Tag Archives: Current.tv

CRTC Roudup: Conventional TV hurting

The CRTC today issued a release announcing its findings on the financial situation of private conventional television broadcasters.

In it, a few things that strike me right off: First of all, despite all the whining and complaining, conventional over-the-air television broadcasters like CTV and Global are still making money, albeit much less than they used to. Total profits for 2008 were $8 million, compared to hundreds of millions for the years before.

Though revenue was down from last year, the main reason for the financial shortfall is an increase in expenses, and the main increase there, which ate up half of their profits over the last year, is an increase in foreign (read: American) programming expenses:

Investments in Canadian programming remained essentially unchanged at $619.6 million, of which $146 million was paid to independent producers. However, private broadcasters spent $775.2 million on foreign programming in 2008, up 7.4% from $721.9 million in 2007.

In other words, the reason CTV, Global, CITY et al aren’t making as much money as before isn’t because they can’t afford to fund daily newscasts, it’s because they’re running themselves into the poor house bidding for the Canadian broadcast rights for House and Grey’s Anatomy.

It boggles the mind that Canadian broadcasters spend more money securing rights to U.S. content than they do creating their own Canadian content (in fact, if you exclude news from the equation, it becomes a ratio of more than 2:1).

The full analysis with tables and stuff (PDF) is worth taking a look at. It breaks down the numbers by region, and shows that profit in Quebec, for example, bucked the trend and actually increased slightly in 2008. This despite (or because of) the fact that Quebec’s private broadcasters spend more money to create their own (primarily francophone) content.

Taking that Canadian-to-U.S. content ratio again and excluding Quebec, it rises to 60:40 in favour of importing U.S. programming. Exclude news again, and you find out that non-Quebec TV broadcasters spend 80% of their non-news programming budgets  on importing American programming, and only 20% on creating Canadian content (that includes quasi-news programming like “other information” and “human interest”).

Perhaps we may have located the source of the problem here?

More on this story at CBC, CP and FP.

UPDATE: That didn’t take long. Quebecor (which owns TVA and Sun TV) is already using this to ask the CRTC to allow broadcasters to force cable companies to give them money (via Branchez-Vous), something the CRTC has already rejected.

More crappy cable channels

The CRTC is hearing applications for new digital specialty TV channels in one giant hearing (which also includes a bunch of radio applications). Among the suggested new channels:

  • The Asian Television Network has applied to create 12 new channels in various categories for news, sports and music programming. The applications are somewhat vague and ask for freedom to take programming from various categories, so there will probably be resistance from the existing players.
  • Current TV has applied for a Canadian version of its cable channel.
  • Some guy in Alberta wants to create The Country Channel, geared toward rural Canadians, which I guess means programming about farming and fishing. Again, some existing broadcasters will probably object to them not being more selective about programming categories.
  • A Toronto company called Ultimate Indie Productions (which seems to have assumed that its application has already been approved) wants to create a channel which features music from emerging Canadian artists (those whose record sales have not hit 80,000 yet), similar (in every way I can see) to a channel that’s already been approved but has not started service yet. It says no more than 65% of its content will be music, so I’m not sure what the rest is supposed to be. It also proposes no limits on feature film programming, which will annoy existing broadcasters. It’s also asking for an HD version of the same channel.

In other news

Emmy “Interactive TV” award just a gimmick

Al Gore was just on stage at the Emmys to receive an award for “outstanding achievement for interactive television” on behalf of his broadband “TV” network Current.tv (Gore actually got the website’s name wrong, calling it “current.com”. That website quickly crashed under the load of Emmy-watching visitors.) The presentation of this inaugural award came complete with a lame live video feed from MySpace’s Tom Anderson (is he too good for the Emmys already to be there in person?).

The show wasn’t clear on what exactly “interactive television” is. Its call for entries for the award is somewhat more specific, but still leaves a lot of questions. Here’s their explanation for the three categories they have in this area:

  • Interactive television “Program” is defined as a single show, originally aired or transmitted during the eligibility year that is delivered via broadcast, cable, satellite, broadband, or mobile networks, and that incorporates one or more participatory interactive features that enhance the viewing experience.
  • Interactive Television “Series” is defined as episodic programming that has been or continues to be available during the eligibility year and delivered via broadcast, cable, satellite, broadband, or mobile networks, incorporating participatory interactive features that enhance the viewing experience.
  • Interactive television “Service” is defined as a television network or other distributor of programming offering one or more participatory interactive features that enhance the viewing experience across a range of programs or series, and that have been or continues to be available during the eligibility year and delivered via broadcast, cable, satellite, broadband, or mobile networks.

So an interactive show is defined as a “show” (how specific), delivered by just about any medium, with “participatory interactive features” which are also not explained.

If the Emmys want to get into online videos, that’s one thing. Then everything original uploaded to YouTube could be eligible for an Emmy.

But that doesn’t seem to be what they’re doing here. Instead, they go after the mainstream web publishers like Current, have them pay the $600 entry fee, and then explain to the judges what’s so great about their “interactive” programming:

(Entries must include) A linear / non-interactive video recording that demonstrates the viewer experience and highlights the features and functionality of the interactive television program, series, or service. The video recording must not exceed 6 minutes in length and must be submitted on Beta SP or Digi Beta tape format. It must provide a minimum of either two minutes of, OR the combined total running time of, the interactive elements in the program, series, or service, whichever is shorter, and must include the interactive feature(s), either contiguous or edited, in an order that is closely representative of the actual viewer experience.

The academy needs to decide if it wants to include online-produced video in its eligibility criteria (fortunately, it’s at a point now where there’s still a dividing line between television and online video). If it does, then why not include DVDs, advertisements, wedding videos, or any other form of video? If not, then it needs to stick to television as we know it and stop with the stupid gimmicks.