Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't screw with the CBC--it'll mess you up

In a saturated TV sports market, all that's left to do is to fight over the scraps. For those that don't religiouslly follow CRTC hearings, the CBC and the Canadian Olympic Committee are at odds over who should be allowed to launch a new amateur/Canadian focused sports channel.

The COA argues that it's necessary to have a amateur channel to focus on athletes in Olympic sports that do not get the type of exposure between Olympics than maybe they should. CBC, which originally supported the COA bid only to pull out and launch one of it's own (that's great, two public institutions fighting with each other. How cute), would allow non-amateur programming, but everything would be Canadian.

It's important to understand that the COA bid is asking that the channel be part of required cable packages, meaning that you would subscribe to it whether you cared about the world table tennis championships or not. Your cable bill would probably go up about 60 cents. The Ceeb is asking for a license that would see the channel go on an optional tier.

You can almost hear the screams of indignation from the right as I type. If the COA is granted its license you just know that there will be plenty of critics of its force-down-the-throat approach (although the righties won't know who to cheer for in this since the CBC is the other party involved). Their point has merit, no doubt. But, there is also something to be said about a sports station that is actually dedicated to telling the stories of Canadian athletes. The COA promises more CIS coverage, more Canadian championships and just generally more Canada. Although the CBC says it will highlight Canadian athletes, it sounds like they are just looking for a place to put the stuff they currently shove to BOLD (or whatever the hell it's called this week).

The COA makes the argument that with 60 cents per household it will make a profit on its operation, allowing some of the money to be filtered back to the athletes. Once could also suggest that increased exposure would provide those athletes with more opportunity to find sponsorship, thus making them less reliant on public money to compete.

It appears likely that one of the applications will be successful, which is good news for sports junkies (especially the true geeks that love stuff that doesn't necessarily involve chasing a black disk on ice).

Although whenever one turns to channel 22 of their Rogers digital pack you can't help but think that it's unfortunate that this current battle has to take place at all. If you can remember back to when Sportsnet was launched, it promised to provide more regional programing. It was hinted that junior hockey the CIS and other amateur stuff would make up a big part of its lineup and the license was ganted accordingly. Instead we got TSN junior. Funny how no one ever calls Uncle Ted on that...


Dennis Prouse said...

Once could also suggest that increased exposure would provide those athletes with more opportunity to find sponsorship, thus making them less reliant on public money to compete.

So, they will take $1 a month from everyone by force, and this somehow makes them LESS reliant on public money? That's my money they are taking, so that's public money any way you slice it.

As this spaces designated "righty", the COA can go blow. I am sick and tired of channels I don't care about being added to my satellite/cable bill. It is wrong when the NFL tries to do it down south, and it is wrong when the COA tries to do it here. I don't care if it's five cents a month - it's a channel I didn't request. The CBC's proposal makes more sense, i.e. putting it on a specialty tier of channels that people can CHOOSE whether or not to have. Freedom of choice - what an amazing concept!

This is where the CBC should be going anyway - getting away from expensive dramas that no one watches, and focusing on news and sports, with an emphasis on amateur athletics. The CBC actually does news and sports reasonably well, so why not focus on what you are good at?

sager said...

Anyways, it's a good point ... the CBC (and other media outlets in this country who shall remain nameless) are fighting a losing battle by offering a second- or third-rate product. They can't out-CTV CTV or out-Fox Fox, so they should try to play to their strengths and remind the body politic why they're still very relevant.

As for developing comedies and dramas, they don't know their elbow from second base ... I heard they passed on Corner Gas and have instead gone with a bunch of shows made by people who clearly have no idea what a Canadian TV series should look like.

(The obvious exception is Sophie. Natalie Brown is totally endearing!)

P.S. The CBC does focus on amateur athletics -- that's why they're always showing the Leafs!

DR said...

Zing! Well played, Neate. Well played.

I think the CBC's bid is probably the best option. Canadian TV startups are notorious for their low quality and endless gaffes, some of which might be avoided with a CBC-operated net. Also the CBC does decent sports journalism, especially around Olympic sports, and I don't suspect the COA would be interested in much of that.

As for Sportsnet's lack of regional coverage, Ted R. hasn't done much to help on that front, but I don't remember it being much better when the network started and CTV owned it.