No more bailouts please

As you’re probably aware, CTV has been running an aggressive “Save Local TV” campaign over the last couple weeks. Along with occasional ally Canwest, the two broadcasters are petitioning the CRTC to impose a fee-for-carriage on cable and satellite companies. In a recent guest post on Connect2Edmonton, CTV’s Lloyd Lewis wrote:

Local stations like CTV Edmonton do not receive any compensation from cable and satellite companies.  We believe the time has come that local television must share in this pool, just as all other channels on your cable and satellite systems do.

Shaw has been the most aggressive company on the opposite side of the issue. Here’s what Jim Shaw wrote in his message to Canadians:

Canadians should not have to pay to fix broadcasters’ problems. They’ve spent billions of dollars acquiring foreign programs, TV stations and newspapers and now they say they’re broke?

Essentially, I think the situation can be described as follows:

  • CTV and Canwest are losing money. This is partly because of a decline in advertising revenue, exacerbated by the economic downturn.
  • They have twice before asked the CRTC to impose a fee-for-carriage, and were denied both times. A fee-for-carriage would force cable and satellite companies to pay for the signals they rebroadcast.
  • If such a fee were imposed, Shaw and other cable/sat companies would likely pass the cost on to consumers.
  • Fee-for-carriage exists in other countries, but has never existed in Canada.

My gut reaction when I first started reading about all of this was that CTV and Canwest wanted a bailout, just like the auto manufacturers. Their business model is broken, and they’re looking for the quick fix. I firmly believe that we need to allow sick businesses to die, so that more efficient ones can take their place. I feel that way about all industries.

I decided to do some reading. Here’s what I have learned:

CTV argues that their local news programs are suffering because I can get CTV Toronto and CTV Edmonton on my cable/satellite package. That means I can watch a popular primetime show on the Toronto feed instead of my local one. Some questions on that:

  • Isn’t CTV receiving the same revenue either way?
  • Isn’t most advertising sold nationally anyway? Isn’t that the argument for a large conglomerate?
  • Why does the ad revenue for a primetime show affect my local news program as much as CTV seems to suggest it does?

The financials only tell one side of the story. It’s the other side of the story that really makes me frustrated. CTV has taken a page out of the newspaper playbook, and is claiming that they are vital to the local community.

Cities do not need newspapers to survive and flourish, nor do they need local TV stations.

In the article posted at C2E, CTV argues that local TV is important for the following reasons:

  1. Local content is more relevant than ever, despite more the web making global sources and more choice available.
  2. The accurate reporting of news is critical.
  3. Local stations provide a high level of community service.

None of those things require a TV station.

You might wonder where all the local content is on CTV or Global. Aside from the news programs (which themselves are not even close to 100% local content), what is there? Lots of American shows, that’s what (this post is a long but good read on the topic of local vs. foreign content on the networks). The six o’clock news is too late for most breaking news, but too soon for context and analysis, which is what the 384 years of experience CTV Edmonton is touting would be good for.

TV stations are not perfect, they make mistakes from time to time. The problem is that they can’t correct those mistakes until the late news or else the next day. How accurate is that? More importantly, TV is not required for the dissemination of accurate news. It just happens to be one of the vehicles for it today.

It’s true that local TV stations do a lot for the community. So do other organizations. I’m sure charity events could find other individuals to MC. Aside from donating free advertising, I’m not sure what specifically CTV brings to the table with regard to community service that other organizations do not.

Comments via Twitter

I decided to ask Twitter for some comments on this last night. There was an almost even split among the replies I received, with roughly half supporting CTV and half supporting Shaw. Here are some of the tweets:

  • wikkiwild1: I have to go with Cable, if CTV charges carriage fees they will be passed onto the cable subscribers. Why pay for local TV.
  • andrewmcintyre: CTV and Canwest are clearly not in the right. The CRTC’s role in this debate is very interesting.
  • chrislabossiere: if I had to pick one of two sides, I would say status quo and Shaw. They are at least fighting for a new way.
  • ZoomJer: I’m for fairness. If you buy a DVD you can’t show it and charge admission. Shaw is in the wrong. I want to see @ctvedmonton stay.
  • paulstrandlund: Shaw. CTV only has 1 local program – the news.
  • tachyondecay: Neither. They’re both in it for money. My local TV (which has nothing to do with CTV) offers little interesting except news.
  • thzatheist: Shaw. How has CTV fared so well this long? Advertising – let’s see them continue. (I only support media bailout if CBC is saved)

Final Thoughts

There’s really nothing “local” about CTV’s campaign. It’s disappointing propaganda, replicated across the network of CTV stations. It might have more of an impact if it actually came from a local perspective.

