The Battle For Canadian Television

Have you watched Canadian television broadcasts in the past month or so?

If you have, then chances are you’ve seen the advertisements from the dueling TV camps.

There’s this one – for example – from the group representing CTV, CanWest Global, and the CBC (to a lesser extent):

Or this one, sponsored by the cable television providers in Canada (not the most popular ad at the moment, but representative):

The problem with this battle for your TV dollar is that both side are right… which is presenting a massive headache for the CRTC (the federal agency responsible for policing Canada’s airwaves).

What to do?

Canada’s cable and satellite television providers both pay cross-border carriage fees for American broadcast channels which allow you to watch network content from stations operated  by ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX affiliates.

Cable and satellite companies also obviously pay money to carry programming from American and Canadian premium content providers such as HBO, Super Channel, The Movie Network/Movie Central.

They also pay fees to carry mid-level content from well-known providers like Discovery Channel, Bravo, National Geographic Channel, Showcase, and others – which are all operated by either CTVGlobemedia (owned by Bell Canada) or the former Alliance television division that is now owned by CanWest Global.

These fees paid by the cable and satellite companies goes toward content broadcast by the individual providers and is completely understandable since you can’t create programming for free.

At a glance, it wouldn’t seem so bad that Canadian broadcast channels want some extra money – especially considering the cable companies essentially are charging Canadians money for something that is free by its very nature.

However, this argument is flawed.

Do you buy bottled water?

You do?

Why?

Water is free! Hell, it’s one of the most abundant substances on the face of the planet!

What’s that? You can’t find any clean water where you are?

Ah… now that’s the rub, ain’t it?

The same principle applies to broadcast-via-airwaves television signals: some people can’t tune into a pure TV signal from all the broadcasters – whether it be due to geographical location or too much electromagnetic clutter in their area.

Rabbit ears only can do so much in Canada’s analogue television landscape – which is precisely why people pay for television service from companies like Rogers or Shaw Direct (formerly Starchoice)

However, there is a mitigating factor in this battle and its name is Advertising.

Canada’s big three traditional broadcasters – namely CTV, Global, and CBC – support their on-air programming through selling advertising time to large corporations like Coca-Cola, General Motors, Telus, or the Bank Of Nova Scotia.

In turn, these companies pay X-number of dollars per minute of air time – sometimes in the range of millions of dollars per minute during the most watched programs – thus ensuring that their products are seen by the maximum number of eyeballs that their money can achieve.

The money broadcasters take in via selling advertising is then turned around and spent on on-air programming that you and I watch – whether it be the local news, or the latest episode of C.S.I.

The problem for the broadcasters in this day and age – meaning the current economic recession – is that the companies that need to advertise have less money and therefore are less willing to part with those dollars, and that drives down the amount of money Canadian broadcasters are taking in.

This leaves them in a bit of a bind: spend money on expensive American programs which guarantees people watching their station and it’s paid advertising, or spend money on homegrown content like local news.

Canadian broadcasters are also left with smaller operating budgets necessary for operating their networks across the country.

Some of you out there might have already noticed smaller stations going off the air coast to coast – stations that just weren’t bringing in enough revenue to their owners via advertising market share through no real fault of their own other than being in a city with 800,000 citizens versus one with 3 million.

The biggest bug in the ointment – and what this whole debate centers on – is the fact that the Canadian broadcasters essentially want to tax the viewers for their own failing business practices, which is completely unacceptable!

Yet… the cable companies are making money on things they have paid zero dollars to create.

So, as I said at the top, both parties are right – and both parties are wrong.

What is the answer to this problem?

I personally think that it’s a bit of COLUMN A and a bit of COLUMN B.

Canadian broadcasters should invest in Canadian-made content that people actually want to watch – shows that don’t completely suck a plate of dog bollocks – which will inherently be cheaper than foreign-originating programs and be much better for their operating capital.

To a degree, CTV and CBC have occasionally done this, but their successful programs are very far in between.

Seriously… what was the last Canadian drama or comedy program that you watched as much as you do an American alternative?

Also, the cable and satellite companies need to kick in a few bucks WITHOUT passing on the costs to their subscribers because that’s very much dishonest.

