Thursday, October 30, 2008


"...We love you Kon-rad and we'll be true-oo!
When you're not ne-ee-ear us, we're bluuuueeee...
O-oh Kon-rad, weeee loooove yoooouuuu!"

You ever have one of those moments when the stars seem to align, a prayer is answered or that cute girl you've been eyeing all night finally smiles at you?

Happened to me at 4:05 this afternoon. Okay, it happened without stars, any Supreme being or a hot blonde in a tight fitting little...uh, nevermind...

Suffice it to say the Earth moved. Imperceptibly to most. But it moved. The first tumbler unlocking the safe that holds a better future for Canadian television quietly fell into place.

The CRTC had promised to deliver its decision on changes to the Canadian Broadcast system at 4:00 p.m. today. So, a few minutes before, I pulled into a local coffee spot, bought my mid-afternoon double double and dialed up Newsworld on the mobile phone; fully expecting our National regulator to give the broadcasters everything they'd asked for back in April.

Because -- well, that's what they always do.

You all remember those hearings back in April and all the goodies our various nets had on their wish list.

You'll also remember that several Canadian Artists Guilds, television producers and four magnificently articulate members of the Writers Guild of Canada argued against the broadcasters' case. And you'll recall the palpable feeling that all those people were ignored.

Well, around 4:05 the news finally broke and I did a spectacular coffee spit take.

Because this time the Broadcasters got -- NOTHING!

And we got -- well, pretty much nothing too. Except for this...

Konrad von Finckenstein and his fellow Commissioners finally heard us.

The Free to Air Channels' request to be paid 50 cents per month per viewer...


They can "negotiate" fees for time-shifting (the ability to watch the Halifax evening news at lunchtime in Vancouver) earning additional revenue that way. But when you can now pick up a PVR for $99, who's going to bother?

So now broadcasters must decide if their inherent greed is worth the reduced audience numbers they'll receive by ceasing to timeshift. Big numbers drive advertising fellas, and given the current ad market, it might be best to leave things as they are.


Broadcasters also wanted genre protection of their specialty channels...


Well, not across the board. But the CRTC did the classic Canadian thing of taking a baby step in the direction it clearly wants to go (Like we do electing minority governments when we think we know what we want but still need some more certainty).

So for now, Genre protection is eliminated in the News and Sports sectors. That means more potential competition and potentially more production.


The Commission also decided to end the "bundling" of channels sold to subscribers. So to get the Football or Hockey games you really want to watch, you will no longer have to buy channels devoted to fishing, poker, or tractor pulls to see them.

Which should mean that the people operating fishing, poker and tractor pull channels have to come up with something more to hang onto any semblance of an audience. Got a tractor pull movie or a Poker reality show concept? Dust it off. The niche channels in these genres have to adapt very quickly or move to a spot on the internet.

And don't think the people who run History, Space and a few other places can't see the writing on the wall. They've got about a two year window to shore up their audiences through unique programming before they could be scrambling to survive.

Still can't tell DejaVu, Bold and TVLand apart? You will (through original programming) or they'll be gone.

Now, nobody says that new programming has to come from Canada. But they're all so "on the bubble" with their current Cancon levels, that's the only way they can go.


The commissioners, in their wisdom, are allowing for greater flexibility in the types of programming pay and specialty services may broadcast.

Meaning -- you might see sports movies on Sportsnet or TSN instead of some boring Golf tournament from Mid-Ohio that nobody but Will Dixon is watching.

Meaning -- Court TV might challenge CPAC by covering Justice Committee hearings or MTV might start playing music again.

Overall, this signals an enormous (and long overdue) shakeout in the industry. Not everybody currently on the dial will survive. The most innovative and creative will. But they'll need to do that by embracing the very same Artists Guilds and television producers they wanted shut out of the process.

Maureen Parker, David Barlow, Karen McClellan, Aaron Martin and Karen Walton -- much as you may have felt ignored, the arguments you offered that made us all proud back in April finally made a difference.

Konrad -- much as I've railed against you in the past, I may have to rethink our relationship.

Dude, you listened!

It may not seem like that big a thing, but it is. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

"We love you Kon-rad! Oh, yes we do-oo!
We love you Kon-rad and we'll be true-oo!
When you're not ne-ee-ear us, we're bluuuueeee...
O-oh Kon-rad, weeee loooove yoooouuuu!"


Bill Brioux said...

We think alike on a lot of things, Jim. Plus we may be the only two out there who remember "Bye Bye Birdie."

jimhenshaw said...

You're right on that one. Kids must look at Paul Lynde singing the "Ed Sullivan" number on Youtube and go "Who?" "What?"...

Brandon Laraby said...

You know, as a consumer, I've always wanted the ability to pick and choose - individually - what channels I want to pay for.

Hopefully they don't price the individual channels so far out of reason that you'd end up being better off buying a bundle or two.

I reeeally dislike most bundles anyway. Though, I LOVE the idea of channels having to actually put work into staying online.

I've seen some of these 'channels' in action and they're not much more than a well-stocked server, a few Beta decks and a bunch of monitors.

Ken said...

Get ready for the broadcasters to pass the "savings" on to us...the content creators.