One year without Current TV

Original Current TV Logo

Current TV would definitely be discussed in the classes that I teach.

The original format of Current TV is my all time favorite concept for a cable network.  Its 4-5 years on air were something special.  It is heartbreaking, at least to me that it is no longer on the air.

The network, which launched in 2005, was owned by Al Gore (who you all know) and a guy named Joel Hyatt (who you probably don’t know).  Instead of traditional programming, it showed what they liked to call “pods”.  They were short news documentary pieces produced by not only their in house staff, but also by viewers.  If a viewer got their video on the network, they were paid a minimum of $500.

Like many cable networks, especially those not owned by a big media company with a lot of other channels to its name, it had trouble getting distribution.  Cablevision never carried it.  (I even created a “Get Current TV on Cablevision” group on Facebook, since I was so passionate about it).

In 2009, Current changed its format to more of a traditional news channel, anchored by Keith Olbermann.  It was the beginning of the end.  Olbermann didn’t last a year.

Current was eventually sold to Al Jazeera, using its assets to start Al Jazeera America.  Part of that is an online network called AJ+, based out of Current’s former San Francisco office.

The original format of Current TV was brilliant.  I was surprised that it never was duplicated.

If Fox buys Time Warner…

I don’t know how real the prospect of Fox (through its year old post-News Corp split parent company 21st Century Fox) is, but its quite intriguing.

Here, in 2014, there are a small number of companies that own a lot of (traditional) media properties.  They are:

Comcast (owner of NBC Universal)
CBS Corporation (spun off from Viacom)
News Corporation
21st Century Fox (spun off from News Corp.)
Time Warner

That is only seven companies, or 5 if you consider the pairs of Viacom/CBS and News/Fox as single entities due to the same ownership.  The Big 5 can go down to 4, if a Fox/Time Warner deal actually happens.

This is very dangerous for many reasons.  I may share those reasons in depth over time, if  I feel like it.  However, it is very simple.  The few major companies that control much of the media may become fewer…

Microsoft kills their original TV project, as part of their layoffs.

As part of Microsoft’s mass layoffs, they are abandoning their plan to produce TV-esque video content exclusively for XBox. Some of the announced or rumored shows included a Halo TV series (with Steven Spielberg as an Executive Producer) and a reboot of Heroes (which is ultimately going to air on NBC sometime in 2015).  In 2010, there were even reports of Microsoft making a bid to Conan O’Brien to host a late night talk show on XBox, before he ultimately went to TBS.

My opinion is that this was a great move by Microsoft to kill this plan. The ownership of XBoxes (the new XBox One and the previous generation XBox 360) is too small an audience for exclusive content.

Imagine if, say, Orange is the New Black played exclusively on XBox. It would not be the buzzworthy hit that it is today. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon instant video are available on a number of devices. The platform is the software and not the hardware.

This is not to say that a show can’t launch on XBox (or Playstation). Microsoft could take a page from DirecTV’s playbook, and have an exclusive window to a show for a while, before it airing elsewhere. DirecTV did this with the final seasons of Friday Night Lights and Damages. Damages, which originally was on FX, was actually a DirecTV exclusive in its final years, before going to DVD and Netflix.

And now, I have officially launched!

Hi all,

After a few weeks of posts, and now that my birthday has passed, I have decided to tell the world that I’m doing this!

In four years, 2018, I will be teaching media classes on a college level.  This is MY declaration.  This is what I want to be doing, regardless of what you think.

Please support me in my goal.  I do not have a clear path (yet) on how to get there, but the standing image is of me, in a college classroom, teaching students about the media, who owns it, how it came to be and how to become part of it, is a driving force of my professional and educational goals.  Thank you!

The case to develop beyond the newest OS.

I have a friend who recently graduated from the Flatiron School, an intense Ruby-on-Rails training workshop.  As part of the class, he built an iOS app.

I was excited to download it, but I couldn’t.

Why?  Because I have made a choice to keep my iPhone 5, purchased when it was released in 2012, with the operating system that it came with, iOS 6.  As of July 2014, iOS 7 (which is a requirement for my friend’s app) is the current OS, with iOS 8 slated to be released in fall 2014.  I don’t like upgrading the OS on my hardware (computers and mobile), as I risk slowing them down, with no turning back.

Bells and whistles are great, and the latest and greatest technology can do amazing, previously unseen things.  But I won’t allow an obsession with what’s new alienate the parts of the user base that have not upgraded just yet.