I don’t think Shaw and the other cable and satellite companies are completely in the clear here either. They are rebroadcasting CTV and Canwest signals without paying for them, and they seem awfully quick to suggest fees would be passed on directly to consumers.

Just because Canada hasn’t had a fee-for-carriage in the past doesn’t mean it shouldn’t in the future. I’m not completely opposed to a fee-for-carriage, but I am opposed to a mandatory fee-for-carriage. An optional one, on the other hand, could be good. I should be able to tell Shaw that I don’t want CTV Edmonton, saving us both the expense.

Of course, CTV and Canwest don’t want that, because then they’d see just how vital Canadians think they are. I think it’s unfortunate that CTV and Canwest are threatening more job cuts and station closures if they don’t get the fee-for-carriage revenue. What they should be doing is innovating, to reduce costs and to ensure they have multiple, steady revenue streams.

If they can’t do that, we should allow them to die. Healthy, innovative businesses will take their place.

Sadly, this whole argument may become irrelevant (or at least delayed) if the rumored $150 million bailout package for the broadcasters turns out to be real.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this issue. What do you think?

UPDATE: It’s worth pointing out that the CBC doesn’t seem particularly interested in joining CTV and Canwest on this issue, despite the fact that they may benefit.

35 thoughts on “No more bailouts please

  1. Exactly! Once you look at both sides and examine the arguments and financial stats things don’t add up.

    You point out, rightly so, that local doesn’t mean TV or a newspaper anymore. The medium is not the message.

    Sadly, most broadcast newsrooms run pretty lean, and have for more than this year. I’ve thought of this campaign more as “Save local CTV” because Shaw has offered to buy stations and I bet there are other companies and individuals who would scoop them up.

  2. I think it’s a matter of principle – if Shaw is re-broadcasting CTV’s signal and charging for it the onus should be on them to compensate CTV for the use of that content as they compensate any other content provider on their network (like the Space channel or Comedy Network). It’s like a company taking open source software, bundling it with other proprietary software and then charging for it without compensation. It’s not right.

    However, the consumer should have the ultimate choice in the situation – Shaw should bundle the local channels together and charge an opt-in monthly fee (like they do for many other channels). If you want local TV you can pay a buck a month for it, if not, it can die the slow and agonizing death it inevitably faces a little faster.

  3. i work in tv, and this is the best analysis of the situation i’ve seen anywhere. i have long lamented that the problem with local tv is not that people don’t like it or want – it’s that “local tv” is an urban myth. it only exists during the first 10 minutes of a newscast, and the occasional “what’s happening this week in your community” interstitial. the current financial model in broadcasting is broken, and you are SO right, it should be left to die.

  4. I see CTV and Global as a national rebroadcaster of mostly US content.

    I watch the US networks and get ‘treated’ to CTV commercials and the occasional out-of-sync jump on shows.

    I watch local news as much as I read newspapers – that’s NEVER.

    This annoys me:
    “Tonight we’ll show you the restaurant that’s killing its customers” [or replace with other sensational stuff], which will be 20 seconds at the end of the show – 5 seconds more than the preview they try to hook people with all day.

    That’s not how you serve the community.

    At least they’ve stopped saying “CTV – Canadian Television” when the content is mostly US-based.

    How did they not get the fees at the beginning of time and let it go on this long?

  5. In Thunder Bay, our local TV is owned by a local company, Dougall Media. It airs over CTV/CBC local affiliate channels, but the only locally-produced programming is, as far as I’m aware, the news and advertisements for local businesses. Otherwise, the channels air CTV and CBC programs–and I have little incentive to watch those channels anymore now that I can watch the same programs in HD or, most of the time, online.

