Friday, April 29, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week Three Standings

The thrill of Victory…

And the agony of defeat…

can drain

Round one is in the books. Adios Montreal, Pittsburgh, New York, Buffalo. So long Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

And while a couple of poolies took some pretty good hits, we're all still standing and everybody still has a shot -- even if it's a long one.

Sort of like the Federal election.

And straying off-topic for a minute longer, am I the only one who watched that Vancouver video up top and felt a little twinge of dispatches from Tehran during the Green Revolution? Only instead of "Allahu Akbar", there's a bunch of guys screamin' "Looooouuuuuuu…"

Maybe this is one of the ways we show people how Canada is different from the rest of the world. We don't let any of our politicians get into a position where they can feel comfortable bossing us around and if we shout anything from the rooftops it'll likely have something to do with hockey.

So, two things as we roll into Round Two.

First and most important -- there's a new IWHP contest inspired by Shae Weber's post game appearance last night. Did you see that dude's playoff beard!? I thought any minute he was gonna start screaming "Tonight we dine in Hell!"

shae weber beard

I mean, it's barely Round Two! If the Preds go much deeper he'll be tripping over that thing. I didn't realize that if you wanted to play in Nashville you had to look like one of "The Oak Ridge Boys".

But hey, I was looking for a new contest for Round Two and Shae provided.

So, at the end of Round Two, I'll be awarding a trophy for "Best Playoff Beard" in a contest we're calling "The Hirsute Pursuit". Send your photo entries to seraphic77@gmail.com .

Entry is open to current poolies and anyone else so bored they actually read these weekly update posts. The picture doesn't have to be of your own beard (although that may garner extra points) and photo-shopping is allowed.

Entries close when the last Second Round team is eliminated and will be judged on size, forestation and creativity.

Second point this week is that the pool standings reveal the return of the Dreaded Pascoe.

Will Pascoe has won or placed in the top three for three years running and -- "He's Ba-ack!"

I used to wonder how he managed to survive, given his writing skills and all, but it's become apparent the nice people at Pro-Line probably have much to do with keeping baby in new shoes.

God help Las Vegas if any of his LA deals come through.

Alex House now sits in second with Stubinski and Racicot close on his heels.

Last week's leader, Denis McGrath, has retreated somewhat. But then he is in France.

And I'm told still haunting Parisian Sportsbars muttering "Je suis la Bombe". I'm not sure if that's related to his pool success or a personal assessment of "XIII".

The Third week of the NHL Playoff Marathon gets its full launch this weekend. Next update is Monday.

Game on!

11pool32

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Opening The Netflix Can Of Worms

netflix can of worms

Throughout the last months, Canadian broadcasters, cable and satellite companies, independent producers and Creative Guilds have all requested that the CRTC step in to regulate the first over-the-top video provider to make significant inroads into Canada -- Netflix.

For those unaware, Netflix is an internet streaming service which offers (for a subscription fee of $8/month) several thousand movie and TV titles that can be viewed on televisions, computers, various mobile devices and cellular phones.

In the strictest terms, Netflix is not a broadcaster and therefore not bound by CRTC regulations.

It doesn't send the same program to all its subscribers at the same time, doesn't schedule, doesn't run or sell advertising, doesn't do news, sports, weather or local programming. Basically, all they do is deliver as much video content as their customers wish to consume.

They also don't take up channel space, nor do they intrude on the frequencies and spectrum which the government has generously provided to traditional Canadian broadcasters.

Netflix also doesn't enjoy any of the protections and benefits our Government provides to Canadian broadcasters in the form of:

simulcasting

genre protection

expanded commercial time

development funding

production funding

funding for program acquisition

multiple windows for achieving Cancon requirements

or…

looking the other way while broadcasters repeat the same programming over multiple platforms which are all separately billed to customers unable to unbundle all the unwanted or unwatched channels carrying them.

At the moment, 71% of the cost of all Cancon is paid by Canadian taxpayers and consumers, who then pay again to access that content via cable, satellite, additional channel bundles, the internet and wireless services.

But…

Netflix doesn't have Canadian content requirements or make the financial contributions Canadian broadcasters and cable & satellite companies are required to make for its production.

So while arguing that they themselves should be allowed to decrease their own Cancon commitments, our broadcasters are demanding that Netflix be required to increase theirs to some CRTC proscribed level and pay into the Canadian administered production funds.

Probably so they don't have to fork over as much of their own money.

Independent Canadian producers are all for this because the funding provided to and distributed by the Canadian Media Fund through the current system is virtually the only production money any of them are able to raise.

And Canadian Creative Guilds are likewise onboard because increased Cancon or another revenue stream feeding the current funding system seems bound to ensure their artists keep working.

Even if past history doesn't support that argument.

Meanwhile…

Netflix contends that it isn't a broadcaster, merely an online video rental service from which consumers pick and choose what they'd like to watch when and where and on whatever platform they want to watch it.

They point out that they already carry a large number of Canadian titles for which they have purchased streaming rights from the Canadian producers (many of whom are among the very broadcasters and producers now aligning against them) and they intend to purchase (and fund the initial production of) many more.

feature24

Indeed, when you log into Netflix in Canada, you are immediately introduced to Canadian titles. No endlessly searching the TV dial during any hour of primetime as you do with channels belonging to Bell, Shaw, Rogers and occasionally the CBC.

And about the only negative thing they've had to say about their foray into the Canadian market (despite being immediately constricted by revised streaming speeds and download caps to discourage prospective customers) is that the fees Canadian ISPs have instituted to protect their broadcast divisions are greatly inflated. ie: The extra gigabyte Shaw or Rogers insist they must charge $2 to $5 for actually costs those ISPs less than a penny.

We could get into a long and complicated discussion about whether Netflix contributing to Cancon funding would increase the production of comedy, documentaries and drama in Canada. It might well do that since most of what the broadcasters currently spend goes to cheap reality and information programming.

But since any Netflix contribution would go into a funding pool that the broadcasters ultimately control, there's no guarantee it won't also be used for what best suits their own needs instead of what Netflix subscribers (or anyone else) might want.

Or perhaps more accurately -- it would go toward the continued funding of films and programming the vast majority of Canadians have already overwhelmingly rejected by their television viewing choices and at the box office.

As always, however, the final refuge of scoundrels remains patriotism and our broadcasters are predicting the demise of home grown programming if Netflix isn't brought to heel. In the end, all these arguments really boil down to who's making the money and little else.

Bell, Shaw and Rogers own virtually all of the broadcast networks negatively impacted by competition from Netflix. They own the Video on Demand systems which charge up to $5.99 for some of the same single titles accessible for $2 more on Netflix while the consumer continues to receive everything else he or she wants to watch for the rest of the month…

On their TV…

On a computer or iPad…

On a mobile phone.

And up to now, our media conglomerates thought they were in the catbird seat when it came to selling access to the American and foreign made movies and television series for which they held the Canadian rights via the Internet and wireless services they also own.

