Category Archives: TV

Posted in Canadiens, Radio, TV

John Bartlett leaves TSN 690 to be regional voice of Habs on Sportsnet

John Bartlett, who has been the play-by-play voice of the Canadiens on TSN Radio 690 ever since the station won the rights to the team’s games in 2011, is leaving it to join Rogers as the play-by-play man on regional Canadiens games that will air on Rogers Sportsnet East and City Montreal.

TSN host Mitch Melnick confirmed Bartlett’s departure on Thursday. On Friday, Bartlett was interviewed on Melnick’s show (where a “gag order” prevented them from saying where he’s going, but it wasn’t difficult to put two and two together). Audio from that interview is posted here.

The decision to hire Bartlett, who was the voice of the Toronto Marlies AHL team before joining TSN 690 (more on his history here at YorkRegion.com), wasn’t unanimously praised at first, with all the talent at the station who would have loved to take a crack at the dream job and the bad optics of not only bringing in an import, but one who worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ farm team. But as Melnick explained on his show, Bartlett quickly earned the respect of staff and listeners who are now sad to see him go.

I met Bartlett only once. It was at a Canadian Women’s Hockey League game in Montreal. Just his presence there said a lot about how much this guy cares about hockey.

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Posted in TV

CRTC approves V’s purchase of MusiquePlus/MusiMax

The last piece of the Bell-Astral divestments was approved today by the CRTC: the sale of MusiMax and MusiquePlus to V Media, the owner of the network formerly known as TQS.

Even though the sale has only been approved now and hasn’t yet closed, the companies are already acting as if it’s a done deal. V and MusiquePlus/MusiMax are promoting each other, to the point where a new MusiquePlus show is a behind-the-scenes look at a show on V.

The purchase price is $15.52 million. In 2007, Astral bought a 50% of these two channels from CHUM Ltd. for $68 million, giving them a value of $136 million.

In order to raise money to pay for the channels, V itself will take on new investors: The Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ will each take a 15% stake in V Media (which also includes the conventional TV network). A third “institutional investor” will take another 15% stake, and the Rémillard family will retain the other 55%, with the possibility of raising that stake up to 59% of the company performs well.

The board of directors of V would be composed of four representatives of Remstar and one representative each of the three 15% investors.

Licence changes — more flexibility, but not too much more

As part of the transaction, V had asked for some amendments to the licences for the channels. Some of them relate to the fact that they’re no longer owned by large media companies (particularly a requirement to spend a percentage of that group’s revenue on so-called “programs of national interest”). Others are meant to give them more flexibility in programming.

V had proposed that MusiquePlus and MusiMax have a minimum requirement of 75% of their programming be devoted to music-related programming. Currently MusiquePlus has a 90% requirement and MusiMax has no minimum. The CRTC didn’t like that number and imposed an 80% requirement for both services.

V wants to use comedy, a genre that isn’t being exploited much in French-language television (there’s no French equivalent to the Comedy Network), to draw audiences to MusiquePlus, particularly in its target demographic of people age 18-34. For MusiMax, it’s lifestyle and reality shows to draw women 35-54. But it also says it wants to have more live musical performances in studio, and more concert programs.

There were also proposals related to program categories. Both services can now include “music video programs” in the 30% of their programming month they have to devote to pure music video programs. This would allow them, I believe, to add a count a program like Cliptoman (MusiquePlus’s version of Much’s Video On Trial, where comedians make fun of music videos) toward that quota.

V also proposed to reduce the Canadian content exhibition requirement from 55% of the broadcast day and 55% of the evening (6pm to midnight) period to 45% for those two periods. The CRTC also felt this was too much, and decided on 50% for both periods for both services. This is still higher than services like Canal D and Historia, which have profit margins around 50%.

In terms of Canadian content spending, the CRTC agreed with a 31% level for the services combined, so that it must spend 31% of its revenue on Canadian programming, just slightly above what it was before.

Finally, MusiquePlus and MusiMax also have a special condition that requires them to pay 3.4% and 5% of their revenues respectively to MaxFACT, a fund that helps create and produce Canadian music videos. V proposed to create its own fund, the Rémillard Fund, that would take this money instead. The CRTC approved of this, provided it is satisfied with the new fund’s operations and independence.

Sale valued at $22.9 million, includes ad revenue guarantee

The sale price is $15.5 million, but comes with a guaranteed ad buy of up to $1.5 million (excluding commissions), which brings the net price down to $14 million. There’s also a guaranteed ad revenue floor for two years.

These guarantees make determining the actual value of the transaction difficult, because how much it will actually be depends on certain factors.

According to documents submitted in the application, the guarantee of at least 80% of 2013 revenues, or about $6.6 million a year, would last until August 2016. But this would be adjusted if viewership drops by more than 5%.

