Tagged: cord cutting

Mad Men Relics Will Go to the Smithsonian

Mad Men props and costumes are going to the Smithsonian (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Mad Men props and costumes are going to the Smithsonian (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).

The final seven episodes from the “seventh” season of Mad Men will begin to air next Sunday night on AMC—and begin streaming on Monday for cord cutters like me. As the program wrapped production, the producers donated many of the props and costumes from the series to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

Brett Zongker from the AP reports…

Curators at the Smithsonian were particularly interested in “Mad Men’s” real 1960s-period relics, from cigarette cartons and liquor bottles to shaving kits and tooth brushes that were used in the show, along with costumes that were recreated for the period. Some objects, including Draper’s suit, will be featured in an exhibit on American culture slated for 2018.

Relics from a television series ending up at the Smithsonian reminded me of my friend Derek and the time he worked as a docent at the Paley Center—formerly known as the Museum of TV and Radio and sometimes referred to as the Museum of TV and Television. When he would greet visitors, informing them that they can request to watch almost any TV program from the history of the medium, many visitors would ask to instead see props and costumes from television shows. One common request, he told me, was to see The Puffy Shirt from Seinfeld.. He would inevitably disappoint everyone when he informed them that, although patrons could watch the episode at the museum, the museum did not have the shirt or any similar objet. That’s because the shirt is at the Smithsonian.


I always found that curious because the Smithsonian Museum of American History is the closest thing we have in the US to an official national museum and ministry of culture, and this was an almost official endorsement of television as part of our national heritage.

By the way, those in New York can already indulge in the world of Mad Men at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria until mid-June. However, you’re too late to get a $19.69 prix-fixe, “era-appropriate” lunch special for Mad Men Dining Week.

Unlike the seemingly continual Restaurant Week, this special was only good for a single week.

El Mundial with an Antenna

Every cord cutter could resort to watching the World Cup games, en español, on Univision’s website. But starting after July 4, after the Round of 16, cord cutters had to find another way because Univision now requires viewers to authenticate with a cable TV subscription.

However, if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can watch the games the old fashioned way, over the air using an antenna.

ABC aired today’s Belgium–Argentina game, over the air, and in New York, I found the game on channel 7.1. Today’s late game, between Netherlands and Costa Rica, was on ESPN only so I had to find it on Univision’s broadcast channel. In New York, I had remembered that the channel was on 41 in the old analog days. I expected to find the digital channel on 41.1, but that’s not what you get in New York City. The Wikipedia article on WXTV had some information about the digital channel, but I had to get creative and search the proverbial dial. I found there were two feeds, one in 480-line SD and one in 1080-line HD.

Signal Channel
Standard Definition, 480 lines 68.2
High Definition, 1080 lines 40.1

As I’ve said before, we cord cutters need to stick together.

Greatest Sports Month

Since I stopped paying for a multichannel television subscription, it’s been really hard to follow sports. This month, I’ve really noticed the absence of professional, spectator sports because it looks like this could be the greatest sports month ever.

Usually, October is every American sports fan’s favorite month. NHL hockey is just getting started. The NBA is about to start in a matter of weeks, and there are preseason games to watch. The NFL and college football seasons are each in their second month and are just getting interesting. And, my personal favorite, baseball is in full-blown postseason mode.

But this month, there’s even more sports to watch. Last week, a ton of people watched a horse finish fourth. The Stanley Cup Finals finished hours ago with a Los Angeles team defeating a New York team for the NHL title. The NBA Finals feature two of the winningest teams of the last decade, the Heat and the Spurs. Tennis fans have not one, but two, two, two grand-slam tournaments to watch: the French Open and Wimbledon. Baseball is winding down its first half, setting up the races that will remain with us throughout the summer. And if that wasn’t enough, then there’s the FIFA Men’s World Cup!

Best of all, with all these great sports to follow, none of them are college or NFL football games. This really is the greatest sports month!

  1. Brad Adgate agrees that June is the best month for sports, especially for attracting television audiences and said as much last month.

The Coming Revolution in Cable and Why We Won’t Cut the Cord

In my New Technologies class, one of the recurring topics we’ve covered is that of disruptive innovations. I did not use the Clayton Christensen text as the basis of this discussion, primarily because Christensen seems a bit too optimistic about the role that disruptive innovations can have in creating new markets and new players. Instead, I felt that Tim Wu’s The Master Switch was a more complete discussion of potential disruptions such as telephone, radio, and the Internet because it not chronicled how these and other technologies disrupted existing markets but also how they were consolidated anew.

