Vital discussion on media consolidation not aided by false quip

Yes, Comcast is a huge conglomerate, but it and 5 other companies really own 90 percent of _all_ media?

Yes, Comcast is a huge conglomerate, but does it and 5 other companies really own over 90 percent of _all_ media?

It is ironic that a letter to the editor about media literacy would contain a wild, unsubstantiated claim about the media. Both the Enterprise-Record and the Chico News & Review ran a letter from Richard Sterling Ogden promoting a community radio program focusing on media literacy. Unfortunately, both copies of the letter ran the claim that “Six corporations own over 90 percent of media…” This claim has been floating around for years and, as far as I can tell, it’s a bit of easily repeated hokum that doesn’t have a scintilla of proof.

It’s frustrating when these unfounded and demonstrably false claims are repeated without any verification because it can diminish otherwise valid concerns about media consolidation. Because I loathe to see inaccurate, feel-good noise drowning out valid, useful information on the Internet, I often respond whenever I see this unproven claim repeated and taken as gospel (Here’s an example from Business Insider). What follows is generally what I post.

The simplicity of the statement “six corporations own over 90 percent of media” is its undoing because “media” could mean everything, including print, radio, broadcasting, recorded music, cinema, pay-TV, online media, etc., in every country across the world. Six corporations may have their fingers in many of those categories, but not all, and not in all countries.

Even if you generously narrow the definition of “media” to just the United States, one can quickly deduce that there’s no apparent merit to the claim.

For example, of the 1,774 full-power TV stations in the United States, about 20 percent of them are public television stations. Public television stations are licensed by various schools, colleges, non-profit entities — not, as far as I can tell, the nefarious six corporations.

The remaining 80 percent is less than 90, even if the rest of them were owned by these corporations (which they’re not). Yes, most TV stations air programming from broadcasters like Disney-owned ABC, CBS Corp. or Comcast-owned NBC, but the actual stations are owned by different companies. There are only about 79 stations owned and operated by the sinister six — that’s just 4.5 percent of the total number of stations. Again, 4.5 percent is not 90 percent.

The linked table itself acknowledges that the six companies control 70 percent of cable networks. I don’t have the time to verify that claim, but it’s not necessary because 70 percent isn’t 90 percent.

I could do the same thing for radio stations, newspapers and news websites. When you add them all up, I don’t think you’re going to get to 90 percent.

Ultimately, people who decry the potential for mass manipulation shouldn’t engage in it themselves.

Who had the most airtime during the GOP debate? Advertisers.

Here's a breakdown of how much airtime each candidate, and advertisers, received during Thursday's GOP presidential candidate debate aired on Fox News Channel.

Here’s a breakdown of how much airtime each candidate, and advertisers, received during Thursday’s GOP presidential candidate debate aired on Fox News Channel.

Thursday’s debate of Republican candidates running for president in 2016 on Fox News Channel turned out to be pretty exciting. While most of the post-debate analysis has been focused on what the 10 candidates said, some are looking at how much airtime each candidate received. I took it a step further and considered how many commercials aired during the program.

My findings? Advertisers handily won the airtime battle.

I didn’t have a stopwatch, but based on my review of the broadcast, I estimated Fox News aired a total of about 16 minutes of commercials during six breaks. If it’s correct, that means that commercials took up a larger portion of the 2+ hour-long debate than any of the individual candidates. That’s more than current frontrunner Donald Trump’s 11 minutes and 14 seconds, as calculated by The New York Times. Ads had nearly triple the airtime of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was one of the leading candidates.

Since Fox News was running the show, it could and did take commercial breaks during the event’s scheduled two-hour running time (it ran over by about four minutes). During the first break after about 30 minutes, The New York Times’ graphics department tweeted a breakdown of how long each candidate spoke during the initial segment.

I was interested to see how little time some of the candidates received, especially compared to Trump, who has become a major attraction in this election’s early going. By that point, each candidate had relatively little time to speak — Walker got only 34 seconds, but even Trump got less than two minutes. I was amused by Fox News airing commercials during a civically-oriented event, especially because I’m used to commercial-free debates before the main general election (less than 15 months away!). I was curious if Fox News would have more commercial time than airtime for some of the candidates.

Ultimately, I was surprised to see that it’s likely that advertising outpaced _all_ of the candidates instead of just a few.

