For 9th year, H-E-B plans to run ad during Super Bowl

It won’t be seen nationally, but San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B is running a Super Bowl ad.

This will be the company’s ninth year to air a regional commercial during the big game, H-E-B spokeswoman Leslie Sweet said. The 60-second spot is expected to be seen by an estimated 3 million people in TV markets across Texas.

In the ad, an H-E-B employee scours the globe to find new products for the chain’s stores. Sweet said the grocer stocks items from 84 different countries.

The spot ends with H-E-B asking viewers to help name a new salsa that’s produced at a facility near Buda. Until a winner is selected, the product will be carried in H-E-B stores with a giant question mark on the label.

“H-E-B is committed to bringing the best and most unique items to our customers, items that are rarely offered anywhere else,” said Cory Basso, H-E-B’s group vice president of marketing and advertising. “We’re proud once again to have H-E-B be part of the most-watched television program of all time.”

Texas State basketball, baseball games to air on KBVO

Texas State men's basketball coach Danny Kaspar (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
Texas State men’s basketball coach Danny Kaspar (Chris Covatta/Getty Images)

Look for several Texas State University basketball and baseball matchups to air on Austin TV station KBVO in the coming weeks.

The games, which will be produced by sister station KXAN, start this month and continue into April.

“We are very excited to continue our relationship with KXAN and expand our presence in the Austin market,” said Larry Teis, Texas State’s athletics director. “KBVO is a great platform to reach our current fan base, and gives us the opportunity to expose our brand to an entirely new base of potential Bobcat fans and students.”

The full schedule:

  • Jan. 31: Women’s basketball vs. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2 p.m.
  • Jan. 31: Men’s basketball vs. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 4:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 12: Men’s basketball vs. UT Arlington, 7:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 26: Men’s basketball vs. Troy, 7:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 28: Men’s basketball vs. Arkansas State, 4:30 p.m.
  • April 2: Baseball vs. Baylor, 6 p.m.

KEYE traffic anchor Erica Brennes departs for RideScout gig

Erica Brennes (Ralph Barrera photo)
Erica Brennes (Ralph Barrera photo)

Traffic anchor Erica Brennes has left KEYE, but she’s still keeping an eye on your commute.

Brennes, who spent three years on the CBS affiliate’s morning show, started work this week at RideScout, an Austin-based company whose signature app monitors traffic conditions and helps commuters find the transportation option that works best for them.

“Here, I’m not just talking about wrecks, wrecks, wrecks all the time,” she said. “I get to focus on solutions.”

Brennes, who got married last year, said she’ll miss TV news, but the early morning shift was wearing her down.

“KEYE always felt like home,” she said. “Everyone there is great, but life changes.

“After three years of being a half-drowsy fiancé/wife, I knew it was time to make a move. Now, we’ll get to have more quality time together.”

At RideScout, Brennes will still get to use many of the skills she picked up in the TV news business. She’ll serve as director of interactive content, developing videos for the company, among other duties.

“They’re on the forefront of Austin traffic,” Brennes said. “That impressed me right away.”

RideScout, a subsidiary of Car2Go, has steadily grown since its launch in 2013. In addition to Austin, its app has data from several other cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., with more on the way in 2015.

“With her experience as a reporter at KEYE, we are thrilled to have Erica join us as we continue to tackle transportation issues in Austin and beyond,” RideScout co-founder and CEO Joseph Kopser said. “If people know about sudden changes to congestion, how to better utilize public transit, whether the rail is full, or the best bike route based on construction, they will be better able to utilize all of the transportation options around them and take full advantage of their city.”

From the archives: KEYE’s Timesaver Traffic Tracker hits Austin’s streets, 10.27.13

KVUE special looks at state’s failing nursing homes

KVUE's Andy Pierrotti
KVUE’s Andy Pierrotti

Aging is a fact of life.

Another fact of life, sadly, is that many of the nursing homes where elderly Texans reside rank among the worst in the nation.

Families for Better Care, an advocacy group, gave Texas nursing homes a failing grade in 2013 and 2014. Both years, our state ranked last – 51st place – on a list released by the group.

KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti is one of several people hoping to change that.

In a 30-minute special that airs Saturday at 5 p.m., Pierrotti takes a look back at some of the station’s recent reporting on the state’s troubled nursing homes and offers a preview of some of the solutions that could possibly come out of the current legislative session.

“We’re talking about people who have outlived their savings and are living in homes that accept Medicaid or federal funding,” Pierrotti said. “These facilities are getting millions in taxpayer money and they’re not being held accountable.”