    Local TV–at least when operated like this–is dying, and that’s a good thing. I’m ready to switch over to “new media” solutions for getting my local news; unfortunately, a good deal of Thunder Bay’s population isn’t comfortable embracing those media yet. The diminished quality of local programming will force people to seek alternatives, which should hopefully make those alternatives gradually become mainstream.

    To return to the subject at hand, my television set has become an interesting battleground. I watch Space a lot, so I saw plenty of alarmist ads from CTV saying that Shaw wanted to force local TV off the air. I saw one or two ads from Shaw claiming the opposite. Shaw’s ads seemed more balanced, in hindsight, but I don’t agree with either position. Both are operating from a very understandable perspective; both want what makes more sense for their business. CTV wants revenue; Shaw doesn’t want to spend more money.

    Thus, unlike what Mark Donovan thinks, I don’t think this is a matter of principle. It’s business. I question whether or not the statement that “Shaw is re-broadcasting CTV’s signal and charging for it” is actually accurate (I don’t know, so this is hypothetical). Is Shaw really charging for that additional station? Or is that station just included in the cable package because it’s more convenient than having to hook up an antenna just to get that one over-the-air broadcast?

    Ultimately, I of course find the prospect of a carriage fee unpalatable, simply because Shaw will pass it on to we consumers. But that’s also due to my apathy for local TV–I won’t notice if it’s gone.

    Also, I think it’s ironic that the government might be bailing out private broadcasters even as it cuts funding for the CBC. That is a right joke! I have plenty of qualms about how the CBC currently operates (they cancelled jPod, for instance!); nevertheless, I love the CBC and its mandate to bring us Canadian programming. I’m sad to see the government would rather give money to companies instead of culture.

  6. Jeff – Thx for the comment!
    Mark – I agree, choice is a good thing!
    Sally – Thx very much, glad to hear I’m on the right track here.
    Colin – Good question…it seems like something they’d have sorted out a long time ago.
    Ben – Well the CBC would benefit if a fee-for-carriage were introduced. I too hope that this forces people to look for alternatives, because they’ll realize that some really great ones exist, and new ones are appearing all the time!

  7. Mack insightful analytical piece. Why save local TV? What value is it,currently, adding?

    Yes the business model is changing. The new one isn’t here yet for either newspapers,or broadcast networks and stations.

    Locally,CanWest owns the Journal & Global TV. What an asset that is. What investment has CanWest made? What new business models has the company experimented with? What local programming beyond news has been ‘produced’.

    We don’t need ‘produced’ news anymore. So that’s a big problem. A problem, big old, media doesn’t understand. Should the consumer pay a premium for a product it doesn’t need?

    Content, at the Journal remains locked down, behind pay walls. Today that means out of sight out of mind. Out of money.

    With a defacto monopoly on local news, where is the integration and cross promotion,in Can West properties. Why isn’t the Journal using the video expertise of Global TV?

    Locally, CTV is no better. CTV Globe Media has massive assets and a platform that it doesn’t know how to use, either. Like Can West CTV spent nothing on developing new business systems, over the last decade.

    Don’t count on CRTC to bail out consumers on this one. That agency granted the licenses, allowed the monopolies to be created and those companies pay for government in this country.

    As for Shaw, well that’s another story for another time. However in this case Shaw has it right. When it comes to net access, throttling bandwidth, network management, not so much.

    That too is a major emerging threat. The all you can consume internet buffet is in jeopardy. Think cable TV packaging, bundles, as an emerging internet business model.

    That’s being positioned as required for managing internet works, maintaining a standard, and eliminating abuse. That’s code for not investing in new technologies.

    Save Local TV and Net Neutrality are large complex issues, or at least are made to seem such. In reality, it is a symptom of the failure of our business and financial system. The old system created scarcity, where this wasn’t any. Used and uses government to maintain itself.

    Whatever the new system turns out to be, abundance, more not less, open not controlled, collaborative, not dictated, are the elements required to move us beyond ‘subsidy’.

