Friday, April 24, 2009

We're all losers in the long, slow, sad battle of Canada's media companies

It felt for a moment yesterday as though we were being drafted into battle over the announcement that the rights to the Jays' mid-May series against the Red Sox were acquired by CTVglobemedia to be shown on TSN2.

The notion that we - like thousands of other Jays fans - will likely not be able to see those games frustrates us immensely. But at the same time, we wonder how much energy we have to engage in what is surely to be an almost pointless exercise in trying to convince these two media monoliths to give an inch in what seems to be an intractable battle over the sports media landscape.

A few points for the sake of context. TSN gets the highest subscription fees of any Canadian cable channel, meaning that the network has an institutionalized advantage over Sportsnet or the Score when it comes to acquiring content. A few years back, Rogers and Headline Sports both went to the CRTC to ask for significantly larger fees, in part because they saw the way that TSN was bidding up the rights to properties beyond what was rational. They received a very modest increase, but nothing near what they had asked for and certainly not enough to play the money game with TSN.

Before the introduction of the "alternate feed", TSN would timeshift programs that they couldn't fit into their schedule into the wee hours of the morning, usually resulting in a handful of pissed off tennis or Formula 1 fans. It wasn't a great move for the viewers, but in a battle such as this, the execs and programmers generally look at the audience as a secondary concern. (At their peril, but we'll come back to that.)

Now that TSN has evolved from having an occasional alternate feed to a full blown second channel, they are certain to use their institutionalized financial might to bid up the rights to any and all sports properties that they want, regardless of whether or not if they can fit them into their schedule. Think of TSN as the Yankees, having more money to spend and using it to their competitive advantage.

It seems as though Rogers' tactic at this point is to squeeze off access to theis channel from their significant subscriber base, thus minimizing the impact of the second TSN channel on their four allegedly regional sports networks. The thinking seems to be that if they let the second feed wither on the vine, then it will eventually go away. The thing is, TSN2 won't go away. CTVglobemedia is willing to engage in a battle of attrition over this incredibly valuable property, and they have the resources and the will to go to the wall for this.

With this latest salvo between the companies, we can just imagine how pleased the TSN-types are with themselves at having the opportunity to really stick it to Rogers. Acquiring a Rogers property and airing it on a channel that Rogers refuses to make room for has probably resulted in all sorts of giggling and backslaps and attaboys, much in the way that they gloated like shit-eating frat boys at their pointless and petty acquisition of the Hockey Song away from the bumbling navel gazers at CBC.

With apologies to Raptors fans, the acquisition of the Blue Jays games for TSN2 will likely prove to be the true test of this rivalry. Jays games traditionally bring in more than 300,000 viewers on TSN and around 250,000 on Sportsnet, numbers that dwarf the basketball numbers. The question is: How much damage is one part of Rogers (the BDU or cable guys) willing to do to another part of the company (the Blue Jays) in order to maintain their position in an ultimately unwinnable war?

(And following up on that thought: What is going on with the Blue Jays in relation to their corporate parents when they are willing to sell the rights to these games to a competitor who will use the games to rachet up pressure on the Rogers Cable unit to give in on their resistance to carrying this channel? Are the Blue Jays going out on a limb here?)

Our hope is that Rogers and CTV come to their senses and sort these issues out, because the longer that they allow this sort of tomfoolery to go on, the more likely it is that you will Canadian sports fans stepping around the regulated broadcasting system and finding the games that they want to see on internet streams in the unregulated universe. And they might want to ask someone in the music business how easy it is to get those customers back once they leave.

The longer this battle goes on, the more likely that any victory gained between these two companies will ultimately prove to be a pyrrhic one. So really guys: Smarten the fuck up.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fuck off Sti........... Rogers

Tao of Stieb said...

A pox on both their houses.

eyebleaf said...

It's bullshit, plain and simple, but much like you say Tao, I just don't have the energy to go ape shit about it.

I'm more than content to grab a beer, turn on the radio, and have Jerry Howarth, Alan Ashby and Mike Wilner whisper sweet nothings into my ears as the Jays demolish those mother fuckers from Boston.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, the radio is always an option. We listen to it most nights, with the game on the tube in case something big happens. Looks like we'll just have to use our imagination for the BoSox series.

Izmir the Astarach said...

I will have to see if I can figure a way to proxy through to MLB.TV.

Darren Priest said...

Once the HNIC theme moved to TSN, it lost almost all of its nostalgic power for me. It was a relic of an earlier age of broadcasting and lost all its power in the presence of James Duthie.

Kevin said...

It's no coincidence that Rogers' is the only provider to not carry TSN2, and they are TSN's largest competitor.

What's funny is that my provider (Cogeco) put TSN2 on my list of channels at no additional cost.

The other solution for those in TO with Rogers:

GO TO THE GAME.

Tao of Stieb said...

@Kevin

The TSN2 games are in Boston. (May 19, 20, 21).

And Cogeco put TSN2 on your dial presumably because it is part of a tier, not out of the goodness of their hearts.

Anonymous said...

The blue jays are force to sell some games to ctvglobemedia in order to avoid issues with the competition bureau. I don't know the specific details but that's what I heard.

