Monday, September 12, 2005

Podcasts, IP TV, and Leoville

There's a revolution going on in broadcast entertainment these days. I believe we're seeing a shift from conventional TV, radio, and cable to a form of grassroots user broadcasting via the web. Younger people these days trend towards less TV, and more internet. If you fall asleep, you'll miss it. A lot of my favorite programming I get directly from the web. And they're all freely produced and distributed. Here's a list of some of the good stuff that's available.

1. Podcasts
Radio is alive and well. Podcasts are similar to recorded radio programs that you can download and listen to. The best and most popular podcast is TWiT - This Week in Tech, hosted by former TechTV personalities Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton and others. Other good ones you can get are Ebert & Roeper Movie Reviews, Leo's own weekend tech radio show on KFI, and several NPR news shows. You can save a bunch of them on your portable mp3 player and listen to them while taking the bus to work, or on long plane flights.

2. Online Tech Shows
Once upon a time, there was this channel called TechTV that was all about computers and technology. Alas, it was too good to be true as the channel was sold and broken up last year. But good things that die eventually come back in another form. Lately there has been a renaissance in tech-oriented shows that you can now download for free over the web. Check out Digital Life TV, NerdTV, among others. These hardworking folks sacrifice their time and energy to produce quality programming for the rest of us who's tired of the lowest common denominator programs they show on cable. I love these guys.

3. Bittorrent Downloads
Technically, these are TV programs that people record as video files and make them downloadable from the web. Missed an episode of The Simpsons? Living in an area where they don't show your favorite show? No problem, with some luck you can download your favorite shows using the revolutionary Bittorrent utility. Bittorrent works by sharing the bandwidth among all the users downloading the file. It is the great equalizer and can help promote a good show that's not widely available. If I'm living in a country where the Canadian-produced Call for Help isn't available, I can still download and watch it through Bittorrent. I can even envision a future where TV programs are distributed through the web, foregoing cable and network TV entirely. Wouldn't that be great? At least until they spoil it with commercials.

I find the story of the former TechTV personalities, particularly everyone's pal, Leo Laporte very interesting. This guy is an icon in the industry. He makes complicated tech topics easy to understand. And this guy genuinely loves what he's doing. I'm amazed at his energy level and how he has the time to do so many different projects.

His comeback story is amazing. Despite being one of the most loved TV personalities, his program Call For Help was canceled and he was eventually fired after Comcast acquired TechTV. I'm thinking the reason was because Comcast wanted to focus more on game-oriented shows, and dumb down the programming to have more mass appeal. The result was a whole channel, G4TV focused on the lowest common denominator audience composed of gaming/low attention span teenagers. While all this was going on, Leo had to move the Call For Help show to Canada and record a weekend radio program in LA, in effect being exiled from his regular US audience. The reason I like this story is because it proves you can't put a good man down. Just this past month, G4 bought the rights to show the Canadian version of Call For Help in the US. Apparently, some executives there felt they needed Leo back. Ahhh... sweet vindication. I'm watching Call For Help and it is a breath of fresh air. We now have at least one entertaining and intelligent tech show on cable. And I actually learn something new in every episode. I have no doubt in the future we will eventually see Leo back in a US-produced show. When it happens, the whole tech world will welcome him back.

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