TV Q&A: product placement, a cable anchor's hair and on demand oddities

Saturday, 14 July 2012 09:15 AM Written by 

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about product placement, a cable anchor’s hairstyle and on demand oddities. As always, thanks for reading, and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: I understand product placement can be beneficial for a program's bottom line, and don't mind the occasional Coke can or Toblerone bar in the actor's hand or home, but I watched an episode of “The Glades” last week and the flow of the show was interrupted with a beauty shot of a car and the characters actually listing out the attributes of the vehicle, and even joking that they sounded like a car commercial. It's hardly subliminal; it's more annoying than anything. I was wondering if this more blatant version of product placement actually sells cars?

- Linda, 46, Monroeville
I have yet to find a report that definitively says product placement influences product sales but obviously companies think it must have a positive influence in burnishing and building awareness of their brands.

I did find an interesting report on product placement in movies and another on the impact of product placement on TV.


Q: I really would like to know how often Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC does the braids in her hair. MHP is so pretty and I enjoy her show. Does she do the braids daily, weekly, monthly? Does she wear a wig?

- Renee, 70, Penn Hills

Rob: Turns out to be a pretty set regimen.

“I wear my hair in two-strand twists with extensions,” Harris-Perry wrote in an email. “I remove the extensions and have it re-twisted around the edges once a month. Every other month (about once every 8 weeks) I take out all of the extensions and have the entire head re-twisted. Between trips to the salon, I wash, condition, and style it with the extensions still in the hair.”

She’s also offered segments on her MSNBC program about black hair, including “How Black Hair Matters” and “There’s Big Business in Black Hair” and “The Great Moments in Black Hair.”

Q: I received an email this morning supposedly from Comcast claiming they "could not issue your bill." Supposedly this is due to changes in your information, etc. Of course I didn't click on the site given but deleted it and called Comcast as I thought they should know about it. I guess it's common since after seven minutes of awful music the rep agreed it was phony and said I could just delete it, or, send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , which I did but I had the feeling they don't much care. How common is this and, do they really try to pursue these people?

- Don, 76, Pittsburgh
Comcast offers the following response:

“Customers should be suspicious of any email or call that requests personal account information, such as solicitations for usernames, passwords, account numbers or any other personal data. Comcast never asks customers for password information, as that information is private and is only known by users.

“Comcast takes its responsibility to provide a safe and secure online experience very seriously – we offer a Security Channel at that serves as an online resource to help customers protect themselves and their families from spam, viruses and other online threats. Customers can also learn about parental controls that can help protect their children from cyber bullying, harassment and online predators.

“In addition, Comcast has established a Customer Security Assurance (CSA) team to help ensure a safe and secure online experience for Comcast customers. This team is a dedicated group of security professionals who respond to issues pertaining to phishing, spam, infected PCs (commonly referred to as "bots"), online fraud and other security issues. Customers can contact the CSA department at 888-565-4329.”

Q: I've been noticing that HBO On Demand is skipping episodes. For instance with the current season of “True Blood” they have episodes 1, 2 & 4 available but not episode three.
I noticed this with TNT's “Falling Skies” earlier last week as well but the latest episode seems to have been removed and only two episodes are available. But it followed the same pattern. Season two episodes 1, 2 & 4 were available but not three. Also there is no TNT HD. This is on Verizon’s FiOS TV.
- Greg, 35 in South Fayette

Rob: Often networks dictate to cable companies which episodes of programs they can post on demand and for how long. But what Greg points out is illogical so it seems more like a cable provider issue and not something the networks are responsible for.

“Verizon has been working with Cisco on some maintenance issues related to its FiOS TV Video-On-Demand (VOD) delivery system,” explained Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski. “The company expects to wrap up the maintenance work in the next day or two and will address any outstanding issues to ensure that all available VOD titles are able to be accessed by FiOS TV customers.”


Q: What's up with Verizon's On Demand?  They usually have series episodes on the next day or, at least, 48 hrs. later.  In the last three months or two months, you have to wait either a week or longer! I have several series on one day that I want to see... but can't and rely on On Demand on Verizon. I have been trying to see “Food Star,” “Design Star,” “Longmire” and “The Glades.” I go into On Demand and there are no new episodes of “Longmire” and “The Glades” for more than a week. “Design” and “Food” finally made it to On Demand after a full week. What's up with this? I really would like to see these series before the new one comes up. Hope you can help with this. Very frustrating... never used to be like this.

- Rita, Brookline
Video on demand is a brave new world and networks frequently change when they will make shows available on different platforms. I noted these changes earlier this year in an article about Hulu.

“While some may be related to the VOD system maintenance issues, overall, the availability of VOD programming is dictated by the content providers and when they make the programming available,” Verizon’s Gierczynski explained. “Some make it available within 48 hours; others make it available a week after initial airing.”



Following up on Patrick's question last week about WPXI's severe weather alert cut-ins, I have no problem with WPXI or any other local channel interrupting regular programming for urgent weather alerts. As you said, a 30- or 40-second delay could make a significant difference in public safety.  But what strikes me as disingenuous is that they always wait until after a commercial break to start the alert. I can’t remember ever seeing a commercial interrupted for a severe weather alert. But more often than not, the interruption occurs immediately when the program is set to resume.

If a severe weather alert is important enough to interrupt programming, surely it’s also important enough to interrupt a commercial.

- Mark, Squirrel Hill


No question - Just a comment with further info. I also noticed the censoring of “Suits” yesterday when episodes were being rerun on USA during the afternoon. Hard to miss - the bleeping is really noticeable. At the time I attributed it to the afternoon time slot, but have to admit I found it unusual and, truth be told, it brought more attention to the "offensive" word it otherwise would have had.

- Denise, 56, Wexford

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