Jim Louderback

January 25, 2011

Zombie Cable Channels Seek Second Life online

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , — Jim @ 7:51 am

Before the internet, failed magazines often wouldn’t disappear completely; they would just be converted into something else. When I was at Ziff Davis in the ’90s, we turned a bunch of magazines into "newsletters." We used to call them zombie-rags: even though they were dead, they still shambled about for a few months, dropping staff like necrotic flesh, until they were finally put out of their misery (usually by chopping off the head — or in this case firing the EIC and the publisher).

When the internet first started savaging magazines, the "newsletter" exit morphed into the "website" exit. Surprisingly, though, becoming a web-only magazine wasn’t always a death sentence. Sure, most of them became zombies, but more than a few were reanimated into healthy media properties. I saw this firsthand, as I helped midwife PC Magazine online while print turned zombie (a transition I attempted to forestall, but ended up accelerating).

When done right, the internet has become a very valuable second chance for a wide range of ex-print publications. And now we’re beginning to see the same thing happen with TV.

Ten years ago, failing cable channels would be either ruthlessly terminated, rebranded or subsumed into more successful offerings. I ran content during the launch of the cable channel ZDTV, played a big role in its transition to TechTV, but ultimately the network was devoured by Comcast’s G4. Apart from our great distribution network of 50 million+ households, barely anything remains.

Even today, failing cable channels still get morphed or mutilated. Discovery Health is now Oprah’s channel; Fine Living has become Cooking; and Toon Disney is now XD, focused on tweener boys. But the internet is about to change this rebranding mania. Because just as the "website" replaced the "newsletter" for magazines, failing cable channels can now turn to the web for a new lease on life.

WealthTV did it first — announcing last week that it’ll be available on the popular Roku set-top box for $3 a month. With very little carriage to show beyond overbuilders and Charter, the company has clearly given up on cable distribution, and thrown its lot into the web-only world.

First, yes — but definitely not the last. I can think of a score or more struggling channels that could make the switch to pure-play internet within the next three years. And by going direct to consumers via the latest crop of set top boxes and smart TVs, survival is suddenly possible.

I don’t expect any channels from the major networks — at least at first. But once we see a few independent channels successfully make the transition, we’ll see more and more of them move to 100% online as well.

It’ll take a while, but history is definitely repeating itself. WealthTV is leading the way, but it’s just the first. Some of my likely suspects to follow include Cars.TV, ION, MavTV, Reelzchannel, Pets.TV, ALN and Funimation. Who do you think will follow WealthTV and go web-only? Put your guesses in the comments below.

January 10, 2011

FAIL: 19 Weirdest Products From CES 2011

The annual Consumer Electronics Show has come to an end, and along with all the cool new products, surprisingly there were even more wacked products on the show floor than usual.

We’ve wrapped up the wackiest, weirdest, most bizarre and biggest FAIL products from the show floor this year, guaranteed to surprise, delight and keep you LOLing and ROFLing with glee.

Here’s a partial list of our dubious winners:

Angry Birds – the board game: That’s right, soon you’ll be able to play an IRL version of Rovio’s Angry Birds. The pigs are running scared already. From Mattel

Nanda Home Tocky & Clocky: Having trouble getting up in the morning? Did your iPhone alarm clock fail at the worst possible time? Well these wacky alarm clocks just don’t take no for an answer. They bounce around, roll crazily on the floor, and basically offer more annoyance per square inch than a teething toddler.

Be A Head Case: Speaking of the iPhone – and just in time for the Verizon iPhone, this here’s an iPhone case designed for all you Bubbas out there. It includes a built in beer bottle opener – and a belt clip to disguise it!

iGrill: And what goes with beer better than charred meat? But not too charred (and not too rare either). This wireless meat probe from iDevices connects to your iPhone and lets you know just how hot your meat really is.

There’s tons more, including a couple of exercise toys that flog the dolphin even better than the Shake Weight, balls that you control with your iPhone, and even USB jewelry (so pimp).

WATCH the 19 Dumbest Products From CES 2011

January 5, 2011

Exclusive Video: 3D Camcorder from Sony – No Glasses Needed!

So far 3D has been a failure. The bulky glasses and expensive sets – not to mention the lack of content – have made it less than a savior for the CE industry.

But that all changed today at CES, as Sony released it’s new camcorder – a Handycam that lets just about anyone shoot 3D video.

This amazing Sony 3D camera lets you monitor your video in 3D without glasses. It’s the first ever camera to include 2 lenses, two image sensors and two complete processing paths! And it also makes it drop dead easy to create in 3D – now anyone can do it.

But what about editing? Our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Sony’s HDR-TD10 also includes a look at a new 3D editing device coming soon from Sony too. It’ll be available in April for $2,000!

Watch Exclusive Video of Sony’s 3D Camcorder, and See How It Works!

We’ll have much more from CES as the show progresses. For all the updates, bookmark our CES 2011 special report!

Amazing Device Turns Your iPhone Into a Car Stereo!

There are a wide range of ways to stream audio from your iPhone to your car stereo, from the mini-jack to bluetooth and more. But they all involve fumbling with a separate unit, which can be downright dangerous on the road.

Now there’s a better way! The new O’car actually makes your iPhone or iPod Touch an integral part of the stereo. You hop into the car, plug the iPhone into your head unit, and it turns into an automotive device – letting you listen to music, see GPS and use heads up navigation and much more.

A downloadable app integrates the phone’s OS and software into the head unit – and the iPhone actually swivels horizontally and vertically – this has to be seen to be believed! It also includes a 4×55 watt amp with a subwoofer control, and even supports multitasking (although we’re not sure how).

The unit will be available in the first quarter of 2011 for around $300

See the Amazing iPhone Car Stereo In Action!

CES Tablet-a-palooza!

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Jim @ 1:09 pm

This year at CES 2011, we expect everyone and their monkey to release new tablet-based computers designed to compete with Apple’s iPad. The flood started in advance, with Visio showing off its new tablet and phone over the weekend. But now that CES is about to begin, the new tablets are coming out in earnest.

It’s not the first time at the rodeo for both Toshiba and Lenovo, who unveiled their slick Android and Windows 7 tablets yesterday.

The first, from Lenovo, runs Windows 7, and comes on the heels of one of last year’s most blogged about product, Lenovo’s U1 iPad Killer – which was unceremoniously killed a few months later. This one offers similar convertible capabilities – it works as a win7 tablet, along with including a snap in keyboard that turns it into a notebook replacement. Lenovo’s releasing a wide range of tablet-style device here at the show, along with all-in-ones and more. But this one’s a pretty cool way to start

Exclusive Video of Lenovo’s New iPad Killer

Toshiba also has extensive tablet experience. They’ve been making stand-alone and keyboard convertible models for more than ten years, mostly running Windows for Pen – Microsoft’s failed early attempts to corner the tablet world.

Their new mystery model runs on the Gingerbread variant of Android, and includes an innovative display technology that makes the screen among the best we’ve seen. The tablet senses light, and provides on-the-fly image enhancement when the unit moves from low-light to bright lights. It has to be seen – and our video captures it perfectly

WATCH Toshiba’s Innovative Screen Technology Enhance the Mystery Tablet Display


We’ll have much more from CES as the show progresses. For all the updates, bookmark our CES 2011 special report!

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