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Which New Pilots Do You Think Will Face A Crash Landing?

PremonitionIt’s not very politically correct, but I’ve always been fascinated by dead pools. I’ve never actually participated in one, but there is something about wagering on life and death that appeals to the degenerate gambler in me.

Since I’m pretty sure that participating in a dead pool is illegal in San Francisco, I suppose that I will have to live with the next best thing, dead TV pools. Marketing Shift is putting on a contest where they are asking readers to try and pick ten of the new shows, that you think will be off the air by the end of the fall season.

The winner of the contest will be the first person to have all ten of their picks canceled. The winner will receive a little bit of link love from MarketingShift.com, but the loser ends up with an internship at Cat World the CW ;)

If you want to see a list of all the candidates for the pool, you’ll find it on Marketing Shift’s website, but here are my picks for their first annual TV dead pool contest.

1.) K-Ville – I already have a season pass for this, but even though I think I’ll like it, I don’t see it taking off. Hurricane Katrina may be something that people feel connected to, but I don’t think that it will be enough to keep this show on the air, two years later.

2.) Chuck – I caught the pilot on this one and it seems like too much of a niche program to catch on in the mainstream. I’ll be tuning in until they kill this one, but I think this will be one of the first victims of poor ratings and too little patience by the studios.

3.) Pushing Daises – Admittedly, this one looks intriguing to me, but I think that Disney’s family angle will keep this show from being popular. If it was on HBO, I’m sure that this dark comedy would be very successful, but on the Disney Channel ABC it will end up too watered down to survive.

4.) Kitchen Nightmares – I can’t understand why any of the food shows are popular, but this wannna be Wolfgang Puck will go no where with his temper tantrums and scripted outbursts.

5.) Life – This one is just a little too quirky for me to believe that it will survive. If this was on the USA Network or FX, I could see them carving out a niche cable audience, but even NBC won’t be desperate enough to keep this around for too long.

6.) Caveman – This is one of the shows that I’m really looking forward to. The Geico ads were creative to begin with, but I’m also a fan of product placement over the 30 second ads. There seemed to be a lot of initial interest in the show, but I’m worry that it will get pulled after reading some sub-par reviews. I hope I’m wrong about this one, but only think the Caveman joke will go so far with primetime audiences.

7.) Life Is Wild – Between The Office and the upcoming US adaption of Coupling, we’ve seen strong interest in US based versions of UK programmes. Even though this will be an adaption of the hit UK drama Wild at Heart, I’m still not convinced that it will translate well for US based audiences. Since this one will be on the CW, it could always stick around even if no one watches, but I think that the CW can get better ratings with King of the Hill reruns and we’ll see them drop it.

8.) Viva Laughlin – This is another UK based show that is being produced for a US audience. It does have the very popular Hugh Jackman in the show, but somehow I don’t think the US is quite ready for a musical dramedy. I understood when Comedy Central picked Reno to make fun of Cops, but does anyone really believe that people want to watch a show based out of Laughlin?

9.) Samantha Who? – I’ll admit to having tuned into Married with Children episodes just to see Christina Applegate (Heck, I’ll even admit to watching her movie Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead), but now that she is starting to get older, I don’t see this one having the sex appeal to keep bringing audiences back.

10.) Moonlight – I’m a HUGE horror movie buff, but even this one looks cheesy to me. To make matters worse, CBS has put the show on their Friday night spot. This isn’t a bad time slot if you’re Numbers and are appealing to a baby boomer audience, but horror fans tend to go out on the weekends and aren’t going to stick around for something that looks this flimsy.

As a special bonus pick, I’m going to name Carpoolers as the season’s surprise hit. There may be other shows that end up getting better ratings, but I think that this one is going to do much better than the expectations. In about two to three years, it will be just as popular as the Office.

Davis Turns 2.0

When Opportunity Knocks

It’s hard to believe, but today was a bittersweet anniversary for me. Secretly, I never thought I would make it, but it was a year ago that I made my first post on DavisFreeberg.com. Before starting the site, I had been covering digital technology periodically, on Thomas Hawk’s excellent blog, but after getting a taste for blogging, I took Tom’s advice and used this opportunity to help find my voice.

During the last year, there have been times where I have been right and there have been times where I’ve been wrong, but through it all, I’ve tried to do my best to call things how I see them (regardless of the details available.) Looking back, I have few regrets, but do wish I would have posted more.

