Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spoil this

The art of time-shifting TV shows for later viewing goes back to the days of the VCR, and along with that comes the secondary art of avoiding what happens on said recorded program. This is usually the case with live sporting events, given that you might be able to hear a score in your normal activities (via the radio, some idle chatter while out and about, etc.). You're bound to be spoiled, no matter how hard you try, but that's the nature of the beast because of the "live" nature of the event.

Nowadays, with the rise in use of the DVR, many people are also time-shifting regular television shows or watching programs online via iTunes, Hulu or many of the network sites. With so many people time-shifting shows, when is it OK to "spoil" what happened on a show.

This definitely came to a head on Monday night when (insert requisite spoiler alert here, I guess) Kal Penn's character on "House" suddenly committed suicide (expertly teased on last month without any indication of which show, never mind the character, it would happen). It was a major shocker -- there was no tease of it in Fox's promos, there was no news leaked of any cast members ready to leave (although we know now that Penn asked to leave the show to join the Obama administration) -- so it obviously took regular viewers of the show by surprise. Along with that feeling of shock and surprise, naturally, viewers took to Facebook and Twitter to express such feelings.

As someone who was time-shifting "House" that night (preparing to watch the show after the NCAA championship game), I did get a couple of somewhat cryptic tweets as the show was going on ("OMG #House"), but didn't think much of it. I'm as guilty as anyone of posting stuff from shows as I see them, although it's usually wacky lines or concepts from "30 Rock," "The Office" or "How I Met Your Mother." "House" usually doesn't draw that same type of instant reaction as it happens, but I let it go. Then, as I was watching the game, I got a longer tweet from a friend of a friend pretty much spilling the beans of what happened ("Why did they kill off Kumar?"). Part of me was miffed that someone would post such a spoiler, but on the other hand, I was definitely intrigued enough that I had to fire up the DVR to watch the show as soon as I could (with the tournament game a blowout, it was easy enough to make the switch).

Yes, the event was shocking, and even though I knew it was coming, it was still a huge surprise when it did. And it was a very sad episode all around (especially seeing what happened to Colleen Camp over the years -- I think she weighed more than Meat Loaf, who played her husband in the episode).

Of course the next morning I had to read about what prompted such a move (and especially since EW had teased it a few weeks back), and got the stuff about Penn leaving for Washington, etc., etc. However, the reaction to those stories were a tad odd in that so many people were complaining about being "spoiled" about what happened. Many of them apparently were still waiting to see the show on their DVRs or online and didn't appreciate the spoiler (especially given the very surprising nature of what happened).

This brings up an interesting dilemma these days, especially among mainstream or general-interest media, in reporting on the happenings during a TV show. I remember a college classmate taking to task for posting what happened during the final "Seinfeld" on the front page before the show aired on the West Coast. That's understandable (although you have to wonder if you have to wait until after the show airs in Alaska and Hawaii). But do you have to hold off on reporting what happened on "House" the day after it aired, especially when many are getting spoilers on their Twitter or Facebook feeds as it's happening?

This whole incident brings up a rather odd paradox of today's digital age. The technology makes it possible for more time-shifting and on-demand viewing. However, it's going to be a lot easier to discover spoilers in your Twitter or Facebook feeds. (It works differently than many blogs and such because more often than not you're actively seeking the information on those sites; you get all sorts of things pushed to you on the social networking sites.)

More often that not, though, it's not really a huge issue unless you're a real fan of the show. I care very little about my friends' "Lost" updates, and I'm sure others could care less about lines I'm posting from "30 Rock." And even things like who got voted off on "Survivor" or "American Idol" beyond the overall winner barely create many ripples now. (Besides, there are live blogs of Idol out there, including one run by my friend Rodney, so there's obviously an audience for the instant analysis of what's going on.)