The contract also allows V to cancel the ad buy and get half of that, or $750,000.

On top of this, Bell Media would also sell third-party ads for these two services and V, for which it would earn a commission. That commission has minimums and maximums that put it in the high six-figures annually.

In fact, Bell Media would become the exclusive ad agency of MusiquePlus and MusiMax until August 31, 2016. V would be able to enter barter agreements and other exchanges, but actual ad sales would have to go through Bell.

As if that didn’t sweeten the deal enough for V to take over the money-losing services, Bell also agreed to pay off an outstanding debt imposed on Astral in 2007 when it bought the 50% of the company that owns the networks from CHUM Ltd. (which at the time also owned MuchMusic). This is $40,476 a month to be paid to the Harold Greenberg Fund. But since those payments ended Aug. 31, it’s a moot issue.

The CRTC didn’t agree that the guaranteed ads should be deducted from the purchase price, calling it “the normal course of business”. Adding in things like assumed leases, the CRTC evaluated the total value of the transaction at $22,872,086.

Hope for a turnaround

Because of the tangible benefits policy that requires that 10% of the value of the transaction goes to funds and projects that benefit the broadcasting system, V now has to propose a new tangible benefits plan. The CRTC has given them 30 days to do so. (It notes that it recently changed some policies relating to tangible benefits, and this proposal should follow those new guidelines.)

The acquisition makes sense both for V and for the two struggling music channels. The Rémillard family bought TQS out of bankruptcy in 2008, and while the decision to effectively abandon all news programming was very controversial at the time, it also helped them bring the network into the black after decades of bleeding money.

Now, people are hoping that they can do a similar turnaround with MusiquePlus and MusiMax. MusiquePlus made $867,851 in pre-tax profit in 2012-13, but lost almost $6.5 million in the four previous years. MusiMax is in the black, but has had a pre-tax profit margin of under 1% over the past three years.

The drop in revenue has come with a drop in ratings. MusiquePlus went from a 1.1% rating overall in 2006 to a 0.7% share in 2012. Both services have seen drops in subscriptions as well, of 10% for MusiquePlus and 13% for MusiMax in only three years.

Posted in Opinion, TV

CRTC has to begin preparing for its own irrelevance

As the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission began its two-week hearing into television policy on Monday, the various interest groups began planting their self-serving stakes. Google doesn’t want YouTube to be regulated by the commission. The Ontario government and others want the CRTC to force Netflix and similar services to contribute to Canadian content. And funds like the Canada Media Fund and Shaw Rocket Fund want to ensure they don’t lose their funding.

It’s all so predictable, which makes sitting through hours of these presentations so boring. But, despite chairman Jean-Pierre Blais’s best efforts, we’re not getting to practical solutions here or any concrete idea of what TV is going to look like in 10 years or even five.

The CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report shows that the adoption of Netflix alone in Canada is on a dramatic rise. Now almost a third of English-language households have subscriptions. But this hasn’t resulted in a dramatic drop in cable and satellite subscriptions. About 85% of Canadian households have some sort of regulated pay TV subscription, either through cable, satellite or IPTV (Bell Fibe/Telus Optik etc.). The percentage is falling, but not fast enough to panic. At least not yet.

As technology evolves, the difference between YouTube, Netflix and Bell TV becomes more and more irrelevant from a regulatory perspective. Internet-based television connections like Bell Fibe use the same data links to send TSN’s five feeds as they do to send House of Cards and that latest cat video. At this point, we could deliver all television services in Canada to most consumers via the Internet. We have the technology to do that.

Bureaucratic momentum

The biggest reason we haven’t moved everything online is bureaucratic. And not in the sense of regulation (though that’s part of it), but in the sense of having large media empires like Bell, Shaw, Rogers and Quebecor, that own the exclusive rights to high-value programming and deliver it through the regulated system because the regulated system pays them for it and consumers haven’t been too tempted to change that.

So long as the CRTC imposes a 5% tax on cable revenues that are to be redirected to Canadian content (including community television channels), and forces content channels to devote certain parts of their schedules and certain percentages of their revenue to Canadian content, there will be an incentive to move more content out of the regulated system and onto an unregulated one. And eventually we will pass that tipping point where there’s no must-see TV on the regulated system and consumers start abandoning it in droves.

Fortunately for the CRTC, it has time. It can prepare for this. But it has to decide now which way it will go: expand its reach to include purely online forms of video delivery, or contract its reach to eventually get out of the TV regulating business completely.