My cable bill from Cogeco is already $90 for a mid-level digital package that has all the basic tier programming, channels like Discovery, 10 a-la-carte stations, and a time-shifting package that has channels from the east and west coast – and does not include anything like a digital video recorder or any of the other fancy ad-ons like VoIP phone service or internet.

The suggested carriage fee of $10 per subscriber would bring my bill to $100!

Is television worth $100 to you?

Come on now.

Be honest.

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YouTube Blog: RMR Confidence Rant

In lieu of an actual blog – since I can’t really come up with anything that irritates me lately – I shall post something by Canuck icon, Rick Mercer.

Little known fact to straight people: Rick is gay – and it doesn’t matter at all ‘cuz he’s still the funniest guy on the CBC.

Better Late Than Never…

Today’s blog is going to be shorter than normal.

Not because I don’t have anything to say, but that most of what I could say has already been said.

I like Kanye West’s music because it’s positive for the most part and tries to teach the masses something other than guns, drugs, and bitches – which is worth something to society, isn’t it?

However, the man is an idiot when he’s full of Hennessy or whatever the hell he was drinking at Sunday’s Music Video Awards… and sometimes, this is all too often.

He assumes that because he’s more popular than a lot of other musical talents of the black persuasion, he’s somehow been conferred with a sociomusical godhood that should be worshiped by all.

WRONG!

Kanye is just another opinionated dude who should really learn his place – and maybe be followed by ‘no men’ who can tell him when his ideas are really, truly fucked up.

Who has the final word on this?

Why… the most powerful man on the planet – who just so happens to be black.

Jump over to TMZ to hear it: CLICK HERE

The final word?

It rhymes with ‘black bass’.

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Things That I Don’t Understand…

Today’s sermon from the pulpit is about understanding.

In this case, the lack thereof.

There are  many things in this world that I think I have a real good grasp of, and there are many other things that I know of in passing.

But sometimes I’m confronted with things that my brain (such as it is) cannot comprehend – in fact, if someone tried to explain them to me, I’m pretty sure that I’d mistake them for speaking Swahili with a touch of Polish.

I fully admit that this is through my own ignorance – which is probably incurable at this stage in my life.

For those who want to look down their noses at me for the following, please harken back to a simpler time in the golden age of cinema to the immortal words of Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Shall we get on with it?

ITEM NUMBER ONE

People who wear their watches on the inside of their wrists.

What is that all about?

Isn’t that a sure-fire way to guarantee your watch get’s scuffed up as it’s constantly rubbing against your clothes or things you’re carrying under your arm?

Also, it defeats the purpose of wearing a nice watch since nobody can see it.

Are you expecting people to compliment you on your outstanding choice in watch bands? “Hey, Frank! I admire your choice in stainless steel wrist bands. You should definitely see me after closing about a raise.”

Does this stem somehow from your being to lazy to turn your arm 45 degrees so you can tell the time?

I have no idea why this bothers me so much, but it does.

It’s just damn odd.

ITEM NUMBER TWO

Why do parents insist on bringing their screaming children to a store with them?

Are they so blissfully ignorant of their child’s wants/needs/tantrums that they don’t actually register the cacophony escaping little Jimmy Junior’s yap?

Do they simply not give a rat’s ass? Either about their child or the shoppers 20 aisles over that have to listen to the screaming?

Is it simply a symptom of parents being afraid of disciplining their children lest the Children’s Aid Society come and take their child away from them? (If this is the case, I find it on the whole unacceptable that a public bureaucracy has become such a boogeyman to society on the whole.)

If I had carried on like some of these kids do while my parents were in a store/restaurant/other public place, I would have for certain gotten a thump on the head – what us older people commonly refer to as a “brain duster” – for my effort.

Now, before you say it, I’m well aware that it’s hard to discipline a toddler or someone younger – and I’m not suggesting you apply the above method at all.

However… I am saying you should have the common courtesy of taking your child out of the store until she or he calms down.

Why is it that we have learned to tolerate ignorant people? It wasn’t so long ago that people would cluck their tongues and shake their head in an obvious manner as to let the parent know that they were being a major nuisance – or a store employee would politely ask you to step outside with your child.

