Bikinis owner criticized after ‘Undercover Boss’ appearance

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

The founder of the Austin-based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain is catching all kinds of heat on social media after an appearance last night on the CBS network’s “Undercover Boss.”

In the episode, Doug Guller posed as an entry-level employee, working at five Bikinis locations scattered across Texas — three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and the original location near Highland Mall in North Austin.

Preliminary figures show more than 9 million households tuned in nationwide, according to TV By the Numbers.

At the end of the episode, Guller revealed his true identity to workers at the restaurants — and that’s when the drama kicked into high gear.

Guller, who started Bikinis about nine years ago, is being criticized by viewers for firing an employee who had declined to wear a bikini top and for offering to pay for breast augmentation for a different worker, among other things.

(To be fair, the “breastaurant” owner — Guller trademarked the term in 2013 — also gave one employee a 30 percent raise and $10,000 for a family vacation and offered to help another worker with housing and medical expenses for her ill child.)

But the firing and the offer of free breast enhancement surgery, in particular, rubbed many the wrong way. Jezebel, for instance, said “Undercover Boss” had “stooped to depressing new lows.”

“This was a bad episode unleashing a bunch of unchecked (expletive) on a viewing audience that (judging by fans’ reactions on Twitter) didn’t want it. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that this level of blatant sexism no longer seems widely appreciated,” the Jezebel piece said, in part.

Guller hasn’t responded to the criticism yet. In a Tweet shortly after the broadcast, he thanked the show and told his employees, “Y’all rock.”

Time Warner change means some customers will need digital adapters

Time Warner Cable will go all-digital in January.
Time Warner Cable will go all-digital in January.

Many Central Texas Time Warner Cable customers will soon need additional equipment to keep watching their favorite cable networks.

The area’s largest cable company will go all-digital on Jan. 20, a move that will free up bandwidth that could potentially be used to offer super-fast 1-gigabit Internet service one day, a company spokeswoman said.

The change affects subscribers who have their cable lines plugged directly into the back of their TV set, VCR or DVD recorder. They’ll need to acquire a digital adapter by the cutoff date to keep watching TV.

About 70 percent of Time Warner Cable customers already have digital equipment — adapters, set-top boxes or cableCARDs — and aren’t required to take any action, spokeswoman Melissa Sorola said.

For people who need adapters, Time Warner Cable will offer them for free for a span of one to five years, depending on the level of service, Sorola said. After that, they’ll run $2.75 per month.

Subscribers who get the Basic TV or Starter TV packages can get up to two adapters free of charge for two years, for example, while customers who receive Medicaid can get up to two adapters free for the full five years, Sorola said.

To obtain adapters, call 844-220-6622 or visit twc.com/digitaladapter.

The move to all-digital will enable Time Warner Cable to upgrade many of its cable TV and Internet offerings in the coming months and years, Sorola said. Immediately noticeable benefits will include a clearer picture and better sound quality, she said.

“We will free up network capacity for a wide variety of improvements: more On Demand choices, improved guide and search functions, additional programming and features and even faster Internet in the future, including gigabit speeds for residential customers,” Sorola said.

There’s no timeline for when Time Warner Cable could choose to start offering 1-gigabit Internet. Currently, the fastest speed it offers to Central Texas residential customers is 300 Mbps.

AT&T, Google, Grande Communications and LiveAir Networks all already offer 1-gigabit Internet in parts of Central Texas.


2014 year in review: Busy year for local TV

Judy Maggio retired from KEYE in May.
Judy Maggio retired from KEYE in May.

It’s been a busy year on the TV beat.

We waved goodbye to well-known newscasters and watched as our friends and neighbors were featured on a host of nationally televised shows, among other things.

Here’s a look at some of the year’s biggest local TV stories.

Judy Maggio retires: After 33 years anchoring the news at both KVUE and, more recently, KEYE, Maggio retired in May.

Since leaving, Maggio has spent the past several months traveling, volunteering and enjoying live music around town.

Hema Mullur, a University of Texas graduate who most recently worked in Denver, was hired to take Maggio’s spot alongside Walt Maciborski on KEYE’s 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Other TV departures: Several other familiar faces also left Austin stations in 2014, including KEYE weekend anchor Deeda Payton, KVUE morning anchor Jessica Vess, KXAN meteorologist Natalie Stoll and KVUE meteorologists Andrew Chung and Ilona McCauley.

LIN Media merger: Austin-based LIN Media, owner of about 50 TV stations nationwide, was gobbled up by Media General, a Virginia-based broadcaster, in a $1.6 billion merger finalized this month.

The deal gave Media General three Austin stations: NBC affiliate KXAN, CW affiliate KNVA and MyNetworkTV affiliate KBVO.

TV news ratings: KVUE and KXAN continue to be the stations to beat in the Nielsen ratings.

KVUE spent most of the year in first place mornings and at 10 p.m., while KXAN is the usual No. 1 at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Middays, a spot KVUE typically wins, went to KXAN during the most recent “sweeps” period.

Austin on TV: It’s no secret TV producers love Austin. That was especially evident in 2014, when “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Daily Show” and “Watch What Happens Live” all taped here.