You can’t regulate Internet content

There have been some cases for the former that try their best to pass the sanity test (Jason Kee, Public Policy & Government Relations Counsel at Google, asked rhetorically if the CRTC would start regulating animated GIFs, too). Proponents of regulatory expansion say the CRTC should only regulate video that is sold, not stuff put on YouTube for free. They say there should be a minimum revenue before regulation kicks in. They say we should focus on companies like Netflix instead of trying to regulate all video.

But there isn’t really a way to do this sanely. Not without censoring the Internet, or dissuading companies like Netflix from making their videos available here, or forcing them to blackout their videos to Canada for fear of being taxed. Or creating some sort of grey market for content, where some content is legal and other content is illegal. Or creating a chill among all content creators in this country. Or just pissing off the Canadian public.

(And the federal government didn’t waste any time making it clear that it will not support any move to tax Netflix or YouTube, with heritage minister Shelly Glover issuing a statement Monday evening.)

The CRTC’s New Media Exemption Order is a policy decision in which it has convinced itself that it can regulate content on the Internet but simply chooses not to do so. It is trying to make rules out of de facto reality to maintain the illusion of control. And while it can control the online activities of companies it already regulates like Bell and Shaw, it can’t control Google, Apple and Netflix without prompting a war that might just end in those companies abandoning our country.

So the CRTC has little choice but to maintain a hands-off approach to Internet content. And that means that eventually, maybe five or 10 or 20 years down the road, it will have to take its hands off television content as well, because there won’t be any difference between the two.

The CRTC needs to start now to plan for the day when television regulation becomes irrelevant. while not allowing the telecom giants to abuse their power in the meantime.

It’s taking steps in that direction, proposing relaxing rules for specialty channels and third-language services, and giving consumers more choice in terms of channel selection. And it’s trying to find ways to encourage more competition for cable TV providers, by extending an exemption order so that smaller players like Colba.net and VMedia can set up TV distributors in big cities using IPTV without needing a licence first.

Cancon’s future

But it faces a bigger challenge in determining how to promote Canadian culture in the future. So much of the Canadian television industry is based on regulated transfers of money, from broadcasters and distributors to production funds to independent producers. That system will eventually collapse or evaporate, and we need to find a replacement.

One possibility is by doing something like taxing Internet access and sending that money to the federal government or a fund like the Canada Media Fund (which is already funded in part by the government anyway). But that creates a system where one government-appointed body acts as the gatekeeper, deciding what Canadian content is worth supporting. It discourages competition and innovation.

Or the CRTC could do nothing, and let Canadian video content stand on its own with little support from the broadcasting system. This could result in Canadian media giants collapsing or being taken over by larger U.S. giants. We could lose a large part of our identity.

It’s a scary thought for the industry, and those champions of Canadian content, but I haven’t seen a viable long-term alternative.

The CRTC’s future

I’m not saying the CRTC will cease to exist. It will still have a vital role to play, so long as there are aspects of telecommunications that need regulatory help. Radio is still broadcast through scarce radio frequencies which need to be regulated, though they too will eventually move to Internet-based distribution.

Internet access needs a regulator so long as there’s a finite number of cables reaching into our homes. And though the technology used to deliver it bears little resemblance to what it was at first, the telephone is still a tool we use regularly and will be with us for some time.

The CRTC has a job to do, to ensure that the TV industry plays fair with itself and keeps the best interest of consumers, workers and the Canadian public in mind. But it also has to look forward to the day when it has to decide to stop regulating the unregulateable and focus on where it can make a difference for the better.

But the commissioners are only human. So we — the industry, the public, the government — have to be part of that discussion. Through our comments and guidance, we must help the regulator build this road toward the future where choice is infinite and the only limit to content is creativity and no one but us can decide what we can and cannot watch.

Posted in TV

CTV Montreal moves Sunday evening newscasts online during NFL season

CTV live webcast

With CTV having the rights to 4pm Sunday NFL football games starting this season, the network is forced (or, well, is forcing itself) to pre-empt its local 6pm newscast on Sundays until mid-January for stations in the CDT, EDT and ADT time zones.

At first, it looked like CTV was going to air the local news after the football game, at 7:30pm ET, but now it looks like most stations are simply going to air SportsCentre to fill time until 8pm.

The situation varies a lot by market. In Atlantic Canada, there’s just the early game, so the Sunday newscast is unaffected. In Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., the late game ends before 6pm, so no schedule change is needed there. In Kitchener, Winnipeg and Northern Ontario, as well as for new CTV affiliate CKPR in Thunder Bay, the plan is still to air a local newscast after the football game, which will likely start late a lot of the time.

For CTV Montreal, whose Sunday evening newscast draws tens of thousands of viewers, they’ve decided to do a live webcast of the 6pm show starting tonight. (You can watch a cheesy promo of it here.) The webcast can be seen on their website, montreal.ctvnews.ca.

