Monday, April 7, 2008

Canadian TV Remains in Flux

The Canadian TV landscape remains in flux, and the latest drama arises from CTVglobemedia Inc., which says its sick of letting cable and satellite distributors run its signals for free, and wants a piece of the action. I'm a little confused on this point. Aren't they happy to be given access to these provider's subscribers? Apparently, Rogers Communications Inc. agrees with my sentiment, arguing that companies like Rogers gives networks like CTV and Global access to "millions of Canadian homes."

On the flip side, it's a chicken and egg scenario. Sure, cable providers like Rogers give TV networks a platform to get their content out to consumers, and thus increase advertising. But without this content, cable providers would be selling empty space (or those swiggly lines that used to come on at 4 a.m.: remember those?!) But there could actually be something to fill the holes: U.S. stations!

I find it strange that a country that's supposedly struggling to compete with our neighbours to the south in providing good content would be taking steps to interfere with the distribution of its programming. It sounds as though the request is in attempt to find another means of making money, especially in light of issues like the writer's strike and online streaming and downloading that have been plaguing the TV industry as a whole. But will customers say "no big deal" to paying a few extra bucks for their cable and satellite TV companies (because, let's face it, the added costs to providers would be translated on our bills), or will this be the last straw that begins a boycott of TV altogether? I don't know about you, but every three or four months, my bill seems to increase anyway. So I wouldn't be too happy even if it meant adding yet another two-bucks to my monthly bill. No thanks.

Given the ongoing debate, the CRTC is supposedly conducting a massive review of the entire TV broadcast landscape, examining issues like if providers should pay networks for distributing their content, and if Canadian content regulations should be re-examined? Right now, a good portion of the programs airing on Canadian networks are U.S. programs that certain subscribers could, in theory, watch through the U.S. networks instead.

My proposal: get rid of the U.S./Canada divide when it comes to TV, and just air programming that consumers want. Air Canadian shows in the U.S. and vice versa, and let the viewers decide what's great. After all, in the movie and music scene, it's often a surprise nowadays to find out that a popular artist or actor is actually Canadian. Why does that distinct divide still exist in TV land?

As for the network vs. provider debate, it surprises me that companies like CTVglobemedia are asking for money from the distributors of its content when much of it is actually U.S. programming. What's more, as I discussed in an older post, the programming is also often not broadcast up to par with the U.S. version, particularly when it comes to high-def versions.

I just think that, given the current state of the TV industry, causing a stir that could potentially lead to more money out of consumer's pockets probably isn't the best idea. And if the CRTC decides that yes, we should just allow U.S. programming to enter direct in order to help the ailing industry, Canadian broadcasters could be in real trouble. It would be a surprise if the CRTC does decide to go this way, but I think it might just be the kind of shake-up we need. I've always wondered whether forcing Canadian "culture" onto residents is actually promoting anything but a nation that's scared of losing its culture.

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5 comments:

Craig said...

In my opinion, the local stations should be allowed to charge a per subscriber fee ($0.50) or so BUT by doing so they should loose the manditory carriage in the basic tier.

In addition the Cable companies should be required to support cablecards (purchase) so that people do not require cable boxes for TV stations, but can be "addressable" subscription on a locals or a-la-carte basis. The analog carriage can be shrunk to just CBC (or a few stations).

I should NOT have to pay for something I can get free over the air if I do not want to.

Craig said...

In my opinion, the local stations should be allowed to charge a per subscriber fee ($0.50) or so BUT by doing so they should loose the manditory carriage in the basic tier.

In addition the Cable companies should be required to support cablecards (purchase) so that people do not require cable boxes for TV stations, but can be "addressable" subscription on a locals or a-la-carte basis. The analog carriage can be shrunk to just CBC (or a few stations).

I should NOT have to pay for something I can get free over the air if I do not want to.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are considered and interesting.

Currently, cable and satellite companies charge customers for the local TV.

So, there is not a need for an increase in fees.

In theory, this could be assumed from existing profit margins.

Dennis - Thunder Bay said...

The sooner we have Direct TV & Dish network in to Canada the better for the Canadian Public.We finally get HBO, Starz & the US networks without the channel subbing that the crapy canadian networks do.

duck_man said...

I don't care who gets the money - the network or the signal provider - I think it's wrong to pay $100 a month to be bombarded with advertisements. You'd think the advertisers should foot the bill to get their crap into our homes. I'll pay for the HD box to receive it. But the content should be free, or else commercial-free if they charge for it.

I do my best to justify the $100 per month by using the PVR to record everything and skipping all the commercials.

I hope the day soon arrives when we can choose DirecTV or another provider over the Canadian providers if we want to. Same goes for cellular providers. If there was some real competition the Canadian companies would either have to get better really quickly or they would disappear. That's tough, but it's business.

BUT the problem isn't with the providers. They recognise the demand for HBO, etc. Thanks to the CRTC they are limited in what they can broadcast. God forbid we don't get a load of Canadian content garbage force-fed to us every evening.