KVUE found that common problems include physical abuse and medication errors that can sometimes prove deadly.

“We have an opportunity to change this – and we should,” Pierrotti said. “I wanted this to air during the session because there’s proposed legislation that can help fix a lot of what we’re seeing.”

‘State of Neglect’

5 p.m. Saturday

KVUE Channel 24

Austin’s Spredfast wins Emmy for marrying social media, TV

Spredfast executives Brian Dainton, left, and Eric Falcao celebrate the company’s Emmy win.
Spredfast executives Brian Dainton, left, and Eric Falcao celebrate the company’s Emmy win.

With awards season in full swing, it’s not just big-name actors getting all the attention.

An Austin firm’s efforts to wed TV and social media have earned it an Emmy.

Spredfast was honored for its work to improve audience engagement at the Technology and Engineering Emmys ceremony in Las Vegas this month.

The company works closely with a number of TV networks, using Twitter and other forms of social media to get viewer feedback in realtime. On NBC’s “The Voice,” for instance, viewers have been given the power to save contestants from elimination, Spredfast spokeswoman Courtney White said.

“We can take what’s happening on social networks and bring that to other screens,” she said.

One of the primary goals, White said, is to convince more people to watch TV live, instead of recording shows to watch later. Live viewers are exposed to commercials that help keep broadcasters afloat, while viewers watching on a delayed basis via DVRs or other devices can fast-forward right through ads, making them less valuable.

Now, with Spredfast’s technology in place, viewers who rely on their DVRs might miss out on a chance to influence the outcome of their favorite programs.

“We’re making live TV ‘must-watch’ TV again,” White said.

The Emmy was a nice surprise, White said, and prompted a companywide celebration complete with a red carpet. But Spredfast isn’t done innovating just yet, she said.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” she said. “We’ve got some really exciting things coming up in the next year.”

Longhorn Network debuts on DirecTV

Texas freshman Myles Turner is interviewed by the Longhorn Network following a game on Nov. 14. (Ralph Barrera photo)
Texas freshman Myles Turner is interviewed by the Longhorn Network following a game on Nov. 14. (Ralph Barrera photo)

DirecTV is the latest carrier to pick up the Austin-based Longhorn Network.

The satellite provider added LHN to its lineup today.

Customers in Texas who have the Choice package or higher can find it on Channel 677. Outside Texas, subscribers must get DirecTV’s Sports Pack to see LHN.

The deal, announced late last year, marks a big win for the network, which is operated by ESPN as part of a 20-year, $300 million contract with the University of Texas. DirecTV had been one of the last big holdouts to pick up LHN, which launched in 2011.

Other carriers that offer LHN include Time Warner Cable, Grande Communications, Google Fiber, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and Dish Network.

Fox 7 picks up new game show network

Fox 7 will air Buzzr TV
Fox 7 will air Buzzr TV

A new over-the-air TV channel is set to hit Austin’s airwaves this summer.

Buzzr TV will run on one of Fox-owned KTBC’s digital subchannels, featuring an assortment of classic game shows, Fox announced Tuesday.

Programs set to air at launch include “To Tell the Truth,” “Password,” “Match Game,” “Beat the Clock,” “What’s My Line,” “Blockbusters,” “Card Sharks,” the Monty Hall-hosted version of “Let’s Make a Deal” and older episodes of “Family Feud” featuring former hosts Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, Louis Anderson, Richard Karn and John O’Hurley.

FreemantleMedia North America and Debmar Mercury, syndicators of some of TV’s best-known game shows, are the companies behind Buzzr TV. Their initial deal calls for the network to air on Fox-owned stations nationwide, but they anticipate other broadcasters will pick it up, too.

“There is nothing else like Buzzr TV,” Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus, co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury, said in a written statement. “It will be the only game show network operating in the digital multicast universe, providing stations with a highly marketable asset. We believe the depth of the FremantleMedia library will allow the network to secure its future, offering viewers a proven, quality and unique alternative to other digital channels.”

Buzzr TV will be KTBC’s second subchannel. It already airs Movies!, which features an assortment of classic films.

“Buzzr will be a great addition to our portfolio,” said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for Fox Television Stations. “The possibilities to have fun creatively – and to make it fun for the viewer – are endless.”

JB and Sandy now heard mornings and afternoons on The Fringe

Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree have helped give away almost 20,000 bicycles to needy Central Texas children over the years. (Laura Skelding photo)
Radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree can now be heard mornings and afternoons. (Laura Skelding photo)

If you’re not up early enough to catch morning radio hosts Sandy McIlree and JB Hager, don’t fret.