And when it comes to "event viewing," like a season or series finale, there is some reasonable expectation of being spoiled relatively in real time (much like a sporting event). But how should the "shocking but unadvertised death" spoiler really be handled in this "on demand" world? I guess we want our information now except when we don't want it now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bah hoopbug

I picked UNC to win it all, but was nowhere near winning any money in my pools thanks to choosing too many upsets except for the ones that actually came through. I will say that the March Madness on Demand product was great for tonight because I could watch the game on my computer while catching my other Monday viewing options on the TV. With the way the game turned out, it was best to find other options.

And with the game being such a blowout and my needing to catch up on other shows (including a very shocking and depressing "House"), I find no need to catch "One Shining Moment," one of the most overrated sports traditions out there. It's not so much the music itself -- it's a sappy '80s song, sure, but I can dig cheese like that. It's the fact that at its core, it's just a bunch of tournament highlights running about 10-15 minutes after the game has finished.

Honestly, as soon as the game finishes, I'm switching to ESPN or something for highlights, or to my DVR to watch what I missed during the game. When I used to work nights, that time right after the game was always a mad scramble to get things organized for postgame coverage. When I watched it at a sports bar, that was the time to settle up and head home.

On the other hand, you have to think that this love for "One Shining Moment" means people still love a good specialized highlights package. Just think about how highlights packages have evolved. I used to really love Warner Wolf's "Plays of the Month" or Len Berman's "Spanning the Globe" features once a month. Now you get them every night on SportsCenter with the top 10 plays, and even more specialized on Baseball Tonight with Web Gems. So maybe there's something to be said about the interest for clips of games that in some cases were a couple of weeks old (an eternity in today's world).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Back on the horse, maybe

Let's see, it's been more than a year since I've updated this blog, so I suppose it's a bit overdue for a new post. So let's have at it ...

As mentioned around this time last year, the cult of Facebook and Twitter have both taken my attention away from blogging. Micro blog posts seem to work better there and driven me from longer thought pieces or decent blog entries. So be it.

Anyways, not surprisingly, I spent the past four days immersed in March Madness. While I saw my share of decent finishes, Cinderella stories and my predicted Cinderellas that didn't pan out (I'm looking at you, North Dakota State), I was mostly intrigued by how well the March Madness on Demand product worked out this year. It was obviously plugged to no end on TV and online, and it served a great purpose (and for free, no less).

However, that product (and similar iPhone application) seems to work best when you're not watching TV. If you're like me and you pay as much attention to the other scores scrolling across the top of the screen as the action, you'll get really frustrated watching the MMOD game as you would the live action. As with any streaming live event, there's bound to be lags in the transmission, so there's a good chance the game you're watching online is about 10-15 seconds in gametime action behind real time. It becomes a bit odd when CBS switches to whatever game you're watching online.

Interestingly, you don't see that strip of scores across the top of the picture in the online feed. Oh yeah, the picture quality is great, depending on what level you choose. The highest level of quality is very sharp.

As for another quirk/feature, you can toggle between games but only when there's game action on. You can't switch games during commercials. You do have to watch the ads, a separate set of ads than the ones you'll see on TV. A bit annoying if you want to check other games during the commercials, but hey, that's a huge reason why it's free.

Finally, I did plunk down the $5 to check out the iPhone app for March Madness. If you've got a wifi connection, you'll get online video and it's decent quality. The video there does have the other scores stripped scrolling across the top of the screen, so in a way it seems closer to watching your local TV station on your iPhone or iPod Touch, but of course the lag issues are still in effect.

Once again, the product is great and if I didn't have a job where I can flip among all the games at once, it would be a solid replacement.

Meanwhile, that Sirius/XM merger may be complete, but there's still programming limited to just one side or another. While the NFL is available on both services (heads up to the whole Sunday Ticket debate), the NCAA tournament games are only available on Sirius. That was more reason I could check out all the MMOD stuff; otherwise, I might've been driving around listening to games.

Friday, March 07, 2008

These are trained professionals

There are plenty of ways to waste time. But if you're a snarky and nitpicky pro wrestling fan, this video of botched moves and broadcasting mistakes (and the rest of the clips in the collection) will kill any entire afternoon. Enjoy.

By the way, I actually have the MP3 of the music used in the video.