When I used to design websites back in 2000-01, when the world was still moving away from dialup modems (and AOL) to broadband, I would test my sites for both speeds/connections.  I even ran stuff on my old 1994 Macintosh Performa (which never slowed down, although software would eventually not be compatible with it).

While there needs to be a cutoff to make most apps financially viable, I would suggest to not alienate those using older devices and hardware.

Could Opie and Anthony (or any other talent) WOW on an online-only platform?

Opie and Anthony from their WNEW heyday
Opie and Anthony bumper sticker design from their WNEW heyday

Over the July 4th weekend, Anthony Cumia of the long-running “Opie and Anthony” radio show was fired from SiriusXM, where they have been since being kicked off terrestrial radio.

For the point I am going to share, why he was fired and/or the question of if he should have been terminated in the first place are irrelevant.  There’s plenty of discussion about that elsewhere on the Internet.

The question I am bringing up is if O&A (as they are sometimes abbreviated) could bring their brand of talk to their own online channel, independent of a major communications company like SiriusXM or CBS (where the duo previously resided).

The closest equivalent at the moment are brands in the video space, particularly Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”.  Beck, formerly of Fox News, and CNN before that, has an online over the top channel with his show and similar content.  There are reports that The Blaze is underfunded and unprofitable, but that is a discussion for another time.

I myself am a subscriber to SiriusXM, particularly for the Jam_On channel.  I have fantasized about creating a competitor to it, but the headaches of music licensing put a stop to that.  Pandora and Spotify reportedly pay most of their revenue to licensing agencies, far more than SiriusXM and terrestrial radio stations.

Talk radio doesn’t have those huge licensing liabilities.  Blogtalkradio is a service that has been around for almost a decade, hosting professional semi-pro and amateur talk radio shows.  No licensing = less problems.  I’m surprised that there are not competitors to BTR in the nice successful niche they created for themselves.

Could an online-only paywalled radio network launch with Opie and Anthony leading the way?  Possibly.  Will they (or someone else) start one?  Only time will tell…

Slingbox is legal but Aereo isn’t?

Aereo doesn't work anymore...
Aereo doesn’t work anymore…

The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo is illegal, and violated copyright laws.  The winning argument was that Aereo was rebroadcasting broadcast TV over the Internet without the permission of those stations.

However, since Slingbox, which has been around for a decade is legal, and Aereo is not, I am confused.

Slingbox is a device that plugs into a cable box (and or TV antenna) and broadband router, and lets people watch that broadcast content over the Internet.

Theoretically, one could rent an apartment or hotel, pay for Internet access and a TV antenna, plug it into a router, and never actually live there, yet have live broadcast TV over the Internet.  Essentially, that’s how Aereo was run.

However, since such a service was designed to serve many customers, the Supreme Court classified Aereo in the same level as a cable provider, and would have to pay cable companies fees that they successfully negotiate with each other (not a sure thing), if they want to continue to exist.

So, Aereo-like services are now only legal (for now), if they are private.  I guess I need a device like Simple TV if I want to stream broadcast TV to my Roku and mobile devices…

Why I don’t a TV station.

UHF, the Weird Al movie

One of my childhood dreams was to own a broadcast TV station.  I fantasized about being like Weird Al’s character in the 80s movie “UHF”, where he runs a TV station of independent programming, that the community loves, and fights to keep in the air.  I said that I can make my own station and program my own game shows, sports highlights and interview programs.  Sure!

However, here in 2014, broadcast TV (and radio) in my home country is a money pit that was created by overregulation by the government.  At least that’s my opinion.  Most stations are parts of large station groups and are affiliated with a broadcast network.

The airwaves are owned, in the United States by the public.  Not the owners of the broadcast TV stations, but the public.  However, I have learned from my own college professors in the communications department at SUNY Plattsburgh that the lobbying power of businesses have continuously taken that control for themselves.  The “public” airwaves have been controlled by private interests, and they pay like crazy to keep it that way.

However, the Internet, and high speed broadband has created a new level of media ownership.  Services like Netflix and Hulu (and YouTube and UStream, among others) have bypassed broadcast and cable to bring content to your home.  Or Laptop.  Or phone.  Or tablet.

One of my goals of being a comm professor is to inspire students to become the creators of their own shows, and perhaps the owners of their own channels.