But now Netflix is repeatedly end-running our media giants. They've commissioned exclusive dramatic content for the Canadian market. And they've signed deals to stream all the product now being distributed by Paramount, Lionsgate, Sony, MGM and Warner Brothers. 

Moreover, they are aggressively buying up such popular titles as "Mad Men" paying that show's producers $75 Million for streaming rights alone.

The Netflix message is clear. Make programming people want to watch and we'll buy it. Continue to make the cheapest possible shows that serve the parochial biases so often encased in traditional Cancon and you will no longer own a competitive option for the consumer.

The hard truth for broadcasters and the current Cancon bureaucracy is that Netflix strengthens content creators in their dealings with broadcasters; and especially those broadcasters unwilling to alter outdated models of content delivery.

Add to that the 69% quarterly growth in Netflix subscribers and it is clear that Canadians are no longer buying the sanctimonious rhetoric about "culture" they've been fed for generations.

And should the CRTC attempt to regulate Netflix, it opens a very complicated can of worms with regard to other Internet services.

Amazon, Apple, Google,  Best Buy, Walmart, Dish Network and DirecTV have all either launched or announced their intention to provide similar services.

Will the CRTC try to regulate all of them, set Cancon levels and extract tithes for access to the Canadian market? In reality, nothing is stopping them.

 videostore

But then, why were such conditions never applied to Blockbuster or any other brick and mortar video rental service that competed with and pilfered viewers from the broadcasters -- for decades?

What about Netflix's Canadian imitator in the snail-mail department, Zip.ca? Why has there been no call for them to require subscribers to rent a certain percentage of Canadian films? Where's the call for them to write a cheque to fund the next Paul Gross movie?

Why haven't broadcasters screamed about iTunes or AppleTV -- or is that silence caused by a pricing structure that just doesn't threaten them as much?

Or maybe are Bell, Rogers and Shaw a little more careful not to attack Apple and Google and others who create the hardware and technology they require to allow their internet and mobile customers to access content?

If they did, would it surprise you if Apple simply added a surcharge to Canadians buying an iPhone to recover their Cancon contribution?  Kind of an iPod tax in reverse. Maybe even "in addition to" an iPod tax if that idea ever flies as a way to "support" Canadian content creators.

Could our broadcasters be doing any more to drive the country further into the digital backwaters?

And what do we do about Facebook and Youtube?

dark facebook

This week, Youtube made a Netflix style streaming deal with 20th Century Fox. Meanwhile, Facebook is already experimenting with online viewing of "The Dark Knight", "Yogi Bear" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets".

Facebook members outside Canada can already access these films paying not in cash -- but with their earned Facebook "credits".

Canadian Media Producers Association President Norm Bolen has already indicated Facebook is following Netflix's lead -- and therefore might also need to be regulated.

 norm bolen

Bless Norm's Cancon branded heart, but I often get the feeling he spends his weekends trolling local Mom & Pop stores to suggest they should add a few Canadian titles to the ethnic foreign fare typically found shelved where the cigarettes used to be -- and maybe slip a few bucks to the Canadian Media Fund to boot.

But how does one even begin to determine which of Facebook's multiple services require how much more Cancon? And what's classed as certifiable content in that forum to begin with? 

Moreover, how do you extract fees from a service that awards "credits" for purchasing movie streams by trying out games or "liking" humanitarian causes?

And perhaps more to the point -- what good does it do anyone if all these Internet services are forced to carry a percentage of Canadian content, but the audiences are constantly encouraged to watch American programming -- y'know like all the Canadian broadcasters do?

Or is the CRTC only concerned about movies and television and not shared music, animation, print material, games, photographs, etc. etc. etc?

You might be able to catalogue what percentage of the videos on Youtube are Canadian (or created by Canadians working outside the country in places -- well, like Hollywood). But Youtube has expressed an intention to also get into streaming the news.

royal you 

Doesn't a stream of the Royal Wedding potentially threaten a traditional Canadian broadcaster's audience numbers and revenue as much as streaming a movie?

Shouldn't Youtube have to cough up some dough to help the CBC pay Peter Mansbridge's airfare and salary?

And what about UStream? Both they and Youtube will be live streaming the next shuttle launch.

featuredcontent-978,298x163,b-1 

And if we do require Youtube and others to soften the blow of taking Canadian news junkies away from CBC, CTV and SUN-TV, could an argument be made that somebody needs to come up with some cash at the Drudge Report, Huffington Post and every other news aggregator and newspaper provider available on the Internet to support Canadian newspapers and journalists?

Shouldn't Grooveshark and Pandora have to kick some cash into funding Canadian music and be required to make more of it available?

What about the thousands of internet radio stations now accessible to Canadians via both aggregators and individual radio sites. The CRTC regulates radio too. Don't those people deserve the same protections demanded by our constantly coddled television re-broadcasters of American content?

Does anybody even want to begin cataloguing the tens of thousands of Internet porn sites selling subscriptions to Canadians who could be buying the same titles from the VOD services of Shaw, Rogers and Bell.

What's the matter, respectable Media behemoths, didn't want to mention that "X-tube", "YouPorn" and "Little Anal Angels" was carving off as much or more of your revenue as Netflix?

I can see Konrad now -- ordering in the big bottle of hand sanitizer before his next in-camera with Mirko Bibic or Keith Pelley.

Anyway, MLB.com offers a subscription rate competitive with what it costs Canadian viewers to access all of the Canadian TV sports services carrying Major League Baseball. NHL.com and NFL.com do the same in their respective sports.

Screen-shot-2011-03-09-at-10.58.59-AM-600x420

If we're going to require Netflix to carry Cancon and offset the broadcasters' funding contributions to drama, docs and comedy, shouldn't these websites have to kick in a few bucks to make sure the guys on TSN never run out of hair gel?

Or do Canada's sports broadcasters not want to piss off any of the real sports leagues so they end up presenting poker 24 hours a day instead of just 20?

Cheap alternative services have already led thousands of Canadian customers to cut the Cable umbilical. It's certain that advertisers will soon be right behind them.

Clearly, what's needed is not a new level of protection for broadcasters, but a new way of financing Canadian content that isn't predicated on supporting an outmoded and clearly dying business model.

Perhaps funding needs to be allotted directly to producers, allowing all the networks (and even Netflix) to bid for what they feel best serves their audience.

Perhaps we need to issue funding on a "merit" system, where if your last production failed to recoup and repay the fund, you don't get to go back to the well a second time -- replacing a system where failures are funded year after year after year.

Maybe we need to re-institute the "Bad-old" tax deferral days of private investment in media that encouraged private citizens to support film and television production. Only this time, instead of the government overseers rubber stamping all the corrupt practices, they could just do the job they were supposed to do and criminally charge anybody found gaming the system.