I haven’t seen any announcements about other CTV stations trying this.

This change also means that for Montreal, there will be only one local newscast in English at 6pm Sundays: Global. CBC airs its weekly Disney/kids movie Sunday evenings. It’ll be interesting to see if Global capitalizes on this to try to drive up viewership for that time period in Montreal, which is historically one of its weakest markets.

In Ottawa, viewers don’t even get the choice of Global. They have retransmitters of Global Toronto, City Toronto and CHCH Hamilton, and CTV Two Ottawa, which doesn’t have evening newscasts.

After the second week of the NFL playoffs in mid-January, the schedule will return to normal, and the 6pm Sunday newscasts will return.

Posted in My articles, TV

CRTC megahearing on TV begins Monday

10 days, 118 presentations. That’s what’s on the agenda for a CRTC hearing that begins on Monday. There’s the usual big players like Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor, Telus and Cogeco. There’s the interest groups like the Canada Media Fund, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Writers Guild of Canada, and labour unions. And there are some individuals thrown in as well.

But there’s also Google, Netflix, Disney.

It’s hard to oversell the importance of this hearing. It isn’t about reviewing a single policy, or approving a single acquisition or new licence. It’s about everything having to do with television regulation in Canada. A working document posted Aug. 21 contains 28 proposals concerning television policy (and a 29th about when to implement changes). It ranges from how consumers choose which channels to buy from their distributor to how accessible programming is for those who can’t see or hear to things that could change the very nature of specialty channels or how you define local television.

And the CRTC is going to try to review this all in two weeks, and rather than deal with the issues one at a time, it’s going to deal with them all simultaneously as each group steps forward to present its opinions.

I put together a story in Saturday’s Gazette that lists the big issues at stake that affect consumers (the online version contains some more issues than the print one does). Packaging flexibility is the big focus of media, and simultaneous substitution is also mentioned a lot, but there are far more issues.

The commission is clear that the proposals outlined in its discussion paper aren’t necessarily what it’s going to do, but are meant to start discussions. Nevertheless, it gives a lot of insight into how it’s thinking. And even with just the changes proposed there, a lot of how we watch and pay for television would change.

For more on the issues at stake, I would invite you to read the series posted on Cartt.ca (a website I’ve written for, though not for this series) and the series posted to Media in Canada or my post from June outlining the issues as they were presented then. Or you can read all 2,552 interventions filed in this proceeding.

Unusually, the CRTC will continue accepting comments about these policies during the hearings, through that most sober and intelligent method: online discussion forums. They’ll be open until the end of the hearing on Sept. 19.

If you want to watch the hearings, CPAC will be webcasting them. The CRTC will also have audio feeds in English, French and with no translation. Or you can go to 140 Promenade du Portage in Gatineau and see the hearings in person.

For Twitter commentary, good bets are Cartt.ca editor Greg O’Brien, policy wonk Kelly Lynne Ashton, the CRTC Hearings official Twitter (which will post links to documents) and the hashtags #CRTC and #TalkTV.

Further reading

 

Posted in Media, Radio, TV

Highlights of the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report

Just days ahead of its major hearing on TV policy, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has released the broadcasting part of its annual Communications Monitoring Report, a document filled with statistics on funding, viewership, subscriptions and more.

Most of the data is unsurprising, or shows the predictable continuation of a gradual procession. Fewer people are analog cable subscribers. Conventional television still struggles to break even while specialty channels are raking in the dough. And AM radio is on the decline while FM continues to boom.

There are still a few interesting things I noted in the report though (in most cases, these figures are for the year ending Aug. 31, 2013):

Overall:

  • Five companies (Bell, Cogeco, Quebecor, Rogers, Shaw) get 85% of total Canadian broadcasting revenues. This includes radio, television and television distribution.

TV:

  • “Netflix adoption among English speakers grew from 21% to 29%” — That’s in one year. In 2011, it was 10%. It’s true that for most subscribers, Netflix is something that complements their cable TV subscription instead of replacing it, but if the broadcasting industry isn’t already nervous about Netflix, it should be.
  • The total TV viewing share 2012-13, in English Canada: Bell 38%, Shaw/Corus 37%, Rogers 9%, CBC 8%.
  • Total TV viewing share in the Quebec francophone market: Quebecor 33%, Bell 23%, Radio-Canada/CBC 18%, Remstar (V) 9%.
  • On Aug. 31, 2011, there were 657,300 IPTV (e.g. Bell Fibe/Telus Optik) subscribers in Canada. On Aug. 31, 2013, it was 1,385,100.