The technological revolution that we are experiencing will be an important part of history. I have so many thoughts about the renaissance that we are in, but struggle getting them all down in writing. There are so many companies and stories and mind blowing things that deserve more attention, but sometimes I get lost in the details. Over the next year, I’m hoping to write more and explore new topics, that my readers are interested in.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts over this past year, but it’s been my readers that have made this such a special experience. Whether you’ve commented or linked to me or just stopped by and liked what you’ve read, thank you for participating. Your feedback is what has shaped the site and it plays an important role in the future of this community. Thank you to everyone who has put up with my ramblings over the last year. I hope that the next 12 months will be just as exciting, as the first.

Skate Or Die Inside Of San Francisco’s Jungle

If At First You Don't SucceedIf you click through the photo, you can use portals to see the jump in action.

Last week, I was walking through the city, when I heard this strange drumbeat coming from one of the nearby blocks. It was a loud series of clacking noises followed by cheering and pandemonium. I wasn’t sure what it was, but was glad that I had taken my camera with me on this trip. As I arrived at the block, I saw a large group of kids watching another kid skateboard in front of the Levi’s building near Union Square. There were probably about 30 kids in total and they had only been there for a few minutes at best.

I was never very good at skateboarding, but I could tell that the kid they were watching, was really talented. He was a natural, every move made it look like the board was an extension of him. While I was watching, he was trying to jump at least 10 feet worth of stairs, without landing head first into rush hour traffic. If I was this kid’s dad, I would have been totally freaking out, but as an innocent by-stander with a camera, I was more than happy to start snapping off shots of the blood and guts successful landing on his amazing jump.

Each time the kid jumped, the crowd would give him more encouragement. After watching him eat it three times, I thought he was ready to give up, but finally he landed another one and when he did, the response was amazing. You would have thought the kids were about to start rioting. Immediately, all of the kids started banging their skateboards on the sidewalk chanting again and again. It was a very surreal experience, it was way outside my normal day to day life in the city. It was as if I stumbled onto a lost tribe in the middle of San Francisco.

Eventually, the kids attracted the attention of security and had to take off, but watching them celebrate this accomplishment, reminded me of what it was like to be young again. They really weren’t hurting anyone with their skating, but you can bet that it was a lawsuit waiting to happen for the property managers. It seemed strange to be able to see both sides for once.

When I talked with the kids, they were really excited that I got pictures, but made me promise that if I sold the photos, that the proceeds had to go to them. I don’t know why they thought I would be able to sell them, but they must have taken one look at my Canon Rebel and thought that I knew what I was doing. My images are not exactly stock photography quality, but these kids were so excited by what they had seen, it didn’t matter. You should have seen their faces when I told them about Zooomr marketplace. I asked them what I should charge and they wanted college savings money, but eventually I talked them down to $100. It’s not enough to pay for any future hospital bills, but it would at least be enough for the kid to buy a helmet. If you are interested in licensing the images of this death defying act, feel free to send me a Zmail and we can work out the details.

You Got Questions – We’ve Got High Priced Accessories

America’s finest news source, the Onion, took a stab at financial analysis on RadioShack’s stock and concluded that even the CEO of RadioShack can’t figure out how they are still in business. The article is packed full of gems, but here are a few of my favorite choice quotes from the piece.

-”"Even the name ‘RadioShack’—can you imagine two less appealing words placed next to one another?” Day said. “What is that, some kind of World War II terminology? Are ham radio operators still around, even? Aren’t we in the digital age?”"

–”One of Day’s theories about RadioShack’s continued solvency involves wedding DJs, emergency cord replacement, and off-brand wireless telephones. Another theory entails countless RadioShack gift cards that sit unredeemed in their recipients’ wallets. Day has even conjectured that the store is “still coasting on” an enormous fortune made from remote-control toy cars in the mid-1970s.”

-”It’s like walking into your grandpa’s basement. You always expect to see something cool, but it never delivers.”

-”I know one thing,” Day continued. “If Sony and JVC start including gold-tipped cable cords with their products, we’re screwed.”

Even though the article is a parody, there is still a little bit of truth to it. Last month, Moody’s told investors that RadioShack wasn’t just selling junk inside of the store and despite the company’s recent stock rebound, they still face plenty of challenges as they complete their restructuring.

I don’t normally shop at RadioShack, but the last few times I have gone in there, I haven’t been very impressed. Sure they have plenty of gadgets, but they are never the kick ass cutting edge gadgets, they are the cheap plastic gadgets that someone might buy, but wouldn’t really need. Things like wireless doorbells or $80 adapters that recharge your cell phone, even though you can use a $2 USB cord instead.

What I do use RadioShack for though is scoring accessories that I’ve forgotten about, but need at the very last minute. I may end up paying more for new batteries or an ethernet cord, but at least they have it and it’s usually convenient to find a Radio Shack location.

