Monday, January 11, 2010

You Gotta Love The Simulcast

arizona game

One of the primary benefits Canadian broadcasters have wrung from the CRTC is the right to simultaneous substitution. That’s the ability to simulcast their US purchased programming at the same time as the US network.

In the process, their signal replaces the American channel, allowing their commercials to play on the foreign platforms visible here as well as counting the people who left their TV on Fox to watch “House” to be counted as Canadian network viewers.

By the way, I have a small question about the new people sensing meters that have jacked the ratings this season --- do they count people who have fallen asleep in front of the tube? It seems they would – and are those the kind of eyeballs that advertisers covet?

Anyway, rejoining the simulcast…

A couple of things happened in America yesterday that exhibited just how much this system doesn’t really work for the Canadian viewing public.

The first was a football game, the 4:00 pm NFL Wildcard game between Green Bay and Arizona which ran on the FOX network and was simulcast in Canada by CTV.

Football games traditionally run three hours, so the game would have been over long before FOX’s much ballyhooed 8:00 pm 20th Anniversary episode of “The Simpsons” which was followed by a Morgan Spurlock documentary on the history of the series. Both of these shows were to be simulcast in Canada on Global.

Now, I watch most of my TV these days via an HD antenna, so I watched the football game on FOX direct from Buffalo – in better HD than the CTV simulcast I compared it to a couple of times (but that’s another story).

The more interesting narrative is that the Green Bay/Arizona tilt turned into the highest scoring post-season game in NFL history, with all the additional highlights, scoring replays and post-score commercial breaks that entails. What’s more, it ended regulation time in a 45-45 tie and went into an extended overtime.

What this meant is that by the time we got to Arizona running a fumble in for the winning touchdown, we were well into the 8 o’clock hour in the Eastern time zone --- and FOX was still playing football instead of “The Simpsons”.

Seeing no need to watch post-game analysis, I did a spin to see what else was on, landing on CTV. They too had bailed from sportscaster talking heads (no doubt to the chagrin of many ardent football fans) and were joining "programming already in progress".

In the Eastern Time Zone, that meant they were switching to the CBS simulcast feed of "Cold Case". No local news. No Cancon scheduled in the remaining “Prime Time” hours as the CRTC also mandates.

Simultaneous Substitution trumps whatever else happens on Canadian TV. If there is ever a national disaster, pray it does not happen during “CSI: Miami”.

However, more important to the viewing public, CTV joined the CBS police procedural far enough into what was “already in progress” that you didn't know who was dead let alone what clues had been revealed so far.

No hook.

No underlying theme the story might explore.

No introduction of characters or emotional drive on which to base your investment in the episode.

In other words, no point in watching.

Did CTV care that most people couldn’t have followed or enjoyed the episode?

Apparently not. They needed to be back on schedule in order to simulcast ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” at nine.

Over at Global, the dilemma must have been worse. I wasn’t watching, so I don’t know how they tap-danced until Fox finally began it’s simulcast of “The Simpsons”.

But that didn’t stop them from making the evening even more of a waste for their Canadian audience.

I skipped the episode and Spurlock’s documentary to walk the dog and make dinner.

According to a friend in the States I heard from this morning, the doc was a wonderful piece of television. According to another friend watching in Canada, Global dropped it part way in.


Well, they had to get back on schedule for their 9:00 pm simulcast of “Brothers and Sisters”.

It didn’t matter how enthralled you were by the show. Global just didn’t have room for it anymore.

So, local viewer who we’ve begged to help Save Local TV --- Fuck you!

Somebody tell me again who the CRTC regulates, really?

On to the second thing that happened in America yesterday…


And this might have Canadian broadcast executives tearing their own hair more than Jay Leno.

In an effort to head off a rebellion from their affiliates, NBC has cancelled the 10:00 pm “Jay Leno Show” hoping to move the former Tonight Show host back to late night and an 11:30 slot.

If that happens, it will push Conan O’Brien’s version of “The Tonight Show” back to midnight and Jimmy Fallon even further into the wee hours of ever dwindling rating numbers.

Now, this is all still being worked out. But where does it leave the Canadian networks that, once again, simulcast these shows?

