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Article on digital sports channels


DJT

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This article from the Toronto Star is over a week old but I just came across it now. Apparently the digital sports channels will be forced to have more Canadian content in the future, but there is no indication of how much and in what form. Do FSWC's 5 or 6 A-League matches per season involving Canadian teams and their nightly news program produced in Winnipeg (though featuring extremely little Canadian coverage) already reach the quota, or will they have to add more? And if they have to add more, will they have enough money to do so?

(Despite the fact that I'd like to see more Canadian content on FSWC, in general I think that Canadian content regulations are stupid.)

WTSN should serve as a warning

Channels must keep costs low to survive

CHRIS ZELKOVICH

For those few thousand sports fans who've come to rely on them, rest assured that digital TV channels are not a house of cards.

Last week's decision to euthanize North America's first women's sports channel, WTSN, will not herald the thinning out of the field many have predicted since they launched two years ago.

That may come later.

"WTSN was in a different world (than the other digital sports channels)," says Global's Adam Ivers, who oversees programming for Fox Sports World Canada and Xtreme. "We are on target and healthy."

While calling channels that have average audiences of 2,300 (Fox) and 300 (Xtreme) healthy may sound like whistling past the crematorium, the fact is most digital sports channels are surviving with audiences that in some cases could fit into a studio.

WTSN, on the other hand, bit the dust despite rating 24th of the 49 digital channels over the past year. The reason for its demise: It couldn't find enough of the cheap programming that is keeping the others off the respirator.

"That was WTSN's big flaw," says John Shannon, who oversees Leafs TV and Raptors NBA TV. "Their costs were much higher than everyone else's."

While the handful of viewers who watched WTSN's mix of foreign-produced women's sports might wonder what costs were involved, the fact is WTSN was the Cadillac of digital sports channels.

That was due partly to its onerous licence conditions that demanded almost twice as much Canadian content as its digital siblings and partly because there's not a whole lot of women's sports available.

While the others could air cheap, if not free, foreign-produced soccer and basketball, WTSN had to pay for rare women's sports. It also had to produce a lot of its own.

"Canadian content is expensive," said Sue Prestedge, who will stay on as head of WTSN until it shuts down at the end of the month. "I'm proud of what we accomplished, but maybe we were just ahead of our time."

The fact is that WTSN was probably doomed from the start. In addition to its tough licence requirements, it had no definable audience.

What's needed in the digital world is a niche audience (European soccer fans, NBA junkies, Leaf fanatics), not one that comprises half the population and probably doesn't watch sports based on which gender is playing them.

Regardless, WTSN's sad saga is a cautionary tale for the other digitals.

Within a couple of years, their licences will require them to start producing more Canadian content and face up to the real costs of broadcasting.

Those that can do it economically will survive. Others will join WTSN.

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quote:Originally posted by DoyleG

FSWC can easily increase it's base if it were avaliable to those of us who have regular cable.

Do you mean if FSWC were not a digital channel? But you could say that about every digital specialty channel. There is only so much analog space available, and all of the digital specialty channels exist only because more space was made available through digital technologies.

quote:No one is going to go through the hassle and the expense just to get that station.
I did originally (later Rogers gave me a really good deal to get all the other digital stations as well), and I think many others did, too. I know that not everyone can afford it, but it's not so ridiculously expensive that only a select few can.
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quote:Originally posted by DJT

Do you mean if FSWC were not a digital channel? But you could say that about every digital specialty channel. There is only so much analog space available, and all of the digital specialty channels exist only because more space was made available through digital technologies.

From where I live, Shaw's basic service is actually quite small. I've got 32 stations on basic cable. If I wanted to get Sportsnet, however, one would have to pay for the "Tier 1" block of channels. Tier 2 if I wanted Telelatino. There are stations on there people wouldn't need on basic cable.

quote:Originally posted by DJT

I did originally (later Rogers gave me a really good deal to get all the other digital stations as well), and I think many others did, too. I know that not everyone can afford it, but it's not so ridiculously expensive that only a select few can.

I don't want to give Shaw the benefit of fleecing me for a digital converter and to re-hook my parents house. I was more hoping that Telus might get into the cable business. There was talk of the providing a real "pay for what you watch" program.

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quote:Originally posted by DJT

I did originally (later Rogers gave me a really good deal to get all the other digital stations as well), and I think many others did, too. I know that not everyone can afford it, but it's not so ridiculously expensive that only a select few can.

Although the station itself is only an extra $1.50 or so per month. In Saskatoon, you had to buy all three tiers before you can start selecting the digital "extra's". So it costs about $40.00 per month to get to the point where you can order it. I think you'll see a lot of this "bundling" coming off in the next few years, and viewers having a little more choice. But until that happens, the stations are limited by a cost that is prohibitive to many potential subscribers.