I didn’t have a good way of keeping time of the commercials during the debate, so I tried to collect the data after it ended. Thankfully, I was able to find a Washington Post transcript of the event and a YouTube user’s upload of the entire debate sans ads (that YouTube link may be yanked down due to possible copyright infringement).

The video was 1 hour, 49 minutes. Thanks to Fox News showing the time on its rotating channel logo, I could see the recording started at about 5:58 p.m. Pacific daylight time and ended after 8:04 p.m. PDT — about 2 hours, 6 minutes. My math determined there was a 17-minute difference between the two durations. I subtracted about a minute to account for short teaser promos that the YouTube user also edited out, but I don’t have a firm idea of how long those teasers really were.

The transcript indicates there were six commercial breaks during the broadcast. If the breaks were of equal length, each one would be 2 minutes, 40 seconds. It’s plausible that there were 15 total minutes of ads — that would make each break about 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

So, by my estimate, Fox News aired 15 or 16 minutes of ads. By comparison, here’s the final airtime tally as calculated by the Times:

Although advertising time dominated over the candidates, 15 to 16 minutes of ads over a two-hour period (or 8 minutes per hour) is extremely light by today’s broadcasting standards. It’s common for networks to air 18 to 20 minutes of commercials an hour. We could have seen nearly 40 minutes of ads during this two-hour event.

I initially lamented the intrusion of advertising into a civic event, but many people noted the breaks were relatively short and some enjoyed what was being advertised. On the other hand, some were frustrated by the total number of breaks in the broadcast.

While we may argue which presidential candidate won the debate, Fox News and advertisers seemed to win the night as there were predictions of record-breaking cable news audiences.

‘How I Met Your Mother’ subject of my top comment of 2014

My top comment of 2014 was about "How I Met Your Mother" - “They had the option to not run the pretaped segment and shoot a different ending.”

My top comment of 2014 was about “How I Met Your Mother” – “They had the option to not run the pretaped segment and shoot a different ending.”

Kids… in May of 2014, your father tuned in for the final episode of a television program called “How I Met Your Mother.” Coincidentally, watching the show is how I met your mother.

Just kidding. The only thing I met in the spring of 2014 was a new chicken wing place, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, the show had long been a favorite of your father’s. It featured six friends your father’s age as they made their way through a Los Angeles TV studio made up to resemble New York City. The main character, named Ted Mosby, was on a quest to find his ideal partner.

What attracted your father to the show was relatively inventive and funny storytelling and an energetic set of characters played by actors whose individual dynamics played well off each other. The show, especially in its early years, seemed like a worthy descendant of “Friends” and “Coupling.”

Ted’s quest continued for nine years through numerous twists and turns, including dating one of his friends, Robin, but it was finally leading to the final episode where Ted would finally meet the woman who would become his wife.

After eight seasons where each season took roughly one year of time, the final season was primarily set in a single, long weekend where each of Ted’s friends met the mother before fate (and the show producers) finally allowed the story to reach its natural conclusion. Ted met the mother… but that wasn’t the end of the story.

And kids, much like this poorly thought-out story-telling mode that I’m struggling to stick with, the story of “How I Met Your Mother” went slightly off the rails.

You see, despite nine whole years of saying the story was about how Ted met the mother and spending an entire season of episodes expressly building up to this resolution, the show’s producers made it clear in the last five minutes of the episode and the entire series that we were all wrong — the story was about how Ted, who was
telling the story in a series of flashbacks, was indirectly seeking his kids’ blessing to rekindle an older relationship years after the mother had died.

Needless to say, that resolution didn’t sit well with a lot of people who took to the Internet to voice their dismay. One of those people was your father. Back in 2014, websites encouraged readers to leave comments at the end of stories (and to help prove Sturgeon’s Law everyday). People could also click to approve comments that they
liked or found useful.

Your father would comment on various topics from time to time. His comments were only sporadically liked, but he would see his most success in 2014 when he wrote the following on a review at The A.V. Club:

“They had the option to not run the pretaped segment and shoot a different ending.”

At the end of the year, 233 people had liked the comment making it by far the most liked comment your father had written in the 2014. Your father had been responding to speculation that the show’s creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, had to stick with the ending that they filmed with the actors that played Ted’s children when they were teenagers several years ago. The actors had obviously aged and didn’t look like they did nine years ago.