  8. Re: CBC – they did something right when they cancelled Corner Gas – it was bad enough just seeing the unfunny commercials for it 😛

    Now… paying to co-produce Doctor Who or Torchwood and NOT selling it to the US leaving it to air in Canada months later – that would be an achievement 🙂

  9. It is tough being a member of mainstream media and watching it crumble around me, wondering if 5 years from now I’ll have a job. 7 years of school – and for what?

    But the CTV campaign is just indicative of the poor planning of many of these organizations. And I’m not feeling sorry for them.

    They need to change the label of their campaign, cross out the local and replace it with a “C”.

  10. This whole problem, I believe, could have largely been avoided (not completely avoided) if the CRTC actually applied stronger market protection mechanisms a LONG time ago, similar to the ones US conventional TV stations have. That is:

    – Distant TV signals (ABC, CBS, NBC stations, etc) are not allowed to either be beamed into (via cable/satellite) or broadcast (through TV transmitters) into your local market.

    This is something we do not have in Canada, because not only your sister stations from other areas of the country cannibalize your viewership, but also conventional TV stations from a foreign country (I can’t think of any other country where local conventional TV stations compete against conventional TV stations from a foreign country).

    If fee-for-carriage does pass, Shaw should be able to negotiate the terms. If the negotiations fail, then the local TV signals should be yanked. This has been done before in the US where “retransmission consent” exists (very similar to fee-for-carriage).

  11. CTV has been throwing money around a lot, without considering the.. um.. costs.

    CBC said that the Hockey-theme was too expensive, and dropped it. CTV paid the premium.
    CBC bid low for broadcast rights to the 2010 Olympics, CTV bid high.

    There are lots of things CTV does right, but these are two instances where they spent more than they needed to for a competitive edge on CBC, when the real competition is south of the border.

  12. I asked Shaw to just give me the local channels for the Edmonton area, I did receive a basic but why do I need more channels then I want, I don’t need Toronto, Kingston, Vancouver etc etc but I do enjoy the documentary and Government channels.
    I am curious to the fact that Shaw can broadcast all those stations and not pay for the usage, if I were to broadcast channels even for free I would still be in violation, as what happened to a Saskatchewan man in the late 70’s early 80’s, so why are they allowed to do this, if they don’t pay you for your services why should they be able to demand payment for their services?

  13. An excellently prepared and balanced article. I have just a couple comments.
    Jim Shaw speaks from both sides of his face. On one hand he says for the “sake of the consumer” the government (CRTC) should stay out of the financial affairs of private sector business while he enjoys a CRTC backed regional monopoly. I wonder what that monopoly has cost the consumer?

    Shaw Communications could also be considered complicit in adding to some of CTV’s problems thru over-saturation of commercial specialty channels causing the advertising dollar to shrink even further.

    For CTV, I understand that maintaining a National Network must present problems and issues that most specialty channels don’t have to deal with. However I agree that if CTV is allowed fee for carriage (just like the other channels) and I’m paying for it, then I want the choice to opt out (just like the other channels).

    Regardless, I also subscribe to the “let it die” philosophy with all aspects of private sector business.

  14. From you article:
    CTV argues that their local news programs are suffering because I can get CTV Toronto and CTV Edmonton on my cable/satellite package. That means I can watch a popular primetime show on the Toronto feed instead of my local one. Some questions on that:

    Isn’t CTV receiving the same revenue either way?
    Isn’t most advertising sold nationally anyway? Isn’t that the argument for a large conglomerate?
    Why does the ad revenue for a primetime show affect my local news program as much as CTV seems to suggest it does?

    My Response: You are wrong. A very high percentage of conventional television advertising is target local markets on Conventional Over the Air stations. Either on a national selective market basis (IE: national brands that will target certain markets with different weights), or local advertisers (restaurants, car dealers etc) who buy local advertising to suport their local business. So no, TV stations do NOT get the same revenue either way. CTV Edmonton loses 36% of its prime time audience to this practice. This makes our product much less attractive to the local and national clients who have traditionally relied on stations like ours to provide this “local” advertising service. Time-shifting contributes significantly to the decrease in advertising these stations receive.