I would actually shop at RadioShack more, except everytime I go into their store, they try and hard sell me on something I don’t need. Whether it’s their “gold tipped cable” cords or a more expensive version of what I’m really looking for, their sales associates have always been very aggressive with the suggestive sale. This probably helps to keep themselves in business, but as a consumer who typically knows what he wants, it’s a huge turn off when I think about going into one of their stores.

Milton Friedman 1912-2006 – A Hero Passes

I haven’t had a lot of heroes in my life, but Milton Friedman was one of them. When I first started studying economic thought, his free market principals played a huge influence in my life and it was with great sadness that I learned of his passing today. While I have no doubt that the power of his ideas will live on long past his passing, he will still be missed.

“A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today’s less well off to become tomorrow’s rich, and in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a richer and fuller life.”

RedBox Still RedHot

On a day where Blockbuster Video had to admit that they were forced to close 343 net stores over the last quarter, Coinstar reported their earnings and gave the investment community a very different outlook on the current state of the DVD kiosk industry.

In short the DVD kiosk industry is strong. Redbox has done exceptionally well this year and over the long term, Coinstar expressed confidence that Redbox can get to over 10,000 locations in the next 3 – 5 years.

Over the last quarter, Redbox has added approximately 200 new kiosks to their program. For kiosks that have been open for over a year, they’ve seen an astonishing 147% improvement in rentals from just a year ago. This is up from the already amazing 105% same store growth that was announced last quarter.

If you look at Redbox’s progress, over the first 9 months of 2006, Coinstar reports that they rented 13.8 million DVDs with the average rental period being 1.5 nights for most consumers. Due to stronger then expected demand for DVD kiosk rentals, Redbox now expects to show a $1 – $1.5 million loss for all of 2006, compared to previous estimates that had placed that number at closer to a loss of $5 million.

With over 900 DVD kiosks having been rolled out over the last 9 months, Redbox now has approximately 1,600 kiosks nationwide. Of these 1,600 machines, approximately 1,000 are located in McDonald’s restaurants and the other 600 are currently, either being tested or in the process of being rolled out by 30 other merchants.

Of these merchants two particularly important relationships were forged over the last quarter. The first was with Walgreens who is currently testing 38 Redbox machines in Houston and Chicago. The second and more significant partner is Walmart who has been testing Redbox vending machines in their Atlanta based stores. While Coinstar stopped short of giving the exact number of Walmart stores that were participating in the tests, by doing a little online sleuthing, I was able to find over 20 Georgia Walmart locations that were listed on the Redbox website.

If these tests with Walmart go well, it would be a huge development for Redbox. With 2006 largely turning out to be a testing phase for most retailers, 2007 is increasingly begining to look like it will be the year that the DVD kiosk begins to go mainstream. Retailers are now showing clear demand for the advantages of bringing DVD rental into their stores and after Walmart tried and failed with their own DVD by mail program, it will be interesting to see if they embrace the kiosk as an alternative way to provide DVD rentals in their stores. While the Walmart program is still very much in a test phase, Coinstar said that they expected that they could see a decision on whether or not an expansion will happen between November 2006 – February 2007.

The DVD kiosk is in an excellent position to take advantage of the misfortunes of the video store. While the selection at a kiosk isn’t the same as a full retail store and certainly isn’t anywhere close to the same as the 65,000 DVDs that Netflix offers, the technology is here to do burn on demand DVDs and I believe that this will be the future of the DVD rental. In the near term, the DVD kiosk will offer short head content that is popular with many consumers and DVD by mail will offer the longtail content that I personally prefer, but as DVD burning gets closer to becoming a reality and if Redbox or any of the other kiosk providers ever combines DVD kiosks with DVD by mail, we will see a very different business model present itself.

DVDXpress has already announced that they are experimenting with a subscription rental business model and with Coinstar owning an option to purchase their company over the next two years, I believe that we could also see Redbox adopt a similar strategy. If the subscription model proves lucrative, it could not only put pressure on Blockbuster and Movie Gallery to innovate, but Netflix as well. With more and more rental options becoming a reality, the end result will be that the consumer will win most of all. While it’s exciting to see Redbox demonstrate such phenomenal growth, it’s even more exciting to realize that the company is still very young. As they move from 1,600 kiosks to 5,000 and then to eventually 10,000, it will be fascinating to watch the effect it has on the DVD industry.

The Subtle Advantages of Redbox’s DVD Kisoks

About 6 months ago, Byrus from the Daily Gadget, wrote a brief review of Redbox’s DVD rental machines in Colorado. Since that time, Redbox has made two major enhancements to their DVD rental program, so he went back and wrote an excellent update on his experience using the Redbox DVD machines. Over the last 9 months we’ve seen Redbox upgrade their older DVD vending machines from a capacity of 100 discs to 500 discs and we’ve seen them add support for online reservations. The combination of both of these enhancements has created a subtle advantage that kiosks have over Blockbuster and Netflix.