My simple point was that Bays and Thomas didn’t have to stick with the ending that they planned out years ago. Had the producers wanted to choose a different ending, they certainly had it in their power to do so.

But they didn’t.

In interviews after the show, Bays and Thomas have said the ending was what they had envisioned all along.

Although Bays and Thomas had set their course several years ago, their vision of the destination was unsatisfying given the direction the show actually took. One can set out with a destination in mind, but the goal can change based on the actual journey.

The journey of “How I Met Your Mother,” especially in the early years, had a strong focus on Ted and the woman he would ultimately end up with. As the years progressed, that relationship ended and future stories focused on other relationships Ted was seeking or other hi-jinks involving the rest of the group.

The earlier relationship was still a component of the series, but it didn’t seem like a primary focus despite some fans wanting the two characters to get together. I was satisfied from a line from the very first episode where Ted said this woman wasn’t the mother.

From that very first episode to the last season, I had bought into the premise that the show was about Ted meeting the mother.

Practically every aspect of the show, up until the final five minutes of the series, had been pointed in that direction and I would’ve liked to see the series end with a happy or satisfying resolution along those lines.

However unsatisfied I may be with the ending, I can respect the creators’ decision to end the show as they feel fit. I didn’t feel they had to be constrained by the ending they filed years ago, and it doesn’t seem like they were.

And that kids, is how I met mango habanero chicken wings. Oh, but the place closed so I went back to Chipotle after a respectful mourning period.

The end.

Much ado about Miley and MTV

Luna Rossa Challenge heads close toward the bridge during the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.

Instead of watching Miley at the MTV Video Music Awards, I watched yacht racing on TV. In this photo, Luna Rossa Challenge heads close toward the bridge during the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.

The response about Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards was surprising. The Los Angeles Times has a decent recap. Since I haven’t cared about the VMAs since … well, I’ve never cared about the VMAs or watched them live … I spent my evening watching yacht racing on San Francisco Bay and a travel show about trains and national parks.

Since the response varied from outrage! to mocking to parodying the response, I thought I would give MTV a video/page view and check it out.

The performance was a medley of three songs, in which Cyrus sang in two of them. The first part featuring Cyrus’ song, “We Can’t Stop,” included performers in teddy bear costumes or wearing teddy bears won at the county fair. Cyrus herself wore something that looked like a teddy bear jumper with the bear’s ears forming much of her top.

The first part — which lasted about half of the total performance — was a bit bizarre and off-beat, but perhaps an interesting way to present an underwhelming song from a so-so singer. Or maybe not so interesting — there were some stone faces in some of the audience reaction shots. Some of Cyrus’ dance moves and gestures foreshadow the second part of the medley — where things go a bit bonkers.

The second part featured Robin Thicke and his summer hit, “Blurred Lines.” Before Cyrus continues singing, she tears off the already skimpy bear outfit and reveals a flesh-tone top and bottom similar to what the female dancers wore in Thicke’s video. If you’ve seen the video, it’s OK to accept the costume for what it is, but Cyrus’ performance goes over the top at this point.

There are risque dance moves and extremely awkward poses where Cyrus sticks her tongue out and gestures with her arms in a bratty fashion. Cyrus somehow obtains a foam finger and uses it in sexually suggestive ways. It was more lewd than provocative.

The third part of the song featured Thicke’s new song “We Can’t Stop,” with performances  from Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz. The song seemed energetic, but I didn’t discern a hook that I would enjoy listening to again. Cyrus is absent for most of this part until the end where she and that darned foam finger appear again.

I’ve already tipped my hand when I said Cyrus’ performance wasn’t very provocative. As the performance progressed, I felt her routine was other things — tawdry, annoying, superficial and overdone — but it didn’t seem provocative enough to deserve even a scintilla of the commentary that it has sparked.

Much has been written about how Cyrus has been working to transform from her “Hanna Montana” image and how Sunday’s performance is one more calculated move in that process. Perhaps it was, but all the calculated moves in the world don’t always add up to a winning number. Arguably, Cyrus has been trying to change her image since 2009 when her performance of “Party in the U.S.A.” at the Teen Choice Awards sparked a similar outburst of chattering.