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quote:Originally posted by DJT

(Despite the fact that I'd like to see more Canadian content on FSWC, in general I think that Canadian content regulations are stupid.)

What communist came up with that regulation?? It does sound stupid! I mean, HELLO - its Fox Sports World</u>. Do we have to watch "highlights" of the Leafs on every channel?? ...

PS... Do they provide complimentary barf-bags to people who subscribe to Leafs TV?? [xx(]

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If you want to get technical...the Fox Sports World Report is produced by Canadians, in Canada, and does highlight Canadian athletes and teams. All fulfill the rules for Canadian Content. As for the rest, I don't see how being a 'World' channel means putting Canadian stuff on for whatever the % is...(30%, I think-anyone?). Also, with Fox owning a share in the channel, I doubt they'd allow the CRTC to enforce unreasonble rules without a fight. Don't expect the channel to become some all-Canada sports channel anytime soon, especially since it's one of the few successful digital channels out there right now.

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quote:Originally posted by Loud Mouth Soup

If you want to get technical...the Fox Sports World Report is produced by Canadians, in Canada,

Right, but this means nothing to anyone except their 5 hosts and however many people are behind the camera (I can't see there being more than 5) when what they actually show and talk about is not Canadian. The fact that this counts towards the CRTC's quota just makes that quota even more stupid.

quote:and does highlight Canadian athletes and teams.
They have extremely little coverage of Canadian athletes and teams. They have way more coverage of American athletes and teams --- specifically, MLS --- because, I presume, they are now broadcast in the US and Americans want to see Americans.

quote:Don't expect the channel to become some all-Canada sports channel anytime soon
I don't want it to be an all-Canada sports channel because I want to watch soccer from around the world. However, I want the American content to be balanced with Canadian content (oh, and less English content, too).
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I purchased the digital cable converter (from Shaw) and pay for the channels on top of the movie package needed for access to the specialty channels. When all is said and done after rebates, coupons, etc. I now pay $75 a month which gives me all the soccer I want (Sportsnet, TSN, TLN, TV5 and FSWC) plus the kids get tons of cartoons and the wife gets Discovery Health. Plus I get the option on pay-per-view soccer (albiet expensive and featuring only England).

As for too much English content on FSWC, if they cut it the audience numbers would go from 2500 to about six. Sorry to say but the English game is twice as popular as all the others put together.

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Talking to my cable guy, he said that option will come eventually and he also expects the converters to come down in price in the near future. I agree, it sucked that I had to buy the movie package, but in hindsight I watch a lot of good shows that I haven't bothered renting.

But considering all the soccer I'm getting, it's worth it to me, especially seeing all the A-League games this year.

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quote:Originally posted by Andrew W

As for too much English content on FSWC, if they cut it the audience numbers would go from 2500 to about six. Sorry to say but the English game is twice as popular as all the others put together.

Perhaps this is true for English SOCCER! But FSW they can to without the Sky Sports News I think. We don't need to see all those other pathetic sports that drunken Brits dreamed-up (such as cricket and gaelic football).

I would like to see them air a show similar to TSN's old "World of Soccer". Remember that show? How great was that? Back when it existed I wouldn't have traded that 2 hour weekly show for any single soccer match! If FSWC created another show like this it would be cheap and they could help fill that Canadian quota, since they could re-show it 2-3 times per week.

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quote:Originally posted by amacpher

Perhaps this is true for English SOCCER! But FSW they can to without the Sky Sports News I think. We don't need to see all those other pathetic sports that drunken Brits dreamed-up (such as cricket and gaelic football).
This is closer to what I was getting at, though I was still talking about soccer. The thing is, I wasn't referring to too many English matches (I mean, for my tastes there are too many English matches, but I can accept that). I was referring to too much English coverage on Fox Sports World Report in combination with Sky Sports News in combination with the EPL highlights show. The same stuff gets repeated over and over again, both across these different shows but also within the same show (eg. not only does Fox Sports World Report repeat about 5 times per day, within each show they repeat much of the stuff covered in the first half again in the second half, especially the English stuff).

It's not only English stuff that gets too much time. Real Madrid is another example (though I guess with Beckham it still is English stuff). I really thought that after the Italian clubs dominated last year's Champions League we'd see more Italian coverage this year, but no.

Like I said in another post, I am getting more and more tempted to get a grey-market dish. I'm tired of paying for stuff I don't want to see, especially when the stuff I do want to see is not even offered to me as an option.

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