Radio:

  • The number of licensed third-language radio stations in Canada went from 32 in 2012 to 45 in 2013.
  • Revenues for French-language AM radio stations in Canada dropped from $11.7 million in 2011 to $4.7 million in 2013. There are only eight AM commercial French-language radio stations in Canada.  The dramatic drop in revenue coincides with Cogeco’s decision to change CKAC 730 AM in Montreal from all-sports to all-traffic in fall 2011.
  • Since 2009, the CRTC has approved 132 new FM stations, and only three new AM stations.
  • The number of Canadians subscribed to satellite radio has steadily climbed from 8% in 2008 to 15% in 2013.
Posted in TV

Chantal Desjardins hired by Sportsnet as Montreal correspondent

Chantal Desjardins has a steady job again

Chantal Desjardins has a steady job again

Chantal Desjardins, who has been doing various odd jobs since she was let go in the CJAD/TSN 690 purge a year ago, announced today that she’s been hired as the Montreal correspondent for Rogers Sportsnet.

Desjardins effectively takes over for Alyson Lozoff, who was let go by the company in March. The job to replace her was posted 98 days ago.

No word yet on what Desjardins will be doing specifically, whether she’ll be reporting rinkside during Canadiens games or how she’ll be contributing to City Montreal’s Breakfast Television and Montreal Connected. But she will be reporting for Sportsnet on sports news that happens in the city, particularly the Habs but also the Alouettes, Impact and other sports as needed.

With Sportsnet getting the English-language rights to 82 Canadiens regular-season games and all playoff games, a Montreal reporter becomes more vital than ever.

On the minus side, this means we won’t be seeing her on CTV anymore, either as a fill-in sports reporter, fill-in sports anchor, fill-in entertainment reporter or in advertisements. (Or at least not as much.)

Posted in TV

CRTC: Videotron doesn’t have to distribute ICI on analog cable

In what would be a precedent-setting decision if anyone was still launching over-the-air television stations, the CRTC has decided that Videotron does not have to make room on its analog cable TV service for ICI, the ethnic television station that launched in Montreal last year.

The TV distribution regulations require distributors to include local television stations, which would normally mean that Videotron must distribute ICI in analog and digital to subscribers in the Montreal area. But Videotron is in the process of phasing out its analog cable system to make room for more digital channels and more bandwidth for video-on-demand and Internet service.

Videotron told the CRTC that fewer than 7% of its Montreal residential subscribers are still on analog cable, though that number is higher if you include institutional customers like hotels and hospitals, and those residences that have digital and analog on different TVs.

Quebecor had argued that the CRTC’s recent decisions to allow analog to continue its decline, by not licensing any new specialty channels for analog TV, for example, makes it clear that the transition to digital is more important than squeezing in another analog channel which would only disappear within a few years anyway as the analog network is dismantled.

ICI argued against the application, saying it would “result in ongoing and serious harm to ICI,” which is still struggling to develop an audience:

It has become apparent to ICI since its launch that ICI’s potential audience frequently consists of individuals that subscribe to Vide?otron’s “Classic Cable” service, which is the analog service. These potential viewers do not currently receive ICI. Vide?otron’s decision not to distribute ICI in accordance with the Regulations in not in the interests of subscribers as Vide?otron suggests. These subscribers would need to pay more to receive ICI, and make the transition to a more expensive digital service far ???sooner than they might otherwise choose – and even while many other services continue to be offered on an analog basis.

ICI pointed out that Videotron’s analog service in Montreal, which is much smaller than it used to be, still carries many U.S. signals, including two PBS stations.

And it said that while 7% may be small, it is still significant for a station that relies solely on advertising for revenue, and the fact that Videotron is still offering an analog service means it does not view this number as trivial.

It also said at least one program producer “decided not to purchase airtime on ICI due to the fact that the members of the target audience and multiple advertisers have advised the producer that they cannot receive ICI on their cable service.”

Videotron countered that it has received no requests from analog clients to get access to ICI, and its contractual obligations prevent it from removing other channels from analog.

In the end, the CRTC sided with Videotron, judging that its interpretation of the commission’s intention to encourage the phasing-out of analog cable is correct. It also cited the lack of opposition from people unconnected to ICI, as well as the substantial assistance the station is receiving from Rogers as a result of the sale of CJNT, in its decision.

Videotron has already begun the process of shutting down its analog network. After dismantling the network in Gatineau, it has started in Montreal with the Ahuntsic region.

Posted in Canadiens, Media, TV

Rogers offers special deal for rest of Canada to watch RDS Canadiens regional games online

As anger continues to build among Toronto and other western Canadian Habs fans that they will no longer be able to watch all 82 regular-season games on RDS, Rogers announced today a special deal that might alleviate that somewhat.

NHL GameCentre Live, the NHL streaming service that allows viewers to watch out-of-region games, will cost $200 for the season this year ($180 if you subscribe by Oct. 13). That’s a pretty steep price for people who were used to either having RDS as part of their basic package or paying a buck or two a month at most.