    As well, it creates tremendous confusion with viewers who don’t realize they’ve seen a certain product advertised for one price in Halifax for instance, and then go to the local Edmoonton dealer looking for same product, price or service, only to the find that it’s a different offer.

    This practice is truly killing local markets. We do not condone it, nor do we receive compensation for it. On the other hand, companies like Shaw cable actually “sell” it to you, the consumer.

    Also, our industry’s position is that none of these costs should be passed on to consumers. you are already charged far too much for your cable and satellite packages since pricing was de-regulated in the late ’90’s. Also, worth nothing that Shaw says they will pass on a $6.00 charge to you the consumer if they are forced to compensate broadcasters for their signals. This is DOUBLE the real cost that has been filed in testimony by broadcasters in front of both the CRTC and the recent Heritage Commission Hearings. Shaw knows the real cost, and is threatening to mark it up by 100% and charge their customers twice as much as it really is. I don’t understand this at all. It is simply WRONG!

  15. sorry, I forgot to identify myself… I’m Lloyd Lewis, VP and GM of CTV Edmonton and Access.

    Thanks.

  16. Why does revenue from a prime time show affect local news?

    It’s very simply. those primetime shows are the most profitable, given that prime time hours offer the highest audiences, which in turn, have historically generated the highest profits, which in turn, are used to offset the losses incurred by local news production. It’s worth noting that while CTV News in Edmonton is the NUMBER ONE SHOW IN THIS REGION, it is not a profitable undertaking because of the costs associated with making a show like that. We have close to 90 staff members directly involved in the production of this show everyday – so while popular, it’s too expensive. For years, prime time programming has funded all local production. As things like time shifting kill the advertising market, there are no profits left to fund local programming like CTV News. That’s how these two are related.

    Thanks for reading.

  17. Thanks everyone for the fantastic comments!

    Lloyd:
    I hear what you’re saying, and I agree with some of your points. Thanks for clarifying the way the advertising works, that’s good to know.

    I completely disagree with your approach to time-shifting, however. In my opinion, one of the fundamental problems affecting your business is that you choose to view time-shifting as a problem rather than as an opportunity. It’s not going away, so why try to fight it? A much wiser course of action would be to take advantage of it, so that you can benefit.

  18. So if local news is not profitable, remove it – ah but wait – then there’s nothing much local left, assuming the content was significantly local, which many seem to think it isn’t. So then you are left with national tv. Aren’t most people just fine with that?

    It’s a losing battle to try and show value in local news.

    This is just national chain supermarkets happening to local news.

  19. Calling Canadian Broadcasters simply “re-broadcasters of US programs” is quite wrong. Companies like CTV pay “fees” to have the excluve license to broadcast these programs in Canada. Without this, these shows would be not be available. The producers who own the copyrights to these programs will not let them be seen in Canada for free. So if company’s like ours were not here to license these programs for broadcast in Canada, they would not be seen.

    It’s a mistake to assume that they would still come in on cable without someone paying to license them in this country, because they would not. Also, as noted, profits from these popular programs are used to offset the costs of producing local news, which loses money.

    And, as noted above, our industry will lose $100M working in a regulated business model that was created in the middle of the last century when there were only 1 or 2 channels and mass advertising was the name of the game.

    While some say … let it die, the reality is that viewing of local news remains at very consistent levels. In Edmonton, over 250 thousand adults watch local news on either CTv or Global each night. That hasn’t changed much in years, so this is not an irrevelant product by any means. This is why we say the business model is broken, because it is. It needs to change.

    One of the reasons this is a front burner issue right now is because stations like ours will be appearing before the CRTC next spring to apply for a license term that is 7 years in length. Considering that conventional TV, funded by an outdated, archaic model that is fraught with challenges, and further exacerbated by the cable and satellite company’s continued damaging sale of “time-shifting” packages (btw, this only happens in Canada. There’s no such thing as time shifting and the reckless moving of local signals into different markets in the US or other civilized countries .. only here. Others long ago recognized the damage this does), there will be very little appetite to re-apply for these licenses. Why sign up to lose $100M/year for 7 more years. That’s a shame, because stations like this have tremendous impact in cities like Edmonton. This was in evidence in spades this past Saturday when 3000 people came to our open house. It’s worth noting that we advertised this in newscasts only – for 3 days. That’s a powerful medium that we should not let slide away. Please see my column on http://www.connect2edmonton.com entitled The Importance of Local Television for further insight.

