The 2nd Screen Conundrum… Reviews

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The traditional TV industry (including cable) continues to display somewhat schizophrenic behavior when it comes to that ubiquitous 2nd screen. To be sure, operators and programmers alike are rushing to build and improve apps that give customers and viewers more content options. That's a good thing. But the keynote speech at the 2nd Screen Summit in L.A. this week served as a reminder that the same industry scrambling to do that whole “anytime, anywhere on any device” thing hasn't exactly been breaking any speed records in the process. That's to be expected. After all, this is complicated stuff, and everybody has turf to protect. In the keynote by Creative Visions chmn Robert Tercek was nothing if not blunt, as he took cable to task for its supposedly “milk toast” TVE offering, which he called “a half-hearted attempt… to take the air out of the sails of Internet companies that are disruptive.” Now nevermind that many cable execs would vehemently dispute that characterization. The larger question is why are things moving so slowly? Most of us would point to incredibly complex rights issues that simply need to work their way through the corporate sausage grinder. And that's true. But Tercek also argued that perhaps TV execs simply don't truly feel threatened yet. After all, cable ARPUs are up. Ad sales look good across cable. Why rush into hasty deals that could end up biting someone on the posterior? But Tercek said the good health of the traditional TV business might mask a larger danger. “We're running the risk of inflating the TV business in an unhealthy way,” he said, citing rising retrans, carriage fees and ad rates as a potential “bubble” in an environment of more fragmented audiences. “There will come a point in which the audiences simply aren't worth the amount of money that we're paying for them,” he said. “Television should probably come with a warning. Content is under pressure.” Of course, what else is new, right? – Michael Grebb

“The Bible” and “The Vikings,” premieres, Sun, 8p ET and 10p, respectively, History. You can't say History avoids tackling big subjects this Sunday. First, it takes on the creation of Earth and all who inhabit it and then, 2 hours later, skips to the 8th century's Norse warriors. Reality TV heavy Mark Burnett and wife Roma Downey play God–Downey also plays God's mother in the series–deciding which Old Testament stories to feature in early eps of “The Bible.” Their choices–Noah, Abraham and Moses–are familiar, adding to the challenge of re-telling them in a fresh way. Despite quibbles, all 3 are solid, although much of the Exodus' imagery seems derivative of DeMille's “The 10 Commandments” (1956). With “The Vikings,” History tells a story whose specifics are unfamiliar to most U.S. viewers. And the players–farmer-raiders, their kin and a cunning lord (played with appropriate nastiness by Gabriel Byrne)–leap from the screen in this exciting, bloody yarn. — “Hacking the Planet,” premiere, Thurs, 8p ET, Weather. Making science digestible, this cleverly presented series examines attempts to control weather. Graphics and humor enhance the series. — “World of Jenks,” season 2 debut, Mon, 11p, MTV. Sympathetic filmmaker Andrew Jenks follows 3 young people, including season I fave autistic Chad, who's hard not to love. – Seth Arenstein

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