Reality TV, meanwhile, continues to mine our city for talent, with locals popping up most recently on “The Real World” and “Undercover Boss.”

Lifestyle shows: Two Austin TV stations launched lifestyle shows this year.

The shows — KEYE’s “We Are Austin” and KXAN’s “Studio 512” — differ from traditional newscasts, in part, because local businesses can pay to be featured in segments.

Eye-opening tweet: Time Warner Cable News got some unwanted international attention after tweeting out a traffic update that included four images of nude men.

The cable news outlet quickly issued an apology and yanked down the tweet, but not before screengrabs started circulating online. Oops.

Did I miss anything? Let me know.

Next week, we’ll tackle radio.

KXAN ownership change set for Friday

Austin-based LIN Media is merging with Media General.
Austin-based LIN Media is merging with Media General.

Media General’s merger with Austin-based LIN Media has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, clearing the way for the $1.6 billion deal to close Friday, the two companies said.

LIN Media owns or operates about 50 TV stations across the country, including three in Austin: NBC affiliate KXAN, CW affiliate KNVA and MyNetworkTV affiliate KBVO.

The combined company will use the Media General name, be traded on the New York Stock Exchange using Media General’s MEG ticker symbol and will be based out of Media General’s headquarters in Richmond, Va., although some corporate employees will continue to call Austin home.

First announced in March, the merger took nearly nine months to work its way through the federal approval process, including a review by the U.S. Department of Justice. To allay regulators’ concerns, the two companies agreed to sell off some stations in five cities where both LIN Media and Media General operate: Birmingham, Ala.; Mobile, Ala.; Savannah, Ga.; Providence, R.I.; and Green Bay, Wis.

“We will now move forward to quickly integrate our operations and build upon our shared values for providing relevant local journalism and deep community engagement, both of which strengthen our ties to viewers and advertisers,” J. Stewart Bryan III, chairman of the Media General board, said in a written statement. “The powerful combination of two strong local television broadcasters enhances our leadership position as we compete in the rapidly evolving media landscape, thus enabling us to deliver greater shareholder value.”

Post-merger, Media General will own or operate 71 stations in 48 cities, reaching 27.5 million U.S. households.

“The new Media General will have significant national reach and scale, numerous synergies, a diversified portfolio and, importantly, opportunities to grow our industry-leading digital business,” said LIN Media president and CEO Vincent Sadusky, who will take over as president and CEO of Media General. “We have an experienced and talented management team that is already hard at work on plans to bring our two great, complementary cultures together.”

KUTX birthday bash set for Jan. 31

KUTX will celebrate its second birthday with a concert Jan. 31.
KUTX will celebrate its second birthday with a concert Jan. 31.

Radio station 98.9 KUTX-FM will celebrate its second birthday next month with a concert at Bass Concert Hall.

The show, which is set for Jan. 31, will feature Jenny Lewis, tUnE-yArDs and Shakey Graves.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday to KUTX donors and Friday to the general public. Prices range from $59.50 to $150, according to the Texas Performing Arts website.

Each year, KUTX says it hosts more than 300 live music performances at its studios, in addition to special shows during the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest.

“Our focus continues to be on delivering the music that’s made here and played here,” said Matt Reilly, KUTX’s program director. “Whether that’s an Austin-based band, or a national act making an Austin tour stop. Add to that our music hosts’ personal connections to the local music scene and their ability to handcraft their sets make for truly exciting radio that resonates with Austinites.”

Bikinis owner Doug Guller featured on ‘Undercover Boss’

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

Look for Doug Guller, founder of the locally based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain, later this month on CBS’s “Undercover Boss.”

The episode will air Dec. 28.

Producers first contacted Guller about a year ago, he said. In October, they filmed at five different Bikinis locations – three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and one in North Austin, near Highland Mall.

At each location, Guller posed as an entry-level employee, with cameras rolling as he interacted with customers and co-workers. To avoid being recognized, he wore an elaborate disguise that included a wig, earrings, goatee and even eyeliner.

“It was a great opportunity to see what the team goes through behind the scenes,” Guller said. “I got to see just how hard their jobs really are.”

Most of the experiences were positive, Guller said, but it wouldn’t be reality TV without a little bit of drama. In the end, though, he said he’s happy with how things turned out – and he thinks you will be, too.

“It wraps up with what was, for me, a really heartfelt experience,” he said. “I think that’s what the people who watch will get out of it, too.”

Guller’s company, ATX Brands, also owns a number of other bars and restaurants, including The Parish, Scoot Inn, Pelons, Chicago House, Zorro and 508 Tequila Bar. A lot of projects are in the works right now – and that’ll continue well into 2015, Guller said, including the rollout of Gino’s East pizzerias in Austin and elsewhere across the state.

Together, the various ATX Brands businesses employ about 500 people.

“There’s a lot that goes into running a successful company,” Guller said. “We’ve got great people who are working hard to make things happen.”


‘Undercover Boss’

7:30 p.m. Dec. 28

CBS, KEYE Channel 42

Austin auto auction to be televised nationally

A 1971 Dodge Challenger is one of many cars set to be auctioned this weekend.
A 1971 Dodge Challenger is one of many cars set to be auctioned this weekend.