“Party in the U.S.A.” was a hit four years ago. Based on Sunday’s performance, it seems like Cyrus is playing the same schtick and hoping to strike gold again. We’ll see how that goes.

Speaking of the same schtick, several of the commentaries noted that pundits often vent about the VMAs, even if the controversies seem contrived. MTV may fashion these moments to help create buzz and keep eyeballs on their channel, but I have to wonder why at this point. MTV has long since moved past music television in its programming and an event like the VMAs seems as vestigial as an appendix compared to the network’s current offerings of pregnant teen mothers, teen werewolves and more pregnant teen mothers.

That said, MTV’s strategy seems to still work — the performance has gotten eyeballs to the brand. The old folks have done their part by either waggling their fingers at Cyrus or just shaking their heads.

As for me — after dipping my toes in this folderol, I’m just waiting for the next yacht race to start.

“2 Broke Girls” and the show saver

After giving “2 Broke Girls” more than a fair shake, I’m now fully prepared to write this show off and find a better use of my time (like blogging). It’s sort of a shame because I had wanted to like this show, but it’s simply not funny to me. (That said, more than 10 million households watched Monday’s new episode.)

Many have tried to determine why the show never really lived up to its potential. Some have identified the diner set and the cast of poorly developed characters that populate it as the show’s weakest links, especially because the show has never shied away from exploiting these characters’ stereotypical aspects for cheap and often lame jokes.

An A.V. Club review of Monday’s episode opined they couldn’t rid of the diner although the show’s protagonists wouldn’t be able to continue working there and further their dream of building a cupcake empire.

I quickly fired off a response that they could easily jettison the diner. Doing away with the whole thing might just “save” the show.

What follows is my response, which also displays that I know way too much about this show:

Don’t be silly — of course they can get rid of the diner.

Picture this: Oleg leaves some greasy rags near the stove (why are they greasy? Wouldn’t you like to know, but really don’t because it involves Oleg?)

Anyway, the rags inevitably catch fire, causing the entire diner to burn down in flames. Oleg dies a valiant death trying to put out the fire (insert bad joke about it being the only flames Oleg couldn’t extinguish).

Sophie tries to save her favorite table and collapses from smoke inhalation (and let’s say Chestnut [the horse] dies trying to save her because of a deep relationship that took place entirely off screen).

Han is able to escape, but the smoke seriously damages his vocal cords, causing him to relearn to speak in a non-stereotypical accent.

Max and Caroline weren’t in the restaurant because they were at the Water Department paying a delinquent water bill on their apartment. Their horrible plumbing and leakage jokes take on a tragically ironic note when they realize the extent of the diner disaster.

Max has to take a new job somewhere else because she can’t afford to wait for the diner to be rebuilt. Caroline joins her because she is too distraught at the loss of her beloved Chestnut.

The Garrett Morris character escapes unscathed, because that man is a survivor.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Total: ¥60,428.43

A dozen people liked my comment so far, which is pretty good for me. My most-liked post was the one-word response to an A.V. Club commentary on the longevity of “30 Rock” — banjo.

#nbcfail: Complaints about NBC’s Olympics coverage reach new heights

NBC Live bug during Vancouver Games

“Live – NBC” Something West Coast viewers saw only briefly during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. For this year’s London games, seeing such a thing may almost be a mirage.

During the Calgary Winter Games in 1988, I remember the announcer for ABC (I want to say Jim McKay) explaining to the audience watching at home how, even though the event was live, there could be brief seconds of delay as the feed is uplinked from Canada and downlinked from orbiting satellites to local stations. I believe the point was that ABC was making was that the coverage was as live as technically possible.

Contrast that with NBC’s coverage of the London Summer Games, where they’re largely sticking with their “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!” mantra. That motto didn’t work for summer reruns in 1997 and it doesn’t work for covering an immense, live sporting event in an age of Facebook and Twitter.

With the London Games fully underway, an old sport of sorts has taken off online — complaining about NBC’s ever-lackluster presentation of the Olympics. As this Associated Press article indicates, critics and supporters alike will point out that this isn’t a new event, but the increasing use of social networking has bolstered criticisms and underscored NBC’s relatively poor broadcasting choices.

Social networking spoils NBC’s tape-delay plans because people around the world are sharing results as they happen. Unless people go out of their way to avoid the results, the results of key competitions are known hours before NBC gets around to broadcasting them over the air.

