Wednesday, March 28, 2007


With the NHL Playoffs less than two weeks away, me and about half the male population of Canada are about to embark on our annual three month sabbatical from television.

What that actually means is we'll be completely glued to the tube every single night until late June but we won't be watching anything but hockey.

I'm not sure there's an equivalent in any other country or culture. But this "thing" we have for the world's greatest sport completely warps the entire television landscape in this country.

During the regular season, "Hockey Night in Canada" on CBC dominates the ratings for 5 prime time hours every Saturday night. This allows CTV and Global to bury their Canadian content on the same night. Luckily for them, also the only night of the week when the American networks are repeating their own offerings and there's nothing to simulcast.

Likewise, with three months of primetime devoted to the playoffs, it justifies all the Canadian networks reducing their series orders from the traditional 22-26 to our more common 13. Simply fewer hours to fill on CBC and not much audience for whatever the other guys are running during their spring schedules.

Around this time of year, I always start wondering why I'm paying for the packages of channels I don't watch at all for literally one quarter of the calendar. I used to rationalize that I needed to hang on to them to catch the repeats of whatever I missed over the summer.

But that's not the case anymore. Now you can get most of what's programmed on television -- for free.

The Canadian nets have blocked video sales to Canadians on itunes and other legal video sites, which has made the new Apple TV device all but pointless here. But they can't stop you from viewing episodes of almost every popular program currently being broadcast almost anywhere in the world from several other websites.

Might I recommend: TV LINKS and DOWNLOAD TV

Some of what's offered on these sites has to be viewed online. Some shows are downloadable. The wealth of programming available, in either case, is nothing short of awesome.

If your tastes run towards documentaries, try THIS ONE.

I'm not going to get into the legalities of which shows it's okay for you to watch and which you should have Tivo'd or PVR'd or had a friend tape for you to make it all right. Because as much as I understand copyright law, I don't understand how it's okay to watch "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday, but you have to pay to download it on Monday and then it's okay to tape it again a month later when it repeats.

Most of these shows are also offered for free in most of the world but their home websites are 'geo-locked' to prevent their viewing by Canadians, whose treatment by our national networks and the CRTC in this regard, puts us on a level with Chinese dissidents.

How would I feel if some of these were my shows? Well some of them are. And I'll be driving an ice cream truck in Hell before I see residuals from any of them. Trust me, the same people 'geo-locking' TV shows in this country are also ducking their contractual obligations to cut some royalty checks.

If you're squeamish about all this and would rather just go see a movie. There's a free movie deal you can get in on for the next week I can tell you about as well.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema is offering an affiliate membership (for free) which will allow you see any Canadian movie (for free) for the next six months. You can get details and sign up HERE.

Both DIX and CAROLINE posted articles today about how much money Canadian networks are spending while not supporting the country's culture. Something DMC also details from a completely different and hilarious angle.

The websites above are a glimpse of the future of broadcasting. And let's hope our broadcasters find a way to join us there. Because I'm starting to think that those channels I don't watch for a quarter of the year could be done without for the remaining nine months as well.

These guys don't owe me a living. But I don't think I owe them one either.


Bill Cunningham said...

I figured it out the other day that I watch more television on my computer than I do on a TV. I don't have cable - I don't need it.

Danny-K said...

- "...But this "thing" we have for the world's greatest sport completely warps the entire television landscape in this country. " -

Were you being tongue-in-cheek there Jim?

Googled to double check and yep, just as I thought, keeps coming up - soccer is the world's greatest sport - or should I say: the most popular?

jimhenshaw said...


Where do I begin? Yes, Soccer is popular, but so are French Fries, the Missionary position and George Bush whenever he runs for office.

But are they truly satisfying and do they represent the "best" we can do?

Watch men in shorts run around an idyllic pampas for a couple of hours or see men in armor test all the laws of physics in a venue as cold and unyielding as nature will allow?

You send your sport's most exciting player off the pitch for a single head butt. Insult somebody's sister in Hockey, it triggers Armagheddon!

That's the difference, Danny. A game for boys or a true test of strength and character for men.

Why are Canadians so nice? Because we get it all out on the ice instead of letting those pent up aggressions fester and take it out on the other fans in the stands.

Soccer kills, both literally and spiritually, my friend. Come over from the dark side before it's too late.

Mef said...

it happened to me with Heroes. I missed the first run and then even the reruns nbc did in january, so I learned about bitorrent and because I thought my wife would want to watch it I learned how to burn dvds. We caught up in a week and now I watch the show...on NBC (it's not simulcast here in Halifax)

oh and if there are copyright police reading I just made that first part about downloading up.


Anonymous said...

Another way to look at it is you are paying Rogers twice for two TV delivery systems when you only need one.

The only reason I have cable is for the hockey.

And with a full time job and a tight writing schedule the playoffs are going to kill me, but I can't wait. As a Canucks fan in Ontario I starve for games.