than Connecticut, you should know Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin and had the world’s first assembly line right in New Haven. Sure, “Eli’s on Whitney” is located in the next town north, but it’s the thought that counts.

Desktop Video – Not Yet… Maybe Not Ever

I was reading an entry from Aaron Barhardt’s blog TVBarn. Aaron is the TV critic from the Kansas City Star, though his influence and insight are more than you would expect from a market that size.

What Wired doesn’t seem to get is that the ability for people to produce high-quality video at home for little money will mean they won’t have to live in media capitals like New York, L.A. or Vancouver, where their outlooks are shaped, inevitably, by the cultures of those two media- and creative-saturated communities. And by creative I mean “creative.”

That fit in nicely with an off-the-cuff remark from my boss that, one day, something like Rocketboom might replace today’s ‘big media’.1

It’s certainly possible, but I think a lot of people who fondly look forward to the new golden age of simple and fast video miss the point that even with most of the cost and bother removed (and, make no mistake, most of the cost and bother of video production has already been removed), it is still time consuming while demanding creativity and organization.

Desktop video production has become cheap, but only if you place no value on your time!

A few weeks ago I got together with a group to make a short film for a contest. We all volunteered, but we weren’t all neophytes. Four of the principal players work in the media. Our talented, but game, support crew had almost no experience.

If I were a professional producer, looking to make this movie as a commercial project, this Saturday afternoon’s work would have cost thousands! And, to be honest, there was still a lot of unfinished work between what we did and something people would actually watch. There would have been more cost in polishing what we did.

Don’t count the big media out yet. We may be slower because of our size, but it is easier for us to re-purpose already existing material, or slice and dice what we have to produce additional material, than it is for someone in Kansas City to put together watchable video. We have economies of scale.

That’s not to say some mom and pop producers will succeed. They will. But, most of them won’t and most of what will be produced will be unwatchable or barely watchable. Take a look at the well meaning people who produce on your local public acess channel on cable.

The reason there’s so much garbage on TV isn’t because producers aren’t trying hard enough to produce better stuff. It’s because producing good TV is very difficult, time consuming and demanding of talent. Having 200 or 300 or 1,000 channels makes it much more difficult to aggregate that talent in one place.

1I consider my little TV station to be big media, so you can see the line for ‘big’ isn’t drawn too critically to size. Maybe instead of big, I should say conventionally structured.

Baseball For Math Geeks

I am in a fantasy baseball league with some others from work. There are ten teams and though I started slowly, The Meat Thermometers, my team is now making a move.

I don’t know anything about baseball.

OK – maybe that’s an oversimplification. I do understand baseball, but I don’t know much about today’s players. Too many teams. Too little time. I can’t get excited when Kansas City plays Seattle.

The reason I like these fantasy leagues is it allows me to break baseball down to stats. I’ve taken that to the extreme.

When I told one of the other managers my team had gone 6 for 10 early last night, and then rattled off how many of the hits were double or homers, he said I was a little obsessed. Though the league is free to play, I spent $9.95 to buy a stat package, allowing me to follow each player pitch-for-pitch in near real time.

In the past Helaine has said this is sports betting and I fought her on that. But, it really does have little to do with the actual games these players are in. I’m rooting for stats and situations and individual achievement – not real team wins and losses.

I don’t know anything about my players that isn’t necessary. I avoid talking with the other fantasy managers about specifics, lest I show that I don’t know first names or past history or how any of my guys fits into their reality baseball team’s framework.

I have learned how often players sit out, for no apparent reason (to me at least) and how fluky injuries are.

May 26 Durham missed Sunday’s game against the A’s with a sprained middle finger on his left hand, but returned to the Giants’ lineup for Tuesday’s action. However, he was back on the bench on Wednesday, this time due to an ingrown nail on his right big toe. The veteran second baseman, who currently claims a 13-game hitting streak, has been listed as day-to-day.

Advice: Durham will be a game-time decision on Thursday. If he cannot go, Brian Dallimore likely will get the nod in his absence. During his current streak, Durham is batting .396 with eight doubles, two RBI and eight runs scored.

