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The Rise and Rise of A Kingpin

18 Feb, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

When I stopped into a grocery store on the way home from work Friday night, I got into line just in time to hear the cashier telling the customer at the front, "I never go to the movies any more. I just wait until it comes out on DVD."

I suspect that sums it up for a lot of people. Movie theaters force us to depend on time blocks and pricey tickets so, most of the time, it's more convenient to wait for the home video release.

But it goes beyond that, to broadcast TV shows coming out on disc as well. And it appears the time from broadcast to disc is getting ever shorter -- witness NBC's releasing the first six episodes of "Kingpin" on a three-disc set before the last of the episodes even airs (although ShopNBC.com does note buyers won't receive the set for eight to 10 weeks after ordering).

The show is a great example of why I'm a broadcast executive's worst nightmare. I kissed off cable after the idiots at Time Warner came out to cut off a deadbeat neighbor and cut off my service at the same time. (The make-good was a coupon for a free InDemand pay-per-view movie. Big whoop.) Bye-bye Time Warner, hello DirecTV!

But, since DirecTV charges an extra $5.99 per month for a slate of local broadcast channels, I don't buy them. Broadcast programming is generally so much less than compelling that I seldom watch it. I have an aerial antenna I can hook up for any local programming I really need to see -- which is next to nothing.

DirecTV recently gave subscribers three free months of local broadcast content, as a sort of loyalty reward but also an effort to get us hooked on the convenience. The promotion ran through Feb. 2, the night "Kingpin" debuted. So I did watch the first episode on KNBC. But by the following Friday I had learned I could watch the show Friday nights on Bravo (and I've only just learned it's a spicier version than the one that airs on NBC).

I'm enjoying the show, although it's not as good as HBO's "The Sopranos," which it was meant to challenge (same theme and time slot). Cable networks have already figured out they can offset production costs by putting shows like all of HBO's series, Fox's "24" and "The Shield" and Sci-Fi Channel's "Taken" on disc as soon as the first season ends. NBC seems to be trying to follow that lead, but I'm not sure it will work for a broadcast show.

For one thing, "The Sopranos" became a "water cooler show" -- one people talk about around the office water cooler Monday mornings -- almost immediately. "Kingpin" is cutting its chances of that happening in half by reaching half its viewers Friday nights. By the time Monday morning rolls around, we have a whole weekend's worth of other stuff to talk about.

I'm also getting increasingly spoiled to not having commercial interruptions. So I can't really say I cried yesterday when AOLTW announced that subsidiary Turner Broadcasting System's CEO, Jamie Kellner, is a lame duck. After all, he's the guy who told Cable World magazine that consumers who go to the bathroom or kitchen during commercials are stealing.

Well, Jamie, you caught me, but I've gone straight. My bathroom and snack breaks are guilt-free because I no longer watch broadcast television. Over the long weekend I spent my viewing time catching up on "The Shield" -- on DVD.



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