    With regards to this comment:
    It’s true that local TV stations do a lot for the community. So do other organizations. I’m sure charity events could find other individuals to MC. Aside from donating free advertising, I’m not sure what specifically CTV brings to the table with regard to community service that other organizations do not.

    Our on air talent is invited to MC because they are popular with a wide variety of people – anyone can MC an event, but the reason you see on air people doing this is because organizers want them – also, we contribute more than $2.5M at this station alone to promote charitable events. Most organizations would argue that this contribution is more valuable than cash because it reaches a mass audience with their message. Your argument on this point is extremely weak and clearly uninformed. Ask one of the organizations that benefit from CTV’s involvement in their event and they will tell you exactly how important it is …

    Reaching 200,000 people with a message is critical to these organizations. Social and online media contribute dramatically to all of these initiatives, but mass awareness still drives their ticket sales, and awareness of their issues.

    Thanks again for reading.

  20. Colin, as evidenced by our average audience of 150,000 who watch us everynight at 6 PM, I’d say it is a very valuable service, and one that should not be lost. Why would you want to get rid of local news and information? it’s part of a healthy democracy, and a way of informing citizens of what is going on their own city….

    Why get rid of local? Maybe it’s time instead to examine why there are so many national specialty services that few people watch, but that are still getting some of your cable or satellite fee. That is probably a more desirable outcome for a local community, I would think …

  21. re time shifting comment Master Maq – you may be right, but under this current model that we work in, there’s no way to monetize time shifting. I’m all ears if you have some way to do it. The fact is, 36% of the Edmonton audience is drained to another time zone. Until our business changes somehow, we have no other option but to survive on ad revenues. How can we do that if our audience is being drained, directly affecting our ability to sell adverising, again, our only source of revenue!!! The CRTC has asked that cable, satellite and broadcasters sit down and negotiate fair compensation, but to date, we have been unsuccessful. The CRTC is looking for more teeth so that they can actually force these negotiations, which are and have been at a stalemate for some time …

  22. Thanks for commenting Lloyd, it’s great to see you standing behind your position. I wish more people in positions such as yours paid attention to social media and participated.

    On your last point:

    I don’t think my argument was weak at all. Allow me to reiterate: you’re using the fact that you and your employees are involved in the community as proof that local TV needs to be saved. I’m saying that there are thousands of Edmontonians who volunteer their time, money, and other resources to worthy causes each year, and they would do so with or without CTV. I presume you’re not suggesting that CTV employees are involved in the communtiy solely because they work for CTV, because I don’t think that’s the case.

    Now then, what makes CTV special? The advertising you donate. More than $2.5 million. No where did I diminish the importance of that contribution. I fully recognize that it makes a big difference for local charitable events.

    What I think you fail to realize, however, is that if CTV went away, there would NOT be a massive void. Another entity (or entities) would fill it. And that entity (or entities) would replace CTV in reaching that mass audience. The charitable events would just have new partners, that’s all.

    Therefore, I would suggest that it’s your argument that is weak! Citing your involvement in the community isn’t a strong reason to “save local TV”.

  23. Lloyd: I didn’t mean to imply that re-broadcasting was free, but that so much of 8 to 11 is US content.

    I do have a problem with the statement that ad revenue from primetime is subsidizing local news – if this were GM and local news were a GM car brand (and again I’m inviting the retort that I’m oversimplifying here) then wouldn’t local news get the chop? I’m sorry if this sounds a bit heartless – just a dull-blade comparison.

    In terms of value for viewership, we could go down the statistics game here – just because someone is watching doesn’t mean that they would miss it, or that there’s a competing alternative in that time slot that they are preferring your news to. Also, I’d imagine that it’s more of an older demograph that watches the news.