Come to think of it, maybe a few of those folks at the CRTC should take a look at the myriad of ways our broadcasters "game" the current system to see if their regulations are being implemented in the spirit in which they were intended.

For example…

the_littlest_hobo

What would our broadcasters do if Netflix and its imitators outbid them for all those old Canadian shows that are endlessly repeated across multiple channels and formats?

If "The Littlest Hobo" still counts as a half hour of 100% certifiable Cancon, long years after almost every artist (and certainly all the dogs) involved in making it are dead -- wouldn't Netflix similarly qualify? And by spending an equal pittance to show their commitment to Canadian culture too!

What's more -- there's a ton of 100% Cancon in the horror and thriller genre which has never been broadcast on conventional television here. God knows that's both a potential goldmine for Netflix and all those who made it in the first place.

And wouldn't such an MO, which is how virtually every Canadian broadcaster actually achieves their required levels of content, mean that regulating Netflix could end up hurting Canadian broadcasters by forcing them to spend more money on more up-to-date content?

From where I sit, Netflix could be the weapon by which we finally bring down an oligopoly which has always found ways to avoid making Cancon, avoid having to pay for or promote it, while forcing Canadians to pay higher cable and mobile prices than the rest of the world.

These guys have had 40 Years to create unique Canadian content. They've had almost 10 years since this digital revolution was becoming clear to anybody paying attention. There's no more need to protect their lack of foresight and provide the "level playing field" they fought to deny Windmobile and Techsavvy to make sure they didn't have to compete for customers.

Perhaps it's time for the CRTC to stand aside and force everyone in the Canadian film and TV industries to start thinking progressively and find competitive and innovative models that produce legitimate Cancon that meets a real audience need instead of what suits our own selfish purposes.

Because if we don't begin to make our own content, content we'll stand behind and promote like crazy, content designed to entertain and inform an audience, then pretty soon some bright light will come along with the "grey-market satellite dish" version of connecting to Netflix that will give Canadians access to anything they want to stream online and render our unending protectionist measures moot.

Oh -- wait -- somebody already has.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pool Report: Wk3 Begins

it ain't over

No it's not! Not by a long shot.

This year's first round may be one of the most tightly fought ever. Yes, Phoenix were gone in four and New York and Anaheim weren't far behind. But the rest of the field looks like it may take the rest of the week to sort out.

I know you Vancouver/Chicago and Montreal/Boston watchers are already wrung out by how bizarrely both of those series have been swinging.

But imagine how the folks in San Jose and Philadelphia feel. They were dealing with bottom seeds too and those guys aren't going without a fight either.

And given that I pinned my hopes to the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, I'm loving how long their high-scoring tilt with Pittsburgh is taking.

So with all the ups and downs over the weekend, the IWHP (Infamous Writers Hockey Pool) is still anybody's to win.

Mr. McGrath still clings to top spot, something I'm sure he'll lord over the rabid NHL fans he encounters in Paris over the coming weeks.

From personal experience I know there's nothing the waiters in any red canopied sports bistro like better than switching the TV from boring old Euro-Cup Whatever to a Buffalo/Philly Game Seven. Especially if there's a chance it'll go to overtime.

Matt Racicot is close behind him, however. A thought that must give both of them pause.

Alex House and Tim Stubinski share third spot and -- whoa -- why, look who's climbed all the way from the lower depths to fifth!

Also making his move from the back of the pack is Mr. Dixon, out of the basement for a quick breath of clean air -- before he'll undoubtedly sink back.

By the time we get to the next report on Friday, the first round will be done, likely extracting a heavy toll on a few poolies in the process.

Dontcha love livin' on the edge like this?

The Standings as of this morning:

11pool31

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 166: Locked In A Vegas Hotel

I've never been able to shake how much I detest the Easter long weekend.


There it was, the first real break from school since New Year's Day and you spent the Friday being solemn, the Saturday getting ready for Sunday, and Sunday was all church and not getting your new pants dirty and relatives and ham.


Yeah the eggs and chocolate bunnies were nice but they never fully offset having to sit through endless Bible movies on TV and remembering to say something nice about your aunts' hats.


On top of all that, the weather in Canada is notoriously iffy this time of year, so it seemed that despite everybody claiming it was Spring, you always had to wait at least one more week before trying out whatever "outside toys" you got at Christmas.


Somehow, the other major holidays come with options. You can have a traditional Christmas or spent it on a sunny beach somewhere. New Years, May 24, Canada Day, Labor Day, even Thanksgiving you can pretty much do what you like.


Easter just feels hemmed in, kinda one note and joyless.


Sort of like being stuck in a distant hotel room or working in Canadian television.


But it doesn't have to be that way anymore.


This week, Tom Guilmette, a Boston based sports cinematographer and DP who also blogs extensively about camera equipment and shooting techniques, tried out a Phantom High Speed Digital Cinema camera in his National Association of Broadcasters (comped I hope) Las Vegas hotel room. The results are inspiring.


We've all felt trapped by a holiday, at loose ends in a sterile hotel room or stymied by how you break out of an industry constricted by financing, content rules and disinterested networks.


Of course we all know that in those circumstances survival comes from making your own fun.


What follows is what Tom was able to create in a couple of hours in one small room. It's a lesson in how much previously unaffordable technology is now available to virtually anybody.






Anybody working in television knows that you can have a ton of great ideas but they don't amount to a hill of beans without perfect execution. And with cameras like the Phantom, a lot more becomes readily available.


One room. One camera. And almost instantly, four minutes of eye candy. The mind boggles at what Tom could've created with the addition of one willing cocktail waitress -- or better yet -- a writer with a narrative thread.


For all that I've written these past weeks about the Canadian television industry being over with, moments like this are reminders that for every closed door, the universe provides an open window. What you imagine can still be realized.


Think of the possibilities and -- Enjoy Your Sunday.



Locked in a Vegas Hotel Room with a Phantom Flex from Tom Guilmette on Vimeo.


For a taste of what Tom Guilmette was actually shooting in Las Vegas and more of what this amazing camera can do, check out the video here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Infamous Writers Pool: Week Two Standings

1cartoon aislin

I always wondered why they called it "Good" Friday. Cause it didn't seem like much "Good" went into why it's commemorated.

But I'm assuming on some levels it feels a whole lot less painful than what Montreal and Vancouver fans had to endure yesterday.

In Montreal's case I guess you could put their loss down to a couple of bad bounces. But what happened on the West Coast makes "epic fail" seem somewhat understated.

To put Vancouver's collapse into perspective, Chicago's never-ventures-beyond-his-crease Goalie has personally scored twice as many points in the last two games as the high-flying, goal machine Sedin Twins put together.

They say it's going to be real sunny on the West Coast this weekend -- meaning Golf season can get into full swing. Gee, and just about the same time as last year.

vancouvers_only_cup_hat-p148316213798480505qz14_400

Meanwhile, those old guys in Detroit dropped an anvil on the wily Coyotes, perhaps marking the end of hockey in the desert. And by the time the next pool report comes around on Monday, it appears certain a couple more series will have come to an end.

bryz

So this will likely be the last report where everybody (okay, except me) still has a full roster of players.

