Jack Todd has a column in the Sunday Sports section about how our national sports networks, while covering the U20 World Cup, baseball, NHL free agency, Wimbledon tennis, PGA golf, CFL football, auto racing, and all the other major sports going on this summer, are missing something important: Water polo in Montreal.
It’s not just water polo, he continues. The networks aren’t covering amateur sports at all, really, preferring to sign up to simulcast an American feed rather than spend money sending their own reporters and camera crew to events happening here.
While I agree with the sentiment (and more on that below), I should probably add that frankly, I’ve always found it odd how few television channels are devoted to sports. Here, we have TSN, Rogers Sportsnet (with its four regional channels) and The Score showing general sports for 24 hours a day. Considering how many sports they should be covering, that doesn’t seem like enough. It’s not even enough to show all the baseball games that play on a given regular season night. So why don’t we have more channels? They could be owned by the same network, just show different sports.
Money, of course, is the answer, which is sad. And unfortunately it’s also the reason we’re not going to have major networks covering unpopular amateur sport until a fundamental shift happens in the sports media industry.
Of course, this problem, of Canadian cable channels repackaging American content instead of producing their own, is hardly new. Unlike broadcast channels, which have more stringent CRTC guidelines about locally-produced and Canadian-produced content, cable specialty channels don’t have to produce much of their own, and depending on how they’re licensed, don’t have to carry much Canadian content.
I would suggest regulation as a potential solution to that problem, but digital TV regulations in Canada are already far too complicated. Besides, many channels are meeting their CanCon requirements by playing reruns of 80s CBC shows or crappy CTV ripoffs of popular U.S. programs. And they’re meeting their original programming requirements (assuming there are any) with “news” shows, produced on a shoestring budget, effectively giving up on that timeslot and waiting until they can throw up another CSI rerun and soak up the ad money.
We have to vote ourselves, with our wallets. Channels that regurgitate crap and expect us to take it will see themselves disappear from my channel lineup. Spike TV is already on the chopping block. Star Trek was the only thing on there I watched, and they’ve removed DS9 from their lineup. Global-owned Mystery Channel is also going once I’ve caught up on my weekend House reruns. SUN TV (holy crap what an awful excuse for a channel) is going, since the only thing I’ve ever watched on there was Scrubs. G4TechTV Canada is headed out the door, Beat The Geeks notwithstanding.
This is the YouTube age. Making original television should be much easier than it was four decades ago. Television series make it to DVD within months. Why don’t we have more original programming?
Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out what to replace these channels with. Those same regulations prevent my cable company from treating all channels equally, and prevent me from selecting what I want à la carte.