More than 600 classic cars will be sold off in downtown Austin this weekend as part of a nationally televised auction.

The auction, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Austin Convention Center, marks the first time Mecum Auctions has visited Austin.

Admission is $20 per person. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

The company typically conducts about a dozen auto auctions each year in large cities such as Dallas and Houston, according to CEO Dave Magers. It also holds a handful of auctions each year for motorcycles and antique tractors.

Mecum had skipped Austin in the past because it doesn’t have a large enough convention center, Magers said, but the company has been experimenting this year with smaller-scale auctions where about 600 vehicles are sold instead of the usual 1,000.

“There are only so many convention centers that are big enough to let us do what we do,” he said. “This new business model is allowing us to get into smaller cities and convention centers. We’ll be packed in there, wall to wall.”

While there will be a variety of cars up for grabs, Magers said Mecum focuses primarily on American muscle cars from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Mecum relies on a team of consignment agents to track down many of the cars it sells.

One of the cars to be sold this weekend is a 1967 Corvette convertible originally owned by astronaut Gus Grissom, the company said. A 1967 Mustang used in the 2000 remake of “Gone in 60 Seconds” will go on the auction block, as well.

“These cars are very unique, very exotic, very collectible and very expensive,” Magers said. “I like to say these are either the car you had in high school – or the car you wish you’d had in high school.”

The entire event will be live-streamed on mecum.com and portions of the auction will be televised both Friday and Saturday on the NBC Sports Network, which airs in about 80 million homes. In Austin, the network is available on most cable and satellite TV lineups, including Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant provider.

Mecum has been televising its auctions for several years, Magers said. They initially aired on Discovery’s Velocity network for six years before moving to the higher profile NBC Sports Network as part of a three-year deal with a pair of one-year renewal options.

Viewership has steadily been increasing, Magers said, with ratings up about 400 percent in recent months. So far this year, he said 19.2 million unique viewers have tuned in to the NBC Sports Network broadcasts.

“You don’t have to be ready to buy or sell a car to get something out of our shows,” Magers said. “Where else can you get a look at more than 600 unique cars in one spot?”


Mecum Auto Auction

When: Doors open at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.

Admission: $20 for adults; free for children 12 and under

On the Web: mecum.com


When to watch

5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday

2 to 6 p.m. Saturday

NBC Sports Network (Time Warner Cable Channel 314)

Austinite featured on new season of ‘Real World’

Madison, an Austinite, is among the housemates this season on MTV's 'Real World.'
Madison, an Austinite, is among the housemates this season on MTV’s ‘Real World.’

The 30th season of “Real World” is set to debut Tuesday, featuring an Austinite.

The show, which focuses on the exploits of a group of strangers forced to live together, is set in Chicago this time around.

Each of the seven housemates this season has a “skeleton in the closet,” according to producers. One, for example, was hit by a car and had to teach himself to walk again.

The Austinite is 23-year-old Madison. Here’s how she’s described in promotional materials: “This flirty, gorgeous yet naïve blonde with the bubbly personality is known for stealing guys’ hearts. After recovering from a six-year battle with drug addiction, Madison now describes herself as a ‘newborn;’ looking to build close female friendships, and finding herself again.”

Madison isn’t the first Austinite to be featured on the show. Many others have popped up over the years, including Kevin Dunn, who now anchors on the Longhorn Network. “Real World” even filmed a season here about a decade ago.


‘Real World: Skeletons’

9 p.m. Tuesday

MTV

Police officers get bulletproof vests after Fox 7 report

Granger police officers now have bulletproof vests following a story that aired on Fox 7.
Granger police officers now have bulletproof vests following a story that aired on Fox 7.

A Central Texas police force has been outfitted with bulletproof vests thanks to a report that aired on a local TV station.

Fox 7 reporter Noelle Newton reported last week that officers in Granger lacked the life-saving gear and, in a matter of hours, viewers had stepped up to lend a hand.

Granger has seven police officers. The vests cost about $1,000 each.

“This was an outlet for our viewers to show they care,” Newton said. “I know we have such great, compassionate viewers.”

Newton said she learned the department was in need of bulletproof vests while volunteering with the 100 Club of Central Texas, a nonprofit group that assists first responders and their families.

“They don’t just step in when officers are injured or killed,” Newton said. “They’re there year-round raising funds.”

After seeing the report, local auto dealer Nyle Maxwell came forward and agreed to pay for vests for the entire department.

Other viewers made donations directly to the police department and through the 100 Club. That money will go into a “rainy day fund” Granger officers will use as needed.

“All it takes is the right people to be watching,” Newton said. “I’m so honored they stepped up. I knew they would.”

Austinite on ‘The Price Is Right’ this week

Drew Carey hosts 'The Price Is Right.'
Drew Carey hosts ‘The Price Is Right.’

Look for a Central Texan on “The Price Is Right” this week.

Austinite Mark Verville will be on Thursday’s episode, the show’s production company said.

How’d he do? We won’t know until the show airs.

Catch it at 10 a.m. on KEYE Channel 42 (Time Warner Cable Channel 5).