But Rogers is offering a separate deal that contains just the RDS regional games — 60 Canadiens games and 54 Ottawa Senators games — for $60 for the season. That might be enough for the hard-core fans to accept. (Note that this is for fans outside the Canadiens and Senators market, which is all of Quebec, all of Atlantic Canada and the part of Ontario that’s east of Belleville and Pembroke.)

No more blackouts*

On top of that, national games and in-region games, which were formally blacked out on GameCentre to protect the rights of national and regional broadcasters, will no longer be blacked out. So people who buy a subscription won’t have to switch between various media and websites.

The trade-off to that is that these will be available on an authenticated basis, meaning you need a TV subscription to Sportsnet (English) or TVA Sports (French) to access these national or in-region games on GameCentre, and you need your TV provider to participate in the Rogers program. The TVA access for national games in French probably won’t be ready until January because of technical issues.

Rogers confirms that the games that are not available in a certain region on TV will not require authentication to watch on GameCentre.

Rogers says there will still be some blackouts for in-region games whose rights are owned by “another company” (i.e. TSN). So Ottawa Senators regional games in eastern Canada and Winnipeg Jets games in Manitoba and Saskatchewan won’t be available on this service, nor will those Toronto Maple Leafs regional games that air on TSN4 be available in most of Ontario. You have to watch those on TSN.

Similarly, regional Habs and Senators games in French won’t be available in eastern Canada because RDS holds the rights to them.

And more

Other deals for NHL GameCentre Live include:

  • Free subscriptions for Rogers Internet and Rogers Wireless (data) subscribers until Dec. 31. Half-season passes will be $130 for those who want to subscribe after that.
  • More than 800 archived games going back to 1960.
  • A new NHL mobile app coming in October to watch the games on smartphones and tablets.
  • Where multiple feeds are available, such as English/French or Canada/U.S., GameCentre Live provides both as options.

Rogers has promised more GameCentre announcements in the coming weeks. There may also be announcements relating to NHL Centre Ice, the TV-based service for watching out-of-market games.

Posted in Opinion, TV

How the new TVA Nouvelles saved journalism

Discussion panels!

Discussion panels!

Tonight was the premiere of a new format for TVA Nouvelles’s flagship 10pm newscast (you can watch the whole thing here). Trying to find a new model that was different from the boring single-anchor TV newscast, it brought in four columnists who comment about major news stories, and has become more of a panel discussion show about the news than a newscast.

But that’s not the only change. Here, in screenshots, are other things that TVA Nouvelles has that will save the TV news industry from that pesky Internet threat and make sure the kids keep watching.

Continue reading

Posted in Canadiens, TV

Sportsnet picks up Canadiens regional games, increases number of national games

With rumours spreading that there would, in fact, be a broadcaster picking up the regional rights to Canadiens games in English, Rogers finally announced today that it has not only picked up the rights to all regional Canadiens games, but that it has increased the number of Habs games being carried nationally, from 32 to 40.

The agreement is a three-year deal. It does not appear to include any preseason games. A play-by-play team has not yet been announced.

39 of the 42 regional games will air on Sportsnet East, which no longer has to worry about regional Senators games because those have moved to TSN. The other three (a Monday game and two Thursday games) will air on City Montreal.

Newly national games are:

  • Thursday, Oct. 9 (7pm @ Capitals) on Sportsnet 360
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 (7:30pm vs. Bruins) on Sportsnet 360
  • Monday, Oct. 27 (9:30pm @ Oilers) on Sportsnet One
  • Thursday, Oct. 30 (10pm @ Canucks) on Sportsnet 360
  • Saturday, Jan. 31 (1pm vs. Capitals) on Sportsnet
  • Wednesday, March 4 (10pm @ Ducks) on Sportsnet
  • Friday, April 3 (7pm @ Devils) on Sportsnet
  • Sunday, April 5 (5pm @ Panthers) on Sportsnet

This means that the Canadiens’ 82-game season breaks down as follows:

  • 39 regional games on Sportsnet East
  • 3 regional games on City Montreal
  • 10 national games (mainly Wednesdays) on Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific
  • 8 national games (first four Saturdays, most Sundays) on City
  • 4 national games on Sportsnet 360 (all Thursdays)
  • 1 national game on Sportsnet One (Monday Oct. 27)
  • 17 national games on Hockey Night in Canada, channels TBA

Because TSN has the Ottawa Senators regional games, and the two team’s regions are identical, two regional games between the two teams (Jan. 15 and March 12) will be on both TSN and Sportsnet, giving viewers a choice of which network to watch.