Jay Leno currently simulcasts at 10 pm on CITY. If Leno moves later, does CITY move their own late news to keep his show on their network? And what fills the remaining late night half hour between 11:30 and their next programming block at midnight?

And perhaps more importantly, what fills the earlier Prime Time hour, five nights a week?

First guess would be whatever NBC puts in that spot.

But will a cash stingy Rogers spring for or maybe even be in a position to bid for so much Peacock programming?

Meanwhile, Conan simulcasts at 11:30 on "A" Channel. Does Conan now also get pushed later by CTV’s second team so it starts halfway through Letterman? And what does "A" tap dance with for a half hour between their late news and the new start time?

Because we’re already been told “A” can’t afford to do more local news.

And what else fits between your late newscast and the marquee show you’ve hyped your audience to want to watch?

Does the Leno decision at NBC become what forces somebody’s hand to actually produce a little local TV?

How weird would that be…

Just another dilemma created for both networks and audiences because of the Simultaneous Substitution rule.

Isn’t it time we just had an industry of our own…?


Cole said...

Amen to your comment. I usually watch the Sunday fox animation by having the Shaw PVR record the EST Fox feed then time-shift to watch it later in the day - or another day. This shift messed up the recordings as the PVR went on and off at the appointed times and I ended up with truncated shows. Luckly - living in the West - I could delete all and re-program for the Mountain Standard time repeats on Global. About time that the CRTC was closed down and let Industry Canada run the spectrum - rather than broadcasters and the Duoploy folks.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the same sort of thing happened on Saturday too: ball game went long, and Global had to pull an old episode of "That 70s Show" off the shelf to plug the gap between the news and SNL.

I think I'll just put some popcorn on and watch the entercrats dance a silly jig...

Anonymous said...

The CTV simulcast of the NFL playoffs has reached an intolerable stage, even for a die-hard fan. Every time the ad depicting the three flight attendants in training for the Budweiser Superbowl party comes on, I swear I’ll never buy Bud again. The ad must have run 25 times during the weekend games. And the awful promos for CTV’s U.S. drama series that run dozens of times during a game with the same sappy music in all of them must drive viewers away from the game and the promoted shows.

Barry Kiefl

P.S. The Sunday Packers/Cards game was actually scheduled for 4:30, which created the Simpson's clash.

rick mcginnis said...

Another reason why the broadcast schedule model is a loser by nature; there'd be no conflicts if you could choose from a menu instead of wait for a train, so to speak. But I can't imagine how the menu model - so simple, so elegant - would get screwed up by our broadcast bureaucracy.

Ken said...

Oh my effing God, Jim. You have beautifully collated into a singularity what's completely testicular about the state of the Canadian TV union...and by way of one night of programming. If I wasn't so angry I'd laugh. Well done!

Voltes V-Boazania said...

In Winnipeg, if you are watching either "Supernatural" or "Smallville" on either WGN (CW Chicago) or WPIX (CW New York) both channel 61 and 62 for Shaw (222 and 223 for MTS TV subscribers), Joytv 11 blocks the ads from CW Chicago and New York. This means Simultaneous Substitution.

Joytv 11 is a different channel that simsubs US channels, such as ABC for 20/20, Supernatural and Smallville for CW New York and Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Both Supernatural and Smallville of CW New York and Chicago and 20/20 of ABC are subject to simultaneous substitution (simsub) by Winnipeg's Joytv 11 (CIIT-TV).

For Shaw subscribers, WGN and WPIX can be seen on Channels 61 and 62. For MTS TV, both are on 222 and 223.

Anonymous said...

Joytv 11 Winnipeg blocks the signal of CW Chicago and New York for "Supernatural" and "Smallville".

Voltes V-Boazania said...

If you wish to see the Super Bowl ads this Sunday, you have to cross the border with passport and other documents in order to see that thing, as CRTC requires all cable companies and satellite providers like Bell and Shaw Direct in our country to simsub all local CBS stations by CTV. This means Super Bowl ads cannot be seen in our country.

Matt Spegal said...

Put up a over-the-air antenna like I have if you're within reach of US OTA stations, or subscribe to DirecTV in Canada (all you need is a valid US address) like countless others have done to avoid this crap.