Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


March 4, 2013

You ever notice how none of the characters on the much-talked-about HBO hit "Girls" seem to own a television? The same is true for the show's target audience, the 20-somethings of north Brooklyn who have long since ditched traditional TV for streaming options online. But when shows like "Girls," "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead" demand to be dissected in real time, New Yorkers have found a solution that, naturally, involves socializing and alcohol.

It's the return of appointment TV - only the appointments look more like parties and the couch has been swapped for a bar stool next to drink-swilling neighbors. "We've all watched 'Girls' at home, illegally streaming it," says Zach Eaton, 24, of Bed-Stuy, who crammed into the standing-room-only screening room at Videology, the Williamsburg DVD rental joint that added a screening room and a bar two months ago. "We can have a somewhat social experience at the bar."

Not having a TV provides a certain freedom, Eaton and his friends say, but when the show hits so close to home (literally: that night's episode included a scene outside a bar not half a mile away), they can't deny that watching it in a laughing crowd is way more fun. And the screenings are usually free. "It seems very fitting in a way," added Alexis Lambrau, 22, of Bed-Stuy, "The people who are in 'Girls' are the people who come here. It's the same crowd."

Watching TV in a bar is nothing new - sports games are as ubiquitous as coasters, and bars have embraced special events like the Oscars for years. But this new wave of viewing parties, covering everything from "Downton Abbey" to "Mad Men" and "Portlandia," is a response to the new way people watch TV, bar owners say. It's gone from passive let-me-see-whatever-is-on days to a menu of options. "A lot of my customers don't have cable," says Harold Kramer, who owns the 7-year-old Boulevard Tavern in Greenpoint, which holds "Portlandia" viewing parties on Fridays, complete with "Put a Bird on It" ($5 Wild Turkey) drink specials, along with other screenings. "So to see these shows when they air is an attraction."

The appeal is physical, too: In New York, anything worth doing in your living room is worth doing in a crowd of people. "Most people's apartments are too small to invite a lot of people over," says Lori Sprester, a bartender at Boulevard Tavern. For "The Walking Dead," "People gasp together, and laugh together and get horrified together. It's been a real hit." Different bars cater to different viewers. Videology has made half its business into a full-time screening room, where patrons can lounge all day with a beer and a bowl of popcorn. People dress up in '60s-style suits for viewings of "Mad Men" and feathery headbands for "Downton Abbey," and, let's be honest, these Brooklynites look the part of "Girls" characters already.

Professor Thom's in the East Village goes the party route, giving out free Jell-O shots for "Girls" screenings anytime the show's star Lena Dunham gets naked (which is often) or if someone in the bar can identify a business on the show. Others like Halyards in Gowanus, Brooklyn, cut the music at showtime and kick talkers to the back of the bar for "Boardwalk Empire" or "Homeland." Seema O'Regan, 35, lives near the bar and spotted a "Breaking Bad" screening while walking by. "We had been buying episodes of the show," she says, "but when we saw that the bar was playing them, we stopped buying them and started coming here to watch."

Venues worry privately that showing HBO titles to an audience is not technically legal. But so far none has ruffled enough feathers to warrant the wrath of the cable giant. "We, of course, love the fan support," HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson says. "But unfortunately we can't condone the gatherings." Of course, if you're spending hours at a bar drinking through a Sunday night block of TV, wouldn't it be cheaper just to pay for cable? Possibly, but these viewers are on a larger mission: keeping the boob tube banished from their homes. "We like to have the option of deciding if we want to go to a bar to watch," says Janet Cerda, 29, while watching "Portlandia" at Boulevard Tavern. She doesn't have TV at home, preferring to watch Netflix through her computer. "You don't need a TV. There are cheaper ways to get to see a show." New York Post

Say farewell to (Comcast SportsNet's) "Daily News Live." The sports-talk show will change format on April 8.

"Philly Sports Talk," powered by the Daily News, will have additional, faster-paced segments, occasionally expanding beyond the world of sports to touch on major entertainment news, such as the Oscars. The show will also partner with NBC, bringing in the network's radio and television personalities to discuss the events of the day. Last month Comcast bought out General Electric's 49 percent stake in NBCUniversal.

Some of the show, which has been on air since Comcast SportsNet was born in 1997, will stay the same, such as host Michael Barkann. Daily News sportswriters will continue to make appearances, but the show will no longer be held to the contractual 13 writers per week. Instead, about five writers will appear per week. "For selfish reasons, I think we all wish it would continue," said Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann. "But at the same time, 15 years is a long run, and I'm shocked it lasted that long, because nothing lasts that long on television." Hofmann said that he was given no indication of whether his services would be required on "Philly SportsTalk."

The switch from a newspaper-affiliated Comcast sports-talk show is not unique to the Philadelphia area. "Chicago Tribune Live" has already switched to "SportsTalk Live," dropping the Chi-town broadsheet as a title sponsor. "We have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with CSN," said Daily News Managing Editor Pat McLoone. "There are many people at CSN who I'd like to thank for that over the years and, of course, Michael Barkann, who has been there from Day One. We look forward to continuing that association for years to come on the new show."

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) said Friday that she would establish a state political committee in the next few weeks, an important procedural precursor to her expected run for governor of Pennsylvania. The six-term representative from Jenkintown has been traveling around the state trying to line up support. Should she pull the trigger, Schwartz said, she would not file to run simultaneously for her House seat. "Legally, I'm allowed to, but it wouldn't be right," she said. "I am interested in running for governor... I want to be all in." Earlier in the week, Schwartz took a step in that direction when she quit as fund-raising chairperson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Schwartz is one of several Democrats thinking of taking on Republican Gov. Corbett in 2014 - among them state Treasurer Rob McCord, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, State Sen. Mike Stack 3d of Philadelphia, former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, and former Philadelphia mayoral candidate Tom Knox. Only the former state environmental secretary, John Hanger, has formally announced a run. On the Republican side, Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. has made noises about a primary challenge against Corbett. Philadelphia Inquirer