The deal does not affect radio rights, which are still held by TSN Radio 690.

I’ve updated my post on who’s carrying what games to include this deal as well as additional national games for the Flames and Oilers.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Are TSN’s five channels worth it?

Updated with some clarification below about TSN’s main feed.

It was inevitable. With so much sports programming available, with so many scheduling conflicts, with prices going up (both in terms of subscription fees and in terms of rights fees) and with Rogers having scooped up national NHL games, TSN had to expand beyond the two channels it previously had.

Rogers crowed that it had nine channels available on Saturday nights for hockey: CBC, City, four regional Sportsnet channels, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 360, and FX Canada. Rogers also owns Sportsnet World, and three special Sportsnet One regional feeds (for Canucks, Flames and Oilers games).

TSN, meanwhile, had TSN and TSN2, plus special part-time regional feeds for Jets and Canadiens games.

So on Monday, TSN officially expanded to five channels, numbered 1 through 5. The Jets and Canadiens channels disappear, and regional NHL games (Jets, Leafs and Senators) will instead air on the three new channels, which will be blacked out outside their regions when those teams are playing.

Videotron holds out

Bell Media managed to secure deals with most major providers to add the channels. Shaw, Rogers, Telus, Bell, Cogeco, Eastlink, MTS and SaskTel are all on board. The major holdout is Videotron, which says it’s still in talks with Bell Media over adding the channels.

These kind of negotiations are complex, and it’s hard, without getting details on those talks, to tell which side is being unreasonable. Videotron is out on its own here, but it’s also the only provider that allows its subscribers to choose just about everything à la carte. Right now TSN is one of those channels, and it comes with TSN2 thrown in for free.

Various factors come into play when negotiating over new channels: the price, packaging and other special conditions, available space on the distribution network, and of course subscriber demand.

TSN decided to launch the five feeds on the first day of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Early rounds of a tennis major provide a very good example of how useful extra feeds can be, with lots of matches happening simultaneously. Viewers might be interested in following a Canadian, or checking up on their favourite tennis superstar, or checking out some interesting story going on in another match entirely. Having five feeds is very useful here.

But TSN seemed to try to artificially inflate demand on Tuesday by pushing a match by Eugenie Bouchard to TSN5 instead of having it on the main channel or TSN2. (Though strangely on Videotron, TSN’s main feed was replaced with TSN5 all day.) That led to a lot of people bugging their service providers (not just Videotron) about where TSN5 is.

UPDATE: As Josh explains in a comment below, TSN has decided that TSN1 is no longer its main feed nationally. Instead, TSN1 is the main feed for B.C. and Alberta, TSN3 is the main feed in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, TSN4 is the main feed for southern Ontario, and TSN5 is the main feed for eastern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. This allows those who only have one or two TSN channels (such as analog subscribers) to still get their Jets, Leafs and Senators regional games. This explains a lot of what we see below.

As they decide whether to add these channels, Videotron and others have to ask themselves: Just what do the other three TSN channels offer that its two existing ones don’t have?

Schedule grid of TSN's five channels for this Saturday.

Schedule grid of TSN’s five channels for this Saturday.

This schedule for Saturday offers more insight into the added value of these additional feeds. Instead of one Premier League game on Saturday mornings, TSN can air three simultaneously. It can air college football games and more NASCAR races, things that would otherwise be shown on tape-delay or on those rare occasions when there was nothing better to show.

Fans of the Jets, Leafs and Senators (who live in their respective broadcast regions) will definitely appreciate the feeds during the NHL season. But that’s only 138 games, or 414 hours of programming, in a year. And as I mention above, subscribers in those regions don’t need the extra channels to watch their team (except in some areas of Ontario where the broadcast regions overlap).

Identical programming much of the time

If you look at other days, the value of extra TSN channels becomes less apparent. Take Friday, Sept. 5. The U.S. Open is still on, but its field has narrowed so much that only three matches are scheduled for that day: two women’s singles semifinals and the mixed doubles final. There’s also a NASCAR race and a CFL game that night. Two channels are more than enough for all that.

Looking at the schedule for that day, the lineup for TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 and TSN5 are identical from 2am to 11:30pm: 10 repeats of SportsCentre, U.S. Open tennis, and the B.C. vs. Ottawa CFL game.

Only TSN2 looks different, with NASCAR, MLS, Dave Naylor and various ESPN feature and talk shows.

Of course, these channels just launched, and we could see more differentiation in the future, especially as the number of subscribers who have only one or two TSN channels further diminishes. There was a suggestion early on of installing cameras in other TSN Radio studios and broadcasting other radio shows on TV. Repeats, documentaries and talk shows can also fill up the schedules pretty easily.