But I still managed to move up a couple of slots and Dixon is finally out of the basement. But taking off like a rocket this week is Denis McGrath, who should have a bullet next to his name after zooming from 13th to first in less than three days.

Matt Racicot and Alex House fill out the remaining top spaces.

Remember that you can check your positions online at anytime. But we'll be back to update you on Monday.

11pool22

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pool Report: Wk2 Begins

downie1_3589

Sorry I'm a day late with the Monday Pool Report but I was kinda busy with the post below this one. Priorities. They can so get the way of what feels more important.

And there was "headhunting" involved.

So I guess you could draw a parallel since it seems hockey players can get suspended for head hits but there's no supplementary discipline for network executives doing the same. Maybe screenwriters need to adopt their own "code" if you know what I mean.

Anyway, we're not even halfway into the first round and bodies are already strewn around the ice from questionable body contact. Brent Seabrook is out for tonight's game in Chicago after a doozie that didn't get called. Meanwhile both Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay will be without a couple of key players suspended for being naughty.

So far the only poolie apparently suffering a head injury would be fellow IWHP organizer Will Dixon, inhabiting the basement for the second week running.

Some might say this is because Dix is a multi-hyphenate in the industry and therefore had to endure being multiply slagged this week by our broadcasters for being a producer ("lazy") director ("inexperienced") and writer ("brutal"). But the untold secret is that Uncle Willis actually makes his picks based on how hot their girlfriends are.

Meanwhile, Alex House has retaken the lead with some other minor shifts up and down as the rest of us jockey for position. You Vancouver fans are definitely smiling a little more widely these days and may have semi-permanent grins in place by this evening.

But remember that this is a hockey pool and while it's great that your team can take a series 4-0, some of us are going to be racking up a whole lot of points while you wait for the next round. Oh -- do I see that "Why did we have to get Chicago first?" worried look coming back….

Ah, Vancouver. It isn't just the weather that's unpredictable.

See you all Friday.

11pool21

Monday, April 18, 2011

For The Record

in-camera

My Cowboy grandpa used to always tell me that whenever I got angry, the smartest thing to do was count to ten, providing a moment to cool down before deciding what happened next.

Well, I've been counting all weekend, so I'm about as mellowed on what you're about to read as I can be.

And that's not saying much.

Last Friday, I printed a portion of CRTC "in-camera" testimony from Bell Media which detailed just how much disdain and lack of commitment that broadcast conglomerate has toward the production of Canadian programming.

A couple of days later, SHAW Communications had their chance at a private chat with the Commission.

Now, the public and the other industry stakeholders have always been told that a certain amount of private discussion is necessary in these matters.

Companies are required to divulge detailed financial information during these "in-camera" sessions. And we all understand that such data shouldn't be made readily available to their competitors.

What we didn't know is that these cozy encounters also included what can only be characterized as character assassination.

If what you read on this blog last Friday made you angry, prepare yourself for some of the most unprofessional executive behavior you've ever encountered.

I'll be back following the transcript to list my responses. Feel free to add your own in the comment thread. Or better yet, take the opportunity to create a few of your own out in the real world. Although some would suggest such creativity and courage is beyond you…

Herewith, what SHAW Communications chose to put on the record with the CRTC and (as the photo reference above indicates) also felt was worthy of full disclosure:

1485  THE CHAIRPERSON: Just one question. You mentioned before, and I think it's a very good point, that with the benefit monies from two major mergers on the market and the PNI there may be more money than the industry can absorb. Assume that's correct. What is the negative implication of that?

1487  MS SHIPTON: I mean, I will just say that, on the drama front, we are incredibly strained in this country finding talent.

1488  I mean the competitive environment in terms of just the writers if you get more than four or five big drama series up and running, those writers rooms have at least seven to eight writers per room. It is brutal. "Doyle" is stealing from "Endgame" which is stealing from "Rookie Blue" which is now stealing from "Flashpoint". I mean we have got big shows underway.

1489  So as we go to spend more and more, you know I know we have got to bring up the younger guys, bring up the younger guys, ---------------------------------------------------.

1490  The Writers Guild may kill me on that but they know that we are always trying to find more and more writers. It's writers.

1491  THE CHAIRPERSON: So your cost of production goes up.

1495  MS SHIPTON: Actually, the quality of production goes down --

1496  MS WILLIAMS: It is the quality.

1497  MS SHIPTON: -- is what happens and that -- sense becomes harder and harder and harder to move the dial on because you end up hiring people into writing rooms to direct episodes and all the rest of it that actually don't have the experience to be pulling it off. And so it's the quality that goes down. That's our concern there.

1498  THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay.

1499  MS SHIPTON: But I will say since the benefits have come into the system I would say the talent base has grown. There is absolutely no question. And it is because of the amount of volume that we are doing.

1500  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Yeah, that's the idea.

1501  MS SHIPTON: So don't take it the wrong way. It's just really still hard. It has definitely grown.

1503  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: I thought Hawco ("Republic of Doyle") was writing all his material.

1504  MS SHIPTON: Well, no, he actually has five writers in his room.

1505  THE CHAIRPERSON: Okay. I think that's all. Let's finish this in camera now and go back on the record.

And there you have it. Just a short exchange. But one with sweeping impact and ramifications.

Anecdotal information, perhaps even shaded somewhat to make the speakers' points. Nothing whatsoever offered as proof of its truth. And none apparently required or requested by the Commissioners present. Therefore, in the world of regulatory policy, it becomes accepted fact.

How much has been said in previous "in-camera" exchanges which has never been revealed so the statements can be clarified or refuted?

Unfortunately, we'll never know that. Although we've had hints of what's been going on.

A couple of years ago, Commission Chair Konrad von Finckenstein wished the creative community could hear what he'd heard from one executive because it would make them realize how wrong their positions were.

At another point, those assembled laughed uproariously at some remark made about said creatives. In both cases, what was said had been redacted from the official record.

One wonders how many rulings based on unsubstantiated commentary have contributed to the continued decline of Canadian programming and the decimation of a once thriving industry?

The reason you can't do much drama in this country is there aren't any writers.

And apparently the ones who are hanging around just aren't up to the task.

snoopy_dns

Well…

Those of us who actually write (and produce) within the Canadian television industry know there are volumes going unspoken here.

You could have the entire staff of SHAW's "The Listener" endlessly rewriting the show bible (at which they've had much practice) and not get even close to the reams of additional information not being relayed to the Commission for consideration.

That's because those of us who write and produce Canadian television never get the chance to speak "off the record" to the CRTC (and barely much chance to do so in recorded segments) so the experiences we've had with the people the Commission consistently chooses to take direction from are never heard.