Ingrown toenail injury! I hope he doesn’t get put on the 15 day DL.

Everyday it’s a grid of numbers. How hot are they? How many singles, doubles, triples, homers? Does he have speed? Can he steal? I weigh all the factors. But, I have no idea who is leading the AL West, nor do I care.

This is sports for those who can’t play. It is perfectly suited for me. Go Meat Thermometers.

Sitting, Waiting for Thunderstorms

Even a few days ago, today looked like it would be a thunderstorm day. Lots of heat and humidity, a cold front approaching from the northwest, negative lifted index numbers (a very telling severe weather parameter). Movement from the northwest is the ‘favored’ direction for severe weather here in Connecticut.

As I type this, there’s a Severe Thunderstorm Watch in effect for Litchfield County (far Northwestern Connecticut) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it expanded later. Even without the watch there will be more thunderstorms late tonight throughout the state.

I’ve got one eye on the radar and the other scanning the watches and warnings popping up from the Weather Service. I’ll have to be more thoughtful than usual tonight in making decisions to break into programming, since we’d be breaking into ceremonies for President Reagan, not a sitcom or reality show. I understand the solemnity in this event.

I hate severe weather, which isolates me from many of my peers. There’s a weather oriented bulletin board I read from time-to-time. I constantly see meteorologists begging for storms (not that we can affect the outcome!

I wish I was in Lincoln…or St. Joseph, or a number of places besides southern MO. MCI forecast sounding for 00z tonight is impressive:

LI of -12, Sweat 681, SREH 319…enough for some nastiness. Normally I’d like to see the LCL a bit lower, but given the instability any negatives should be overcome. FSU…have fun!

Have fun!

Let me translate a little. MCI is Kansas City (in the same way LAX is Los Angeles and JFK is New York). LI is the previously mentioned lifted index. Sweat and SREH are two more severe weather forecast parameters. Most importantly, this guy wants to be there. And, he along with others, root for stronger storms! FSU is a forecaster who graduated from Florida State University.

Am I missing something? Won’t this stuff injure or even kill people? Property and business will be lost. People near the severe weather will be frightened.

News anchors don’t hope for a murder or fire so they can have a more compelling lead (at least I don’t think they do). Why are weather people so different?

No matter how long I work in this field I’ll never understand why some of my contemporaries are hoping for the worst. It’s just weird.

Emmy Judging

This has been an exercises in frustration. I volunteered to coordinate judging of the Weathercaster Emmy for the Mid-America region (basically St. Louis and Kansas City) and sent out dozens of invitations to other weather people around New England, including many who I know enter themselves… and got very few responses.

If it weren’t for the fact that it was summer, some folks were on vacation, the AMS convention had taken place last week, I’d name names because I’m pissed. I don’t mind that only a few people said yes. I’m more upset at how many didn’t respond at all!

Anyone who enters the Emmy’s expects more… and deserves it.

Our Emmy panel was comprised of Matt Scott and Gil Simmons and me from WTNH, Michael Friedman from Fox61 (WTIC TV) and Jayne Smith (meteorologist and former weather intern turned weather producer). We watched 9 tapes. Helaine was the ‘caterer’ and as is always the case, we ate wonderfully… and then had pizza for good measure.

The rules say I shouldn’t discuss individual tapes, and I won’t, but I will discuss the general quality of the entrants and the tape content itself. No one really stood out. There were two who I thought were better than the rest… but not by much. There is less of an edge or style to these Midwestern folks than what we see here in the East and a lot more nuts and bolts meteorology (which I’m by no means criticizing).

By and large, there was not enough “talent at chromakey” on the tapes.

It seems all but one of these entrants confused a good location with a good presentation. Because you’re somewhere, and something beyond your control has happened, doesn’t mean what you’re doing is special.

Don Fitzpatrick, TV talent guru, used to talk about reporter audition tapes that included a live shot from the president coming to town. Unless you got that exclusive one-on-one with the prez, ditch the tape.

At this hour, all our score sheets (which I haven’t sneaked a peek at) are in the Airborne envelope, waiting to go out with the tapes on Monday.