This was an issue during the Vancouver 2010 Games, but it seems like a much bigger issue today.

I’ve never been shy to criticize NBC’s broadcasting choices, especially those that force West Coast viewers to suffer tape delays for events happening in their time zone (like during Vancouver). In the past, the complaints just seemed to peter out after a while. Not so in London, where comments are shared and added to like flames of a fire.

Thus far, people watching the London Games have taken to using the #nbcfail tag on Twitter to help express their disdain of the coverage. The complaints have been wide-ranging, but have thus far focused on the delayed Opening Ceremonies on Friday and a 7- to 11-hour delay for Saturday’s 400 IM men’s swimming final featuring Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.

Sunday’s gripes seem to be less focused, with people carping about a bevy of events delayed into primetime and some tweeting about the reaction to #nbcfail. There’s also a Internet meme where people are jokingly tweeting about NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of historical events.

So what’s the solution? I think the Canadian model works well for a sports fan and a viewer — live coverage whenever possible and highlights when necessary. I’m not sure what current rightsholder CTV is doing, but the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would only air highlight packages during times when live coverage wasn’t feasible … but after airing the live coverage.

Looking at NBC’s position, they did fork out the dough to air the Games, so they’re obviously in the driver’s seat about their decisions. Their arguments include the fact that they can reach a greater audience and earn more ad dollars by airing taped events in primetime. That seems to be borne out by the record ratings for the first two days of the London Games.

They’ve also made fun of the Canadian model. I remember during the Athens Games in 2004 reading about an NBC producer touting the higher American ratings than their Canadian counterparts.

NBC has also countered critics by saying all the events are streaming live online. I appreciate that effort — although I question how much of an effort it really is, considering that Olympic Broadcasting Services provides feeds of every event anyway. Still, it’s a step up from the Vancouver Games, where most events were kept offline until they aired on the Peacock.

The service was fairly comprehensive during the Beijing Games, but I’m shut out this time — people need to prove they’re paying for an expanded cable or satellite subscription before they can get access. People with rabbit ears on their televisions are shut out.

One final point about NBC that people rarely seem to consider is the fact that NBC isn’t a monolithic network — they have to keep their local affiliates happy. I have no doubt that local stations’ desires to garner the largest audiences is also a factor in NBC’s scheduling. That’s also why I believe local news and key syndicated shows are still shown, despite the huge amount of Olympics events available.

It’s hard to say what the ultimate impact of #NBCfail will be. For now, the ratings tend to support NBC’s decisions regarding the tape-delayed experience they offer television viewers. However, perhaps #NBCfail will continue to point out that this should be a golden era of sports broadcasting and that a significant number of people are aware of better, live offerings than what NBC is serving up.

Opening Ceremonies concerns: While I’m still making my way through an over-stuffed Opening Ceremonies, I have to ding NBC Olympics for its decision to air ads instead of showing the Olympic Oaths (prior to the caldron lighting). Amid all of the symbolism of the Opening Ceremonies, having athletes, coaches and officials swear to the true spirit of sportsmanship is a huge one.

The Age of Australia identified the oath takers as UK taewondo athlete Sarah Stevenson, boxing referee Mik Basi for officials and canoeing coach Eric Farrell.

Also, according to the International Olympic Committee’s guide to Opening Ceremonies (PDF), every ceremony is to include 11 elements. The oaths are three of the elements. NBC should have made time for at least the athletes’ oath.

For the record, the oath for athletes is — “In the name of all competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.”

The network was also criticized for airing a pretaped interview instead of showing a portion of the ceremonies commemorating victims of terrorism (particularly the July 7, 2005, attacks in London).

Cutting the cord on cable

That was Comcastic

A Motorola cable box from Comcast. That was Comcastic.

It’s been about a week since I turned in my Comcast cable box and decided to rely on over-the-air TV broadcasts. It’s been an interesting experience with some small frustrations, but I don’t know if it will help accomplish my goals.

Toward the end of 2011, I decided that I would pull the plug on cable, but it took awhile to get up the moxie to actually do it. Ultimately, it will be nice to save about $23 per month and I was hoping to regain some valuable time. There were many weekends or late nights where the hours would slip away while I was catching up on shows recorded to my TiVo. Even now, I’m still behind on some public TV programs that I recorded last summer.