But I'm pretty sure if the Commission invited writers and directors and actors and their Guild and Union representatives into an environment where they felt free to offer their own experience of how the system works, they might get a very, very different picture of how television gets made in this country.

And I have a feeling all of those industry creatives would be cautious and professional enough to not offer what they know without a substantial amount of tangible evidence to back it up.

Some of them might turn up with memos and emails and script notes from CBS or NBC or others indicating that CTV and Global are perhaps not as in charge of the creative direction or even the production decisions on their series as some apparently believe.

Is it still Cancon created by a Canadian network when the creative decisions are not being made by Canadians or even made in this country?

Some might appear carrying forensic audits of the films and series they've done, or trial transcript indicating some Canadian productions keep multiple sets of books so it will appear their endeavors are less than successful.

Some might ask the Commission to make sense of distribution reports indicating productions 70% financed by the Canadian taxpayer and sold in hundreds of foreign markets year after year are still far short of making a penny in profit.

One or two might offer glowing corporate annual reports bragging about the success of and world-wide appetite for Canadian programming the Commission has been repeatedly told are complete and utter failures at making money or finding an audience.

badwriting

Perhaps the CRTC would hear from the Canadian writers running massively successful American series broadcasters like SHAW buy for simulcast.

These writers might enlighten those who regulate the industry on what REALLY drove them to leave the country in the first place and why SHAW couldn't woo them back if they were offered complete creative control of whatever programming they wanted to do, the right to pick their own timeslot and as much Cocaine and as many A-list Porn Stars as they could handle.

They would certainly hear from the dozens of experienced Canadian writers (some with scores, even hundreds of hours of produced work done in that money spinning American Prime Time programming) -- writers who have never been asked to showrun or even staff a SHAW series.

They would hear from just as many experienced writers placed on those shows but only with what they might contribute limited or curtailed so they can't significantly improve the quality of what's being produced.

They would also hear from Canadian writers who've been told SHAW would love to do their show -- but only if they find an American or foreign partner first -- and maybe a few LA based writers or directors or stars.

But before we even get to a hearing, there are some things those further up the SHAW corporate ladder than those speaking to the CRTC on their behalf may wish to seriously consider.

At one point in her testimony, Ms. Shipton states, "…you know I know we have got to bring up the younger guys, bring up the younger guys".

Is that the reason why "older" and eminently more experienced writers are not being hired?

Is there a policy of "Agism" operating at SHAW?

Or does the way that sentence is structured indicate some larger, perhaps even CRTC or CMF sanctioned "Agist" agenda?

"I know we have got to…"…?

hiring writers

I'm sure that SHAW and the CRTC are both aware that members of the Writers Guild of America over the age of 40 recently won a $90 Million class action regarding network and studio discrimination against older writers. They may be aware that a 2nd suit of $70 Million is concluding in the over-the-hill gang's favor and other similar class actions are in process.

And none of those successful court actions included evidence where a highly placed network executive openly admitted that younger writers were being brought in whether or not they could do the job and in place of older, experienced writers who could.

Nor was there a quotation clearly admitting that the younger writers were being hired even though they couldn't do the job.

Unless SHAW Communications has several million dollars it simply wants to flush away, they had better come up with some concrete proof that they are indeed hiring writers over 40. And they had better also be ready to explain why the "experience" these writers clearly bring to the table isn't being put to use.

Moreover, these remarks would indicate that the Showrunner training program that CanWest initiated a couple of years ago, and SHAW has continued, just isn't working. Otherwise, they'd have plenty of good writers, wouldn't they?

Or are these less than capable writers only being hired to justify what's been invested in those programs to gain CRTC favor?

Since SHAW scores all kinds of bonus points with both the CRTC and CMF through sponsoring initiatives such as this, shouldn't both of those bodies be investigating why they're not churning out the requisite requirement of talent?

Is it because they programs are supervised by people who've never actually "run" a show or don't have a great deal of showrunning experience? Is the program designed to teach showrunning or to initiate candidates only into what is expected of them by one particular network? Does the applicant selection process need to be tweaked? Does who is deemed to have "graduated" need to be more accurately codified?

Or was the program all for show, craftily designed to fail so that SHAW might be granted the right to bring in the US writers and Showrunners their series co-producers would really rather they hire -- even though they can't begin to afford them and won't find them any more talented than those who are homegrown?

Moreover, what's going on at the Canadian Film Centre and Ryerson and York and all those other schools across the country which get funding and assistance and sometimes entire state of the art studios built by SHAW?

It would seem that SHAW believes they're falling down on the training of writers as well. How come nobody is addressing that -- especially since SHAW receives many tangible corporate benefits for its commitment to educating the next generation of Canadian talent?

Are there "This isn't good enough" memos from SHAW on record at these institutions? Or are all of these educational initiatives just for show as well?

Clearly, Ms. Shipton doesn't think the recent graduates are up to snuff and she's the one in charge of production, so she should know. Right?

Finally, her math would indicate that there are perhaps only 40 of the Writers Guild of Canada's 2000 members (scores of whom are already based in and/or working in the American system) who are good enough to work on a Canadian TV show.

Her accounting also eliminates hundreds who have internationally recognized awards of merit for their scripts and accomplishments. It specifically excludes the dozens currently writing for American or British or Australian or South African studios and networks.

And it ignores the fact that SHAW will purchase many of those Canadian written programs for simulcast and/or Cancon points if it suits their corporate needs.

In other words, the writers and the talent are there. The ability of SHAW or its development and programming staff to find, nurture and execute their work somehow is not.

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Another thing my Cowboy Grandpa taught me was to steer clear of people who said one thing to you in person and another when they figured you weren't listening.

If I were a Canadian writer, I'd be informing SHAW CEO Brad Shaw that you won't be pitching any new shows to any of the networks his company owns and will be taking them to the competition instead.

You can reach Brad at 403-781-4944.

And if I were a Canadian writer who subscribes to SHAW Cable, uses a SHAW internet connection or has a SHAW telephone, I'd be calling to ask just how badly they want to keep your business -- and what time Brad will be personally calling to apologize for what his company had to say about you and offer some kind of meaningful reparations.

Those of you who are members of the Writers Guild of Canada will know they are already more pissed than you are and both SHAW and the CRTC are hearing about it. Call or email to let them know you're behind any action they deem necessary. Offer to help out in any way you can.

They, more than anyone else, know that this malicious, unsupportable and unwarranted attack on Canadian writers has another purpose and will not be allowed to stand.

And somebody saying "Sorry" isn't going to be good enough.

As one of my writer colleagues has aptly put it. "We're not talentless. But we've been spineless".

Spineless makes you an easy target. So grow one. And fast.

The moment it matches your talent is the moment you'll know you've counted to ten and are ready to respond.