Kevin said...

Well colour me embarrassed... :)


Regardless of whether or not TSN2 is tiered, at least they provided me with an option to get the service, and pay extra for it if I so desired (which I am not).

The tier TSN2 is included in was something I was already paying for (Includes things like Raptors TV, ESPN Classic, The various Sportsnet "Regional Channels", etc), and there was no additional fee for tacking TSN2 on.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, we're on Rogers, and there are all sorts of new surprises that we find added to our lineup.

Like CBS College Sports, which we probably don't need, but what the hey. And they've been showing a ton of College Baseball, which is cool. PING!

Tao of Stieb said...

@anonymous

I think you heard wrong. The Competition Bureau doesn't usually get involved with that sort of thing, unless one company is selling or acquiring another company.

Besides, they sold 5 extra games on top of the 20 that had already gone to TSN. Somehow, we don't see those five games making that big a difference in the eyes of the Competition Bureau, nor would they care.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying it was directly involved but that it's a preventative measure.

Stoeten said...

Tao really knows his shit when it comes to this. Great post. But wait... so you're saying this is the Jays acting alone against Rogers' interests?

Also... come on people. Don't make me spell it out... but... a little Googling and you won't take long to find free sports streams.

Anonymous said...

My theory on this, and it's just a theory, is that a Rogers-TSN2 deal is probably imminent and this move is a sign of that. I could be wrong, though. I often am.

Scott

Tao of Stieb said...

@Scott

Thinking you may be right, or at least the theory is sound. There is something that just seems really odd about this otherwise, with one part of Rogers undermining the other.

Unless this is all part of a larger Blairsian conspiracy theory involving Beeston and MLSE and whoever else.

@Stoeten

Not saying that the Jays are acting on their own...but if you hold this up to the light in a certain way, it seems peculiar.

We just keep thinking of Beeston making these claims that the team has to make a go of it independent of any promotional value they have for Rogers...I dunno. It just seems strange, but then again, it's just five games.

Warren Demartini said...

Rogers applied for a baseball only channel over a year ago? Would anyone know the info on that, how that affects whats happening here, and when we could expect that, if ever?

Thanks!

Stoeten said...

Zelkovich is saying the same thing as Scott, I notice.

greg said...

@Stoeten

I posted something similar over at Ghostrunner on First, and I am pretty sure it is the same thing as Scott and Zelkovich are saying, but I just thought I would say my $0.02

I think that this particular move is part of some bigger play by Rogers as a whole to move to get TSN2 on to their cable division.

Think about it... People at the top for Rogers must have been in negotiations with CTV for months to get TSN2 onto cable and by all accounts, it doesn't seem like it would happen any time soon. That said, what if Rogers offered them a series like Boston to sweeten the deal and try to drop the price to get TSN2 to the masses on Rogers Cable.

Nothing is ever free, and by the looks of things, Rogers is (potentially) trying to make some headway to try and get us all TSN2. Having talked to numerous people who work for Cable, I know that money has been the biggest issue in the negotiations, and my guess is that by this point they are just trying to make some concessions in order to try and make sure that they can no longer have TSN2 held over their heads by everyone else out there.

Peg City said...

Why is Rogers not showing their own product on all their channels? Why do they purchase games to compete in the same timeslot as the Blue Jays? As I'm sitting here, I've got a freaking Yankees/Red Sox game on the central feed, making it the third time this week they've purposely not shown a Blue Jays game to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Where's the logic there?

And Stoeten, my 56" Samsung 1080p laughs at your jumpy feed on the computer monitor. No thanks!

VDUB said...

They had to do it with the Red Sox series, damn Rogers!

Stevie H. said...

" CTVglobemedia is willing to engage in a battle of attrition over this incredibly valuable property, and they have the resources and the will to go to the wall for this."

Thats not true! If CTV has unlimtied funds then why did they cancel Canadian Idol and Corner Gas... Rogers knows this... TSN2 lost a ton of money on the Raptors, and they will continue to lose money by broadcasting Jays games...

Will the station just go away? No... But it doesn't cost Rogers anything by waiting this out, because there are little options for most of Toronto; due to the fact that maybe half the city is in a situation where they can get a dish, and maybe 1/20th of the city actually is that passionate about the Raptors and the Jays...

So TSN2, go for it....

Your decision doesn't make me want to get a Bell dish... It makes me want to get an illegal American dish.. Which I probably will look into today on craigslist!

Jason said...

Does anyone else think this may be connected to the absence of RDS HD on Rogers Cable? It's another CTVglobemedia property.

rsm said...

Just join the 21st century and get a freakin satellite dish. Problem solved.

Steph D said...

Sorry man, but the minute you portrayed the Rogers Empire as a "have not" versus the BCE Empire, you lost me.

Rogers could bid up the rights as much as Bell can if you look at the big picture. The only reason Bell's doing it is to increase its revenues. Rogers could do the same thing for the same reason.

In this economy, companies don't engage in pissing matches. They try to pare down to the bare essentials and proven winners. Bell has a business analyst on staff who happened to prove that the Jays series was worth the cost. Plain and simple. That's all that's going on here. If it happened to embarass Rogers in the process, that's just an added bonus.