I didn’t drop cable because I don’t love TV, like those who scoff that they don’t even own a set. I love television, but I can spend way too much time with it. There are so many things that I need to be doing with my life and that glowing box is just too much of a lure for me.

By setting aside cable, I hope to rededicate my time to writing more, cleaning around the house and just getting outside more. I know that cutting down on TV watching will only get me part of the way to these goals.

I won’t be quitting cold turkey. I’ve discussed with my friends about watching missed shows on Hulu or downloading them through iTunes Store, but I also feel that watching TV on my computer isn’t the greatest experience. I also have a digital TV converter box that I’ve plugged into my living room set, so I can watch programs the old-fashioned way — live.

I do like the over-the-air experience since the transition to digital TV. When everything works, the picture is generally pretty clear and shows are presented the way they were intended to. Comcast or NBC affiliate KNVN have recently started showing shows with the images cropped to fit old-school 4:3 TVs, which is annoying when they are meant to be viewed in 16:9 letterbox.

Although I imagine some of my viewing will actually be live, there are still options to watch shows later. After doing some quick Internet research, I was able to find an easy way to connect the converter to my TiVo digital video recorder. That was a relief because I had spent a couple of hundred dollars for lifetime service and I didn’t want to set it aside (although I have recouped the value of that plan over the past two years).

While my specific Series 2 model was meant to work with satellite/cable and not antennas, I was advised that I could set up my TiVo for satellite service and trick the unit into thinking my converter was the satellite box.

It’s not perfect, but I can get most of the broadcast networks (except for ABC affiliate KRCR 7, which is just too far away). Over the past week, I’ve tried to find a good indoor antenna but the cheap $12 unit I bought two years ago still does a decent job. I actually made my own, based on Make magazine’s instructions for using old, metal coat hangers (although I had to substitute copper wire for the increasingly scarce type of hangers). That antenna works all right, and both were superior to the expensive flat antenna that I tried briefly and just as quickly returned.

At the very least, this change has me thinking of new and different projects and challenges (like when I can’t watch a show when I would like). It’s been exciting so far and we’ll see where we go from here.

Stadium games are nice, but NHL should go back to the pond

I’m watching the latest NHL Winter Classic on NBC. It’s been an enjoyable game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. While the annual New Year’s Day game has become quite the spectacle, I think the game only pays lip service to the tradition of playing hockey outdoors.

While I’ve only laced up hockey skates once (and just for a free skate), I’ve seen the allure of homemade outdoor hockey rinks in people’s backyards or on a frozen pond. I also recall interviews from NHL players talking about how the Winter Classic brings back memories of those backyard rinks.

Why not play an NHL game on a backyard-style rink?

It tickles my imagination to think about the NHL holding an outdoor game in a pond setting.   I’ve mentioned it to a handful of hockey fans over the years and they often love the sound of the idea.

While making accommodations for safety, TV and league rules, it would be fun to watch NHL players play an intimate game on a frozen pond somewhere up north.

I don’t even know if there should be boards — a line of snow marking the boundaries seems like enough. There should be some seating, but nothing like the accommodations for an arena or stadium. Also, a significant number of seats should go to the youth players who are learning the game on those makeshift rinks.

They shouldn’t eliminate the Winter Classic. I wouldn’t want to deprive the league or the host team of revenue, so I think the team that holds a pond game should also hold the stadium game. That way, the spectacle and crowd of the stadium game truly helps hockey get back to its roots with the pond game.

Also, the Winter Classic is a unique event that generates excitement for the NHL and hockey in the middle of a long season. Given the duration of an NHL season, there is enough time to have a stadium game and a pond game.

An aside: I will readily admit that the Winter Classic is geared to American audiences (although the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. airs the game as part of “Hockey Night in Canada”). The game has been played in American venues and features American teams. It’s irksome that much of the publicity around the game ignores the fact that the league has held outdoor Heritage Classics in Canada.

I don’t think NBC or the NHL should bend over backwards to mention the Heritage series, but it feels like it’s totally being ignored. For example, a USA Today preview of today’s Winter Classic speculated about possible future venues for the game. The irksome part for me was the writer mentioning possibly holding the game in Canadian venues (Toronto and Montreal). If you’re talking about Canadian venues, why not mention the two NHL outdoor games already played in Canada as part of the Heritage Classic series?