If Canadian television is going to survive, it is time for those who have for years sown the wind "in-camera" to reap a very public whirlwind and begin dealing with both us and the CRTC with the honesty we all deserve.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 165: Aging Rock Stars

I finally had a chance to see one of my teen idols live this week. And I kinda wish I hadn't.

But the Casino sent me free tickets plus a dinner voucher for their noodle bar, so -- what the hell…

I won't embarrass this guy by naming him. Somehow that would be beating the dead horse of my cherished youth more than he did with his performance on the night in question.

Some of us age gracefully. Others, not so much. And a few apparently need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of their leather pants and pirate shirts.

Suffice it to say there's something awful creepy about a guy pushing 70 lusting after the prom queen or hoping somebody's mom lets him go out with her.

I've had the good fortune to catch a lot of great rock and roll acts before anybody else had heard of them. I saw "The Tubes" at their record debut party at LA's Roxy. I caught "T.Rex" and "Donovan" in a London pubs where they passed the hat after each set. "The Cars" at the El Mocambo before anybody knew who they were. "Joni Mitchell" in a Regina coffee house when her singing husband of the time was the actual marquee draw.

I've also finally caught several of my faves when they decided it was time to pull the plug and hit the road for a final farewell, including various incarnations of "The Who", who've retired more often than Brett Favre and still don't seem to have disappeared.

Popular music is often used in movies and TV to evoke an era and some part of me believes once that era is gone, it has a nostalgic value but it's better if you and your musical tastes move on.

And every time I go to a hockey game and hear the ancient anthems that permeate the time-outs, I wonder how I would have reacted in my teens to somebody trying to pump me up with Bo-Dee-Oh-Do music from the 1920's.

So while I know that a lot of these guys are still on the road because people like to wax nostalgic or their record company screwed them on their royalties, part of me always wishes they either had some new stuff (signifying they really are artists still plugging away at their craft) or they found a new approach to their old hits so you didn't spend half the concert wondering if they'll still be able to hit the high notes.

Apparently I'm not alone in these ruminations.

Tim Hawkins is primarily known as a "Christian Comic", which I guess means he works clean and doesn't worry about Bill Maher cadging any of his material. And what follows is his take on aging rock stars. I couldn't agree more.

We're all getting older. But some of us need to cop to that a little more than most. Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Infamous Writers Pool: Week One Standings

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Wow! That's how you start the Playoffs! Roberto Luongo making an impossible toe save in Vancouver. Milan Lucic trying a Bobby Orr move against Montreal. And, of course, the inevitable "Go Team" videos as the hockey version of fan-fiction goes viral.

Since there's only been one game in each Playoff series, there's not much to report this week. Other than we've got a great bunch of poolies from all over Canada and the US and once again Uncle Willis and I are proving that there's no way this thing has been fixed in our favor.

So the standings, such as they are, are below with Alex House 4 points in front after the first lap. If anybody missed or deleted the email with your secret code to check player rosters and standings anytime, let me know and we'll get those numbers to you.

Meanwhile, here's a taste of those fan videos (and I'm sure this is the tip of the looming iceberg). How much do you want to bet either one of them gets more airtime on CTV, TSN, TSN2 and the rest of the Bell Media line-up than anything from the "Lazy Canadian Producers" who keep forcing them to rely on US programming.

One from Pittsburgh and one from Vancouver -- and you'll notice how much Internet production has already become self-referential. Back Monday with the next update, by which time the direction of all the playoff series will have begun to take shape.

We so EXCITED!

 

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Behind Closed Doors

"And when we get behind closed doors
Then she lets her hair hang down…
Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors."

-- Charlie Rich

RSZ

Except now we do…

And it's a little disturbing.

License Renewal hearings for Canada's television conglomerates continued this week, focused primarily on how much Canadian content they'll provide and what percentages of it will be in the forms of drama, comedy, documentary, news and local programming.

The meatiest of those discussions (in truth, negotiations with the regulator) take place "in-camera", behind closed doors and far from the prying eyes of those whose livelihoods depend on the decisions that are made after these secret consultations have concluded.

Redacted transcripts later appear, often with so much content omitted the reader leafs through endless blank pages, enduring hard questions never answered and the punchlines of jokes made at the expense of Canadian artists excised.

But every now and then a chunk of dialogue escapes unexpurgated -- and the reality of how the broadcast system in Canada operates is revealed.

It's not a pretty picture.

But it's one every creative artist and producer aspiring to create television in this country needs to take to heart.

The following is lifted from transcript of the April 4, 2011 in-camera discussion between representatives of Bell Media and the CRTC. The bulk of the session is a numbing bickerfest over the percentages of Cancon the broadcaster may be required to deliver and how the accounting will be done.

But toward the end, they get into the actual production of Canadian drama and how they all feel about the people who actually make the stuff. To label it as self-serving and insulting wouldn't begin to describe the wholesale negation of what most Canadian artists do for a living.

If I were to list three take-aways from what follows, they would be these:

1. Never again assume that anyone who works for a Canadian television network actually likes or truly wants to do your show.

2. Don't believe for a moment that a rebirth of Canadian television drama is on the horizon.

3. Tom Pentefountas, the newest Commissioner, the man derided as a crony of the current government with absolutely no experience in the industry he was appointed to regulate, well -- he might be the one guy who "gets" what we do and shares our inability to understand why the system can't be changed.

And maybe that means that some of those who represent artists and railed against him have as much vested in the system not changing as our broadcasters.

Read. Weep for your dreams. Then either decide to draw your line in the sand or update your passport and get out while the getting is good.

380  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: I think everyone in this room would agree that Canadian drama constitutes a mirror for who we are and that's why it's important. I'm not sensing a lot of excitement from the representations I have heard this afternoon and this morning for Canadian drama.

381  I understand that "CSI Miami" is profitable, but "CSI Miami" does not reflect Canadians. We don't see ourselves in "CSI Miami" necessarily. I don't mean to offend any of the producers of "CSI Miami" and nobody likes Miami more than I do, but that's the reality of the situation.

382  So are you telling me that competent creative people such as yourselves cannot make quality Canadian dramas that Canadians, for one, want to watch without being forced to watch and that, second, is not of a sufficient quality that we can sell it and export that product to create a revenue stream outside of Canadian revenues?

383  MR. CRULL: Well, what I had hoped the video to convey in our opening remarks, is that this team is incredibly passionate about Canadian dramas. "The Borgias" just is premiering last night on Bravo, it's an amazing Canadian produced drama; "Flashpoint" has been the most successful Canadian police drama.

386  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: I saw your video. It was great. Yes, you used those Canadian dramas in your promotional video and that was fantastic, very exciting, but I don't see an energy, an excitement and a desire to go forward with more Canadian dramas and to put our efforts, our creative and advertising efforts towards pumping up Canadians to watch Canadian dramas.

387  MR. CRULL: We have delivered in the last few years the most successful Canadian drama, the most successful Canadian comedy and I can guarantee you with the spend obligations the reason there is not a lot of energy is this isn't a creative review, this is a policy setting for financial purposes.