I think store owners are just too afraid of being sued in this day and age for even suggesting something like that.

Which means the rest of us have to suffer as a result – at least until decency becomes trendy again.

Trust me… I’m not holding my breath.

ITEM NUMBER THREE

The machinations of the ice cream industry puzzle me to no end.

Can someone please tell me the difference between ice cream and frozen dessert? Especially since they’re  both packaged and marketed in the exact same way?

Ice cream comes in a 2 liter tub.

Frozen dessert comes in a 2 liter tub.

Both come in a cavalcade of assorted flavors.

Both are made from milk.

Both taste the same to me.

So what the hell is the difference?

Also… why has the price of store-purchased ice cream gone up by a margin of 100% in the past 3 years or so?

Are cows more expensive lately? Has the cost of feeding them skyrocketed?

Has the ice cream market chilled out to the point where they have to charge twice as much to make up for the fact that they’re making half the sales that they used to? (Yes… I’m discounting the circular logic that people are buying less ice cream since it’s more expensive.)

How has the price of ice cream at Dairy Queen or McDonald’s not followed suit? Ice cream at these stores has generally stayed the same with an allowance for inflation.

Why does it cost me $7 dollars to buy a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when it used to cost $3.50 only 3 short years ago?

Seriously.

What the hell?

ITEM NUMBER FOUR

Non-Alcoholic Beer.

What’s the purpose?

Does beer taste so great that you’re willing to forgo the actual reason for drinking beer in the first place?

Is this a product to make people who can’t handle alcohol look cool to their peers by supporting a popular beer brand?

If you’re a recovering alcoholic and purchasing this fake beer, doesn’t that make you masochistic?

ITEM NUMBER FIVE

People who bring large baby carriages onto public buses.

If two people do this, it remove six seats from the seating pool since they will flip up the two 3-person benches at the very front of the bus in order to park their carriages.

A) That seating is for the elderly, pregnant, and otherwise infirm populace.

B) It eliminates seating on already packed bus routes.

C) It creates difficult bottle-necking when it comes to getting on and off the bus.

When this situation occurs on a heavily utilized route, the bus ends up looking like a train in India.

When you think of it in civic terms, this is clearly a public safety issue, so why aren’t there firm policies in place to exclude this situation from happening?

ITEM NUMBER SIX

Finally, given the time of year it is, I ask this?

Why do TV networks pull new shows after like 3 episodes?

In this day and age, television shows are thoroughly tested with potential audiences for weeks (sometimes months) before being put on the airwaves for the mainstream public to consume.

This normally happens when they stupidly put their new show – which they’ve touted as the next best thing – against a ratings powerhouse like American Idol or Dancing With The Stars which have their own firmly entrenched fanbases which aren’t likely to switch to something unknown.

I understand the mechanics: poorly performing shows don’t pull in eyeballs to the advertiser’s commercials – which are what pay for network programming.

Instead of shifting a program around on the schedule to compete against something really weak – say, I don’t know, America’s Funniest Home Videos or some tripe like that – they just pull it off the air without trying  to foster audience growth which could lead to a bigger audience share for the network.

This happens to a lot of top-notch programming and is the major force behind the trend that results in pure crap Monday to Friday.

The best example I can think of in recent history was NBC’s short-lived Journeyman which built up a decent fanbase who were on the internet being quite vocal about their adoration of the program and the philosophical debates it inspired.

Though, I must admit, NBC did give the show a fair shake and allowed it to end somewhat on it’s own terms  with 13 epsiodes – which completely bucks the trend.

3 or 4 episodes tops! That’s all you get!

Unless your show is on Fox.

If it’s Fox, you’ll notice the inverse of this problem.

Successful shows are moved to days where nobody watches TV i.e. Friday night, and the shows that appeal to the lowest possible denominator move into the vacuum that’s left behind.

In case anyone missed it, Fringe has started that march to the TV Death Slot.

The show was on Wednesday with a solid American Idol lead-in last season, and now will be found on Thursday opposite CBS powerhouse C.S.I. and the like.

Watch it move to Friday at the mid-season point.

Then again, it IS Fox. It’s hatred for the television format is universal.

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