Given how few of these outdoor games there have been, it would be nice to have the two series considered together, especially for statistics and other such minutia.

The long road to Packer fandom via Chico

I’ve been following the Packers off and on for about 13 years. While the Super Bowl XLV has yet to be played, the past couple of weeks have been the most exciting for me Packers-wise as Chico celebrates native Aaron Rodgers’ success as Green Bay’s quarterback.
My first big experience with the Packers came in 1998 when they faced off against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. The team was training at my college, UC San Diego. As the co-news editor of the college paper, I wanted to make sure we covered this fairly significant event.
The only hurdle and it was a doozy — the NFL didn’t particularly want to give a college newspaper access to the facility (especially since we were asking for permission during the week of the game). To be fair, the league didn’t want to give anyone access without permission. Crews had wrapped the chainlink fence around the track-and-field facility with black tarp.
To make a long story short, the paper staff launched “Operation Packer Tracker.” What was envisioned as a James Bond-esque plan to successfully take the photo and make a getaway, was resolved simply when the photo editor walked to an elevated position on public property and shot into the leased facility. The photo was a nondescript shot of the team on the field with a cherrypicker cart in the air. I was excited that we were able to get it.
My first professional gig was working at a small newspaper in Upper Michigan. One of the odd quirks of where I lived is that we had access to both Packers and Detroit Lions games on TV. If you had to choose, the Packers were usually the better choice considering how the Lions have been mired in mediocrity for a decade.
For those four years, I watched a decent amount of Packers games. I didn’t really become a fan, although my boss for most of those years was a diehard cheesehead.
Despite my lukewarm feelings towards the Pack, it was still a huge honor to take the tour of Lambeau Field in Green Bay in 2004 (it was just a little down the road on U.S. Highway 41). It was pretty cold and I could get an idea of how the frozen tundra moniker came about. I still have the 2004 Media Guide as a momento of the experience (the Brett Farve section was 25 pages long).
Less than a year later, I was on my way to Chico while Aaron Rodgers was on his way to the NFL after being selected in the 2005 draft. I’ve been impressed how Chico has embraced its hometown hero with his alma maters holding spirit days and Packers displays throughout the city. Everything, including media coverage, been a little overwhelming at times, but it’s hard to deny the mounting excitement. Being in this mini-maelstrom has been far more exciting than watching in Michigan or even trying to get that photo in San Diego.
Despite the outpouring of Packers backing, Chico’s not totally in the bag for Green Bay. There are still a lot of Raiders jerseys (even someone wearing a Seattle Seahawks sweatshirt). Some people are rooting for the Steelers or freely express less-than-favorable opinions of Rodgers. This easygoing and mostly welcoming nature is one of my favorite things about fandom in the United States.
Although I’m not ready to doff a foam block of cheese, I’ve enjoyed watching the Packers over the years, especially this run to the Super Bowl. Win or lose, Aaron Rodgers has forged a connection between cities and fans 2,200 miles apart.

Tech failures: FLO’s mobile TV doesn’t go far in Chico

FLO TV unavailable
I haven’t been convinced that mobile television will catch on in the United States, but the tech demo for FLO TV doesn’t help sell the service for Chicoans.

Looking at the FLO display at a local discount store, one round purple sticker stood out — “Service not available in this area.” With one stroke, FLO undermines its key feature — the ability to watch TV on the go (channels include mobile versions of NBC, FOX, Adult Swim and others). Without a signal, you’re paying $200 for a small box that doesn’t do anything. In addition, there’s a $5/mo. subscription fee.

The sales clerk noted the service is unavailable, but also said a friend was able to get a signal in part of town. The coverage map shows some areas south of town and in the foothills can get a signal from the Yuba City area. While there appears to be decent coverage in metropolitan areas, there’s currently no FLO service between Yuba City and Eugene, Ore.

Although mobile TV appears to be popular in other countries, I think
those services are free over-the-air signals and not a subscription

Failed tech demos aside, I think people will stick with streaming video sites like YouTube or whatever sites they can reach over a regular broadband cell connection. The same goes for Sirius XM’s portable TV offering via satellite — the range has to be better than for FLO, but its similar monthly fee for a limited service is probably a dealbreaker.