388  The 30 percent CPE is going to provide enough money, the PNI at 5 percent and the benefits, there is going to be an amazing flow of Canadian drama, documentary and scripted programming that is going to flow from this effort.

389  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: You know, there are increased costs in production and that was mentioned earlier. Why don't we have a PNI of 10 percent given the increase in production costs? Your overall CPE is still at 30, but your PNI is at 10. I understand you feel that those are the biggest money losers out there; right?

390  The only problem with that is they are also the greatest reflection of who Canadians are and we want to see ourselves -- it used to be on the small screen, now we want to see ourselves on all the screens and all the platforms. So why can't we do 10 percent PNI?

392  MR. CRULL: In a business that is burdened like this and the loss of flexibility -- the definition of the PNI's makes it very difficult for us, I think, to find that. And with the amount of money also, there is more money flowing to PNI in the next five years, from my observation, than in the history of this industry. So I would find it a very misguided policy decision to go to 10 percent.

396  MR. KEVIN GOLDSTEIN: One of the things that needs to be highlighted from a policy perspective relating to 10 or 9 or 8 or 7 or even 6 in the case of ours, it far outpaces historical spend in the area, which the Commission made it quite clear in their policy statement was not going to happen out of this process. So I think obviously we have concern on that.

397  As to your specific question about rising production costs, the impact of rising production costs is that a dollar doesn't go as far as it used to so you are getting less content for the same amount you would have spent historically.

398  So raising it to 10 percent simply means you are going to have to spend more on productions that are going higher that lose money. So you are creating a situation where the proportion of your spend creates a much worse profit-loss scenario than it was in before.

399  So we don't believe that is in the interest of the system or consistent with the policy.

400  MR. CRULL: I also worry you would create a situation where those producers aren't motivated or inspired to create great -- if they bring great commercially viable product we buy it, we jump on it, but whenever you create this flow of funds that's guaranteed to them regardless of the quality that they produce, I really worry about that.

401  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: They will get lazy.

402  What percentage of the 5 percent PNI will go, if you can just give us a guesstimate, towards dramatic works?

404  MS COE: The largely CTV and its platforms have been dramatic services. That's been our focus, certainly on the main network. That's one of our strengths and one of the things that we concentrate on in trying to attract viewers. Typically dramas, followed a little less so by big event kind of specials or one-off shows or event kind of -- you know, Amazing Race thing if you were speaking about the U.S. side of things.

405  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Yes.

406  MS COE: And on our specialty services, certainly for Space it's almost predominantly drama and scripted programming; comedy is a lot of scripted programming, with some, you know, stand-up thrown in there; Bravo is a mix of documentaries and scripted, and the direction for Bravo as we try and revitalize that channel a bit is to try and work in high-end provoking and thoughtful dramas into that mix along with our arts programming.

407  Certainly as we look at Much, they have moved into some dramatic programming. Just a couple of years ago they took over "Degrassi" to real success, it's fantastic, and we are developing -- we have commissioned a show called "Highland Gardens", which is a new drama for them that's going to be playing on Much and MuchMore. We are developing some things, so that has typically in the past been our focus over some of the other genres.

419  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: The numbers I have here show that in '08 you were at 8 percent PNI and in 2010 you were at 5.7 percent PNI. Why this constant drop? Is there an explanation for that?

420  MS BROWN: Well, from time to time it has to deal with projects. So for example, when we started out this year one of the projects that we were counting on coming through was the next season of "The Bridge" and, as you may have read, the show -- we were working with the producers -- but it fell apart. So it's there in our budgets, it falls apart. You know, it's after Christmas, we don't have another large production drama in the wings and that's the difficulty sometimes with Canadian programming.

422  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: That was not foreseeable, the fact that "The Bridge" would fall apart?

423  MS COE: No, not at all.

424  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: No?

425  MS COE: 427  MS COE: We had actually ordered it and commissioned it and were excited about having it go -- and then for a mix of both financing and a little bit of an issue with the talent it just kind of -- there were way too many bleeding holes in that show to ever really come together and at the final -- I guess probably only about two months before we were hoping it would go ahead the producers and CTV sat down and went it's just never going to be able to happen.

428  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: C'est d├ęsolant. It's unfortunate to see the pattern.

431  MR. BRACE: But it has to be understood that there is real cyclicality to the interest in a drama program and the way that viewers tend to view it.

432  There was a time not so long ago, six or seven years ago, when Movies of the Week -- we were heavily involved in Movies of the Week and I'm sure if we went back to that time we would see just the number we were doing, but things like "Lives of the Saints", "Eight Days to Live", there were numerous movies that we were actually -- "The Terry Fox Story" -- that we were getting a million-plus viewers for and I remember making that a submission here a few hearings ago.

433  But it does change. I mean, we move into "Flashpoint", "The Bridge", they become popular, they lose popularity. There is a period of time to develop these shows. In excess of a year, sometimes two years, where you are waiting for the script to be developed, to be approved, for the cast to be approved.

434  So it's not a process that's linear, it really ebbs and it flows. That's why you see kind of the ebb and flow in terms of the annuals. You can't really look at it kind of on an annualized basis, it's something you have to look at over a period of time to really get a better picture of it.

435  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Yes, but you had a 25 percent drop on one project falling apart.

437  MS BROWN: I didn't mean to say that it was the one project caused the whole change, I was using that as an example of the type of situation that makes it difficult sometimes for us to

438  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: But wouldn't a higher PNI put more pressure on people to keep coming up with creative ideas that are popular?

440  MS COE: Well, I think what hasn't been mentioned is the stuff that we have recently ordered. We have two new drama pilots, one which we are hoping we will shoot in early June, looking to hopefully make that a 13-episode series.

441  We have a second one with Alana Frank which will also be going in the same timeframe.

442  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Okay.

443  MS COE: Just ordered another season of "Todd & The Book of Pure Evil", which is a fantastic drama for Space.

444  We have a new pilot called "Borealis", so there is --

445  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Okay. I understand all that, but none of these -- you mentioned maybe about 50 projects or so and none of them were ready to go when "The Bridge" fell apart?

446  MS COE: No.

447  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: No.

448  MS COE: Well, you have things in various stages of development. Things get more complicated at a production level when you factor in that "The Bridge" was also reliant on Canada Media Fund financing. In order to secure that financing you have to have a locked budget, a locked production schedule, you have to have financing that looks like it can come together in a certain amount of time, you have to have casting ideas, you have to have directors. To try and replace that at the last minute is virtually impossible. I wish I could, I would love to have a whole bunch lined up like that, but they just -- they can't come together that quickly.

449  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: Okay. Given the fact that quality of programming is cyclical, wouldn't we be able to attain a higher PNI over the course of the license, a higher average? I mean some years you are at seven, some years you are at five, some years you are at eight.