Cable TV: From Community to Commerce

Once a grassroots technology, cable television is an example of a technology on the cusp of a disruption. The cable industry emerged as a community-oriented project in the 1940s, known as Community Antenna Television, that gave television set owners in remote locations access to broadcast signals necessary to make television a worthwhile product.[1] Hardware is essentially useless unless you have enough software. By the 1960s, the broadcasters saw cable as a threat to their livelihood and convinced the FCC to block it in all but the smallest markets. Meanwhile, policy wonks were enamored with cable television because it offered an alternative to broadcast television. Television viewers could be liberated from the dependence of watching television via scarce and tightly controlled radio waves. They could access more specialized, relevant than anything that the broadcast networks could ever offer.[2]

By the 1970s, cable television was hardly a disruptive medium. Ted Turner had pioneered a way to distribute his Atlanta-based UHF station to a nationwide audience, via satellite. While this was a truly innovative strategy for starting a superstation that could rival broadcast networks, its programming strategy was actually less ambitious than that of the broadcasters. The superstation WTBS aired off-network syndicated programming, such as older sitcoms and movies, and live coverage of Atlanta Braves and Hawks games.[3]

The Threat of Internet and Cord Cutters

As cable television has evolved to “multichannel television” as it has included direct broadcast satellite for the better part of twenty years, new Internet-connected television sets and over-the-top devices appear as disruptive innovations for multichannel television, possibly encouraging “cord cutters” to sever the ties with cable and satellite suppliers and their high bills once and for all. Derek Thompson has challenged that idea because he sees the technology titans, namely Apple, Google, and Microsoft, not as agents of change because they simply don’t care for unbundling specific content from the lucrative packages that net multichannel video providers their fortunes. As Thompson writes, “Apple has realized that it doesn’t have to beat Comcast and Verizon to own your living room. It only has to join them.” The tech giants are more likely than not partner with multichannel television providers than to challenge them.

The Smartphone Sustains the Wireless Carriers

Any television device that Apple could market will likely fall short of disrupting the multichannel television industry and will likely resemble what we’ve seen with smartphones. While the smartphone has clearly been a wonderful innovation, it is, to use Christensen’s terminology, a “revolutionary” one because it introduced an unexpected innovation but one that ultimately sustains the existing market. That’s what we saw with the iPhone and with its chief rival Android. Charles Arthur explains that Android actually strengthens the wireless carrier industry. He writes, “Google wants as many carriers as possible to sell Android phones – that’s how you get market share, and because the phones are ad-supported the more the better; it defrays the cost of software development faster. The business model for the carriers is exactly as it was before Android: sell a variety of phones from a variety of handset makers at a variety of prices. No disruption there.” Despite its significant marketshare, Android has not disrupted the smartphone industry, much less the wireless telephone industry.

The wireless carriers have benefitted greatly from the innovation of the smartphone. It has allowed them to sell new services, such as lucrative data plans and unlimited text messaging plans while retaining the legacy voice services that make up a significant portion of a consumer’s monthly bill. In the case of the iPhone, Apple might control the hardware and the software at the expense of the carriers’ tight control, but the wireless carriers are also benefitting from expanding revenues.

“No Disruption There”

As the smartphone has strengthened the finances of the wireless carriers, I expect that any new television product Apple introduces will actually strengthen the position of the multichannel television providers. In the case of the multichannel television providers, they might lose control over the hardware necessary to deliver video to the television set, but they will still be the beneficiaries of such any innovation that the tech companies develop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any new Apple TV device to first work with Verizon FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse, since there’s already a partnership between Apple and those companies in the wireless space, and then to the others, such as TimeWarner Cable, Cox, and Comcast. I don’t know what that device is, all I know is that it will be revolutionary, but, Charles Arthur would say, “no disruption there.”

The above links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.

  1. Mullen, Megan. The Rise of Cable Programming in the United States: Revolution or Evolution? University of Texas Press, 2003. 32–38.  ↩
  2. Mullen 66.  ↩
  3. Hilmes, Michele. Only Connect: A Cultural History of Broadcasting in the United States. 3rd ed. Wadsworth Publishing, 2010. 299.  ↩

The Tablet-TV Connection

Forrester Blogs:

As much as Samsung and others have promoted “Smart TVs,” the reality is that consumers with tablets think their tablets are even smarter, and at least some of the time prefer to watch the content from their small device on the big screen.

If I’m going to watch something alone, I’ve been choosing the iPad apps, especially Hulu Plus, over the TV. Call me a miser, but I’m trying to save electricity!