Now, they’re on in the afternoon, too.

The new two-hour afternoon show airs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on 105.3 The Fringe, featuring a mix of new material and snippets from the morning show.

McIlree and Hager, who celebrated 19 years working together this week, promise we’ll be hearing – and seeing – even more of them in the weeks to come. A TV gig is in the works, McIlree says.

Stay tuned …

Time Warner Cable raising several monthly fees

Watching 'Game of Thrones' is about to get more expensive. Time Warner Cable is raising the monthly price for HBO from $14.99 to $16.99.
Watching ‘Game of Thrones’ is about to get more expensive. Time Warner Cable is raising the monthly price for HBO from $14.99 to $16.99.

For many Central Texans, the cost of cable TV is about to go up.

Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant cable provider, says it will increase several of its monthly fees starting as soon as next week. Other carriers, including AT&T, have also announced plans to hike rates this year.

Cable and satellite companies say escalating programming costs paid to local broadcast stations and national cable networks are primarily to blame for the higher prices.

“We do everything we can to control programming costs, but the exorbitant increases in sports and broadcast programming fees are the driving force behind these customer increases,” said Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Melissa Sorola.

The exact amounts cable and satellite companies pay per channel aren’t typically made public, but fees Time Warner Cable pays to carry local broadcast stations such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates have soared 60 percent in the past two years, according to Sorola. That’s why Time Warner is raising its broadcast TV surcharge from $2.25 per month to $2.75 per month.

Fees for sports programming have gone up even more, Sorola said. Since 2008, Time Warner Cable says its payments to sports networks such as ESPN have jumped 91 percent. That’s why Time Warner Cable is implementing a new $2.75 monthly sports programming surcharge.

Several other cable and satellite providers already have sports programming surcharges in place.

“The broadcast TV and sports programming surcharges listed on customer bills represent only a fraction of what we actually pay for broadcast TV and sports content,” Sorola said.

There’s no way for customers to opt out of paying the new fees by dropping broadcast and sports networks while keeping other channels not subject to the surcharges, Sorola said.

For most customers, the new fees take effect with the billing cycle that begins Monday. But about a third of all Time Warner Cable’s Central Texas customers won’t immediately see the broadcast TV surcharge increase and the new sports programming surcharge on their bills because they’re signed up for promotional packages, Sorola said.

Also this month, the prices for HBO and Movie Pass will both rise $2 to $16.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively.

Other charges Time Warner Cable will raise include fees for digital adapters and Internet modem leases. Customers can avoid the charge for leasing a modem by acquiring a Time Warner Cable-approved modem from retailers such as Best Buy, Sorola said.

“For customers who do choose to lease a modem from us, we’re investing millions of dollars in deploying new modems that support faster speeds and a better Internet experience in all our markets,” Sorola said. “Plus those customers are guaranteed full support and maintenance for their Time Warner Cable modem, including replacement of any malfunctioning modems.”

AT&T’s U-verse rate hikes will appear on billing statements beginning Feb. 1, a spokeswoman said. Prices for many popular plans will grow by $3 per month, while the broadcast TV surcharge will increase by $1. The prices for some receivers will also go up $1.

Customers who are receiving a special U-verse promotional rate will not see the higher charges until their promotional rate expires, AT&T said.

Price changes

A look at the new (and previous) monthly fees charged by Time Warner Cable:

  • Digital adapter: $2.75 ($1.50)
  • Internet modem lease: $8 ($5.99)
  • Broadcast TV surcharge: $2.75 ($2.25)
  • Sports programming surcharge: $2.75 (N/A)
  • HBO: $16.99 ($14.99)
  • Movie Pass: $8.99 ($6.99)

‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ returning to Austin during SXSW

Jimmy Kimmel at the Long Center (ABC photo)
Jimmy Kimmel at the Long Center (ABC photo)

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel is returning to Austin for South by Southwest this year.

Kimmel, whose show airs weeknights at 10:35 p.m. on ABC, will tape five episodes at the Long Center March 16-20, producers and SXSW officials announced today.

The show taped at Long Center for a week last year during SXSW, as well.

“We had so much fun in Austin last year, we’re doing it again,” Kimmel said in an ABC news release. “This time we might never come back.”

Guests haven’t been announced yet. Neither have ticketing details.

Last year’s guests included Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Seth Rogen, Willie Nelson and Gov. Rick Perry.