463  I mean you say it's cyclical and you have been through a major recession and a bad year, you also have been under tremendous pressure because we had all these wonderful hearings on BFS, et cetera, but you are now under stable ownership, you are now part of the largest conglomerate in the country.

464  You have seen the submission from everybody else which basically thinks it should be a 10, and yet on the numbers you just gave me you are going down. Shouldn't they be going the other way?

465  I think you have to rethink your offer, what you are putting on the table here on this one because this is the heart of it. This is the heart of the Canadian broadcasting, this means jobs for Canadian creators. And it's the quality stuff that you do, that's why we are not including games shows or some things which are relatively cheap to produce but you don't need that much talent, et cetera. This is documentaries, award shows and drama.

466  You, as the largest broadcaster in the country, I thought you would be putting a leadership option on the table rather than one that seems to be holding it to the minimum.

467  MR. BIBIC: Mr. Chairman, that's a little bit unfair.

468  THE CHAIRPERSON: I know.

469  MR. BIBIC: I mean the fact is Bell Media is a leader in delivering this type of quality programming and I think there is a passion there. Vice Chairman Pentefountas, like you, I am coming new to this and I have asked the same questions, which is: Wait a minute, how can we not produce Canadian programs with a passion towards quality and a passion towards making money and making those two fit together?

470  I asked about "Flashpoint" because -- and I read the press releases like everybody else, "Flashpoint" has a huge audience and draws over 1 million viewers and has been sold in the U.S., et cetera, how can that not make money? So I asked the very same question.

471  I learned, well, CTV or Bell Media doesn't get the revenues from the U.S. sales, doesn't get the revenues from the DVD, doesn't get the revenues from download to own, you know the iTunes, so from a Bell Media perspective "Flashpoint" has made a little bit of money, in some years has lost money -- and we are talking here about the most successful one of all.   

476  MR. BRACE: It's an interesting point because although "Flashpoint" has made a little bit of money we actually requested more episodes this year and -- just to give an idea of how the industry works.

477  THE CHAIRPERSON: Yes, please. Please.

478  MR. BRACE: We currently have 18, we were looking for 22 and they couldn't deliver. They said that there just wasn't enough capacity for them to kind of deliver that number of shows. They just didn't have the infrastructure to do that.

479  So it's just an example of how things kind of morph and change in this space, particularly with the dramas. We are dealing with a very highly creative process that is really not tied to any kind of a calendar, it's not tied to any kind of a finite term, you know, for the most part.

480  COMMISSIONER PENTEFOUNTAS: But when did you sign up for those new episodes? We are not ordering a pizza here, it takes time obviously. You have to sort of sign on long-term; right?

483  MR. CRULL: You know, the other tough thing -- many of you have learned this, the producing television shows is a real, real, real low probability success business and so you have to get, you know, probably 50 to 100 projects on-air to find one that becomes "Flashpoint" and so the capacity necessary in order to create more of the Flashpoints, you are really throwing a lot. I mean, I'm going through the process of picking the schedules right now and looking at the amount of product that gets produced in order to get one hit and it's astonishing.

"Oh, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors."

Monday, April 11, 2011

The 5th Annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool

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It's the MOST wonderful time of the year…!!!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, the greatest spectacle and the toughest trophy to win in all of professional sport!

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And while my hapless Leafs have missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year; once again it is time to separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the real heroes from the wannabes and poseurs.

This is the time for those with hockey smarts and the courage of their convictions to shine. Because next to getting stitched up on the bench and playing with a broken leg, the most venerable tradition in the quest for the Stanley Cup is the "Hockey Pool"!

AND NOW YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT!!!

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Will Dixon and I have been organizing hockey pools almost as long as we've known each other. No matter where we were or what we were doing, we honored our on-ice warriors season after season by picking who we felt were the best among them and putting a little money on their sweaty behinds.

Many seasons back, being thousands of miles apart and with most of the people with whom we regularly communicated passing through our blogs, we cooked up a plan to hold our hockey pool online. It was an astonishing success! Last year was especially awesome. And this year it'll be even bigger and better.

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS

You join "The Infamous Writer's Hockey Pool" by sending me an email at seraphic77@gmail.com with "POOL PICKS" in the subject line between 8:00 AM EST Monday (today) and 7:00 PM EST Wednesday night (April 13/2011) when the first puck drops in Pittsburgh.

In your email, list the 10 skaters and 2 Goalies who make up your team. They can be members of any of the 16 teams competing in the opening round.

HOWEVER…

At least THREE of your picks must come from one team. Three skaters, two and a goalie, your choice. The point is to make a small commitment (25% of your roster) to a team you think is either going to win it all, go deep or roll up a lot of points.

The scoring is as follows:

For every goal or assist scored by your skaters you earn 1 point.

Every time your goalie wins you also earn a point and you tally seven points each time he earns a shutout.

Shutouts in Stanley Cup play are rare and skaters will always earn more points than a Goalie, but this is a way of evening things up.

The 12 players you choose are yours for the entire tournament. As the teams your players represent fall by the wayside, they cease earning you points, but their totals remain a part of your total. In the end, the poolie with the most points wins.

I'll post your team online. From then on, you can check your progress by visiting our private online pool site whenever you like. All players will be provided with a login and password so they can check their progress throughout the playoffs.

Once you're inside the pool site, you'll see all the information on the other poolies and their teams. You'll also receive a twice weekly (Monday and Friday) update of the pool standings, which I will post for all the world to see here at the Legion.

See -- easy and fun! The only thing missing is the chance to share beer and wings and make fun of each other's choices. Anybody who wants to open a Facebook group to handle the trash talk or Twitter their opponents has our blessing.

Now, playing in a hockey pool is very simple but a certain amount of strategy is involved. I've seen poolies pick players from teams that exited early still win because their players racked up so many points in the early going. I've also seen poolies with terrible picks come out on top because they had a hot goalie.

Like everything else in the game, it's ultimately up to the Hockey Gods.

If you're new to pools or the game, you can learn more on who you perhaps should have on your team by visiting TSN or Sportsnet.

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WHAT DO YOU WIN?

Well, since gambling is technically illegal around here, and the Infamous Writers entrants come from several disparate currencies, your entrance fee must be something either related to your career or a sports souvenir you've acquired along the way.

What you choose to wager is completely up to you and never revealed to anyone but the Pool Winner.

Once our winner is decided, all entrants must ship he or she their prize. In the past, the winner's booty has included DVDs of other people's films, autographed scripts, playoff worn jerseys, signed hockey cards and who knows what else.

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There will also be prizes for the poolies finishing 2nd or 3rd as well as side contests along the way, including our incredibly popular "Props" contest in the final round.

There are no other restrictions to participating. Just join up, pick your players and set aside your victory swag.

A lot of great Canadian artists (even some you might recognize) and hockey fans from here and elsewhere are all looking forward to playing with you!

So jump in the pool!

Game on!!!!