“Because you can rent and return anywhere, and you can rent online from any box this is a great service for travelers. You can rent a DVD on the way to the airport, watch it on the plane and return it when you land (if you are going somewhere that has a RedBox) just make sure you look up a location at the other end of the trip. Another option is to do the same during a road trip. You can even rent a new one at your next stop online. Try that with NetFlix or Blockbuster.”

Part of why I think Redbox has been so successful has been because they’ve been targeting communities one at a time, instead of trying to immedietely go national with their service. As their business expands, we’ll see Redbox spread to other cities, but by saturating a local market, they give their customers more rental options instead of just targeting a single location. This enables the company to offer more titles because they can put different new releases at different locations. It also makes it easier for customers to return their discs if they live or work near several different kiosks.

In reading through the review, I found it interesting to learn that Redbox has started renting television shows along with the new release movies that they are known for. While it’s entirely possible that they may have been offering television shows all along, at a cost of $1 per DVD and with most DVDs having four shows, you can go through an entire season of TV for only $6, if you are efficient in watching your rentals. This is a considerable cost savings over traditional video stores and iTunes, in addition to offering a significant time advantage over DVD by mail. While not everyone will want to binge on massive amounts of TV at once, I know that I enjoy watching a season of television from end to end vs. having to deal with cliff hangers all year long. One of my favorite things about Netflix has been my ability to go back and discover old television shows for the first time and while renting an entire season in one week sounds intense, I’ve always had a secret fantasy to try and relive an entire season of 24 over an actual 24 hour period.

I don’t believe that Redbox is going to replace the longtail experience that Netflix offers, but I do think that there are consumers, like Byrus, who appreciate the flexibility and value that a kiosk experience provides. My dream DVD experience would be to see Redbox combine the convenience of a DVD kiosk with an online DVD by mail subscription. Such a combination would give me the ability to have an all you can watch experience, but to also still have access to the longtail content that I crave. While, to date there have not been a lot of consumer reviews on Redbox, I have a feeling that as we see more and more locations deployed nationally, that we’ll see more positive experiences like the one that Byrus describes.

Watch Out For Ad-Hoc Networks

The first thing they taught me when I started taking business courses in college was that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Some may disagree with this statement, but even “free” things carries costs even if they are sometimes a bit abstract.

I guess I shouldn’t have been all that suprised to find out today that the two months I used “free WiFi” in my apartment may not have turned out to be free after all. At the time, I was fighting with Comcast and figured I could leech off of free hot spots to tide me over. For the most part, I didn’t think too much about the security issues associated with doing this, but after reading Q Daily News’ article on scammers using Ad-Hoc networks to get private information, I’m now quite nervous that I may have put sensitive data at risk.

After booting up his laptop and looking for a nearby WiFi network, Jason saw a number of “ad-hoc” networks that were pretending to be Tmobile or Starbuck hot spots. In the comments a reader reports that this could be an issue with people having their laptop set up improperly, so it might not necessarily be scammers coming after you, but if you see these ad-hoc networks, it’s probably not a good idea to be doing Google searches for your social security numbers on them.

Netflix Employees Thank Their IT Department

This is an interesting Netflix clip that I stumbled across on Google Video. It features a number of Netflix employees thanking their IT department for all of the help that they had been given. I found it interesting because it helped to put a face on some of the employees behind the company. When watching the clip, I almost get the feeling that it was a good bye video for one of their employees. It was posted on Google video with the title Netflix References and included the following text.

” I worked with our business leaders in HR, Operations, Finance and Customer Service to develop SLAs for IT. In a very short time, my … all » Helpdesk Team exceeded our SLAs and our customers loved us.
I look forward to the opportunity to create a similar team for your company.”

Robot Tells Reporter That Humans Taste Like Soylent Green

Thanks to TiVo I’ve seen every single Twilight Zone episode and one of my favorites is the ubber creepy episode To Serve Man. The episode features an alien race that promises to give away technology if humans will come visit them on their home planet. At the end of the episode we learn that To Serve Man is really the title of a cookbook. 8O

It may not be as creepy as the Twilight Zone, but NEC System technology was showing off a robot that they’ve trained to analyze wine by utilizing laser beams when the jounalist interviewing the robot put his hand in front of the sensor it told him that he tasted like prosciutto and that a cameraman tasted like bacon.

I’m always up for tasting a new wine, but I’m not sure that I want to be the one to verify the accuracy on this technology. Using a robot to digitally smell wine is certainly an interesting idea though and considering that they already they have professions where people train their senses to predict a good wine, using a computer to analyze wine from a chemical perspective makes a lot of sense.