But because of TSN’s Sportsnet-like regionalization of those channels, it has essentially backed itself into duplicating much of its content across four of them (TSN2 isn’t the main feed anywhere, so its programming can be entirely distinct). So expect CFL games and major sporting events to still be the same across TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 and TSN5 for a while.

That’s not to say that the additional feeds aren’t worth it. But for now, their value depends on how much you want more choice in things like tennis, NASCAR, English soccer and U.S. college football, and whether you feel like, when it comes to sports, you absolutely cannot miss a thing.

UPDATE: Mitch Melnick speaks with TSN president Stewart Johnston about the new channels. Johnston says Videotron sees the value in them and the two parties are working on getting them added.

Posted in Radio, TV

NHL broadcast schedule 2014-15: Who owns rights to what games

Updated Sept. 5 with Rogers-Canadiens regional deal, as well as additional national games for Oilers, Flames and Canucks. Also includes information about out-of-region coverage where two Canadian teams face each other, and information about where some games are national in one language but regional in the other.

The final piece of the puzzle as far as the NHL schedule is concerned has finally been revealed with the publishing of regional broadcast schedules. This allows us to break down who will broadcast what where, and I’ve done so below for the seven Canadian NHL teams.

As previously announced, Rogers has all the national rights to NHL games, which includes all Saturday night games and all playoff games. Beyond that, it gets a bit complicated (some games are national in one language but not the other, for example). Regional games will be viewable in the team’s region (here’s a map of the teams’ regions), but those outside will need to fork out cash for NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre to see all their team’s games. (Or maybe not? Rogers still gives me a coy “details will be announced in the coming weeks” when I ask about that.)

TSN has decided to assign its three regional rights packages to specific channels: Jets on TSN3, Leafs on TSN4 and Senators on TSN5. The five-channel TSN system launches on Monday on every major TV provider in Canada except Videotron (which tells me it’s in discussions to add the other three channels).

Below are how the TV and radio rights break down for each team. They include regular-season games only. Preseason games are regional, and subject to separate deals. All playoff games are national, so their rights are owned by Rogers in English and TVA in French.

Radio rights are not subject to regional blackouts. Listed is their local station only and does not include affiliates.

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Posted in Media, Montreal, Radio, TV, Video

Montreal media personalities dump water on their heads

The latest viral craze sweeping the western world is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people dump ice water on their heads in exchange for a chance to nominate three (or more) other people to do the same. Videos of celebrities and athletes doing this are all over the Internet now, and the campaign has recently spread to certain parts of Montreal media.

The challenge has been criticized as a gimmicky fad that’s more about doing silly stuff than actually raising money or awareness. Kind of like Movember. And there’s something to that. But the ALS Association has also seen eight times the amount of donations it normally does for this time of year. That’s more than $10 million that would otherwise not have been donated.

In Montreal, the challenge has begun sweeping the local media scene, and is continuing to spread (I’ve updated this post several times to add new ones).

Here are some links to videos of their dunkings, which I’ll be adding to as it spreads further. (Most are posted to Facebook, and some of those might not be accessible to everyone. If you’re going to post one of these videos to Facebook, be sure to make it public — or better yet, post it to YouTube instead — and don’t shoot it vertically for crying out loud).

If nothing else, they provide insight into what your favourite TV and radio personalities’ backyards look like.

CBC Montreal

Sabrina Marandola got Andrew Chang in on it, and he decided to spice things up.

CTV Montreal

Global Montreal

City Montreal

City Toronto has compiled videos of these challenges from City personalities across the country

ICI

CJAD

The Beat

The Beat also got former colleague Jeremy White to take the challenge, and former PD Leo Da Estrela.

CHOM

Virgin Radio 96

This video combines the following:

  • Morning host Freeway Frank Depalo
  • Afternoon host Mark Bergman
  • Evening host Tony Stark
  • Overnight host Mike D
  • Weekend host Kelly Alexander
  • Weekend host MC Mario

TSN Radio 690

KIC Country

The Gazette

Others

I made my $100 donation through the Tony Proudfoot Fund. The Gazette has reposted Proudfoot’s stories chronicling his life with ALS.

Posted in TV, Video

Video: CRTC 1987 specialty channel hearings

With a month to go until the CRTC begins what will probably be the most important hearing into television policy in decades, it’s fun to look back at one of the hearings that shaped television in Canada as we know it, back in 1987.

The Youtube channel Retro Winnipeg recently posted nearly five hours of video from CRTC hearings held in July 1987 on specialty channel services. It led to a wave of new channels, including YTV, TV5, Family Channel, The Weather Network, CBC Newsworld and more.

Rather than have you sit through five hours of people in suits talking as boringly as they possibly can, I’ve split them up into sections, and you can watch the parts that interest you.

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