    OK, to attempt more constructive sounding thoughts – rather than chop or continuing to invest primetime revenue in news, why not fill 6 or 11 with cheaper filler and invest in really producing quality canadian content to compete with the US or UK or be bought worldwide or even straight to digital purchase/download. Has this been tried and failed? There must be some brave new unconventional shift.

    It’s difficult to say that people shouldn’t need to pay but also accept that people skip ads. I hardly watch anything live because I don’t have to anymore. I am prepared to watch re-runs on global or ctv websites and sit through those ads, because I can watch when I want. I appreciate that the shift to selling online video ads is likely much harder and that the ad market monster is extremely slow moving, having tried to sell online video ads in 2000, way ahead of its time!

    I’d agree about examining the speciality services.

    All just brain dump and I’m not claiming to know anything. I’m the kind of person that wants to figure out the best result all round if possible, but I do software solutions more than business solutions. However, I like to through conventional wisdom out the window once in a while and see what’s new that may work.

  24. If we had to pay for local programming and had the choice to drop it, I would drop it. I get all the shows I want to watch from American stations and If I could drop CTV and pickup an American station that’s time shifted, I’d do that. I could live without local news on TV. The radio stations in Edmonton do a much better job covering local and breaking news and keep me up to date much better. The rest of my news comes from the internet.

  25. The point about American programming being needed to fund local news is misguided in itself. If buying all those U.S. shows is so expensive why not leave them in the States and produce local and Canadian programming?

    In a short period that may appear costly but if the current model is not sustainable wouldn’t you come out the winner in this scenario? Over a longer period of time you control more of the costs. And you’d be producing local, regional and national content that is exclusive and could include more catered advertising.

    Not only would the company have more control over what goes where, the local and regional flavour of shows would defeat a lot of time-shifting and boost the value of local advertising.

    I also think Mack has it right when he points out a lot of advertising is national and regional buys. If that is wrong (and I’m talking about all programming, not just during news) maybe that would be the way to go to ensure time-shifting doesn’t lose a national company so much money.

    The other argument that gets lost in translation is that of “local TV.” It’s not local TV it’s local news. (And the point about how “local” the news is has already been addressed.)

    If CTV Edmonton closed up tomorrow there would be one or more sources to fill that void. Global, CBC and City TV might see boosts in their audiences and maybe increase their local content, websites might pop up with local news, etc… There would also be more MC availabilities for other local celebrities and new hosts.

    On the CTV open house…give someone with a little know-how the same amount of advertising, social media and traditional coverage and see if they can’t get 3,000 people to an event.

  26. The more I read this debate the more I realise that I don’t really care one way or another. The problem CTV is combating now has to do with falling revenues in the existing system however in the longer term they’ll have to deal with more people like me. Ultimately I am the person that is real problem here.

    I don’t have cable, I don’t watch broadcast television. I buy my shows through iTunes, DVDs and any other means I can get them. Buying my shows this way, and I don’t mind paying for them, is cheaper than cable and means I watch when I want to with no ads. This is valuable to me. CTV and the others who hold licenses to various shows iTunes doesn’t carry can get my money by allowing iTunes to carry those shows.

    As for local news, I used to work in media monitoring. Every night for a year, I watched every local newscast in Edmonton. I don’t miss them. I find radio, web and newspapers cover local news far more efficiently and comprehensively than sitting down for an hour watching someone else’s idea of what’s important.

    I recognize that currently people like me a are tiny fraction of the market but it’s a growing fraction. By the time my kids are adults I doubt there’ll be daily newspapers and I fully expect the concept of TV channels will be fading away. Channels and schedules exist because the original broadcast technology dictated them. They continue to exist, not because the technology requires it anymore, but because a lot of company’s business models are based on them. Current technology does not require the broadcast model. Shows can be delivered and sold a la carte. The successful companies 10 years from now will be the ones who realise this.

    P.S. If cable companies are required to carry local TV in local markets then shouldn’t have to pay for it. However if they timeshift local stations to other markets and sell it as a feature to their customers then they should have to pay for it. If they are required to pay for local TV in local markets then they shouldn’t be required to carry those stations. I am assuming that currently the CRTC requires cable companies to carry local stations.

  27. MasterMac, great article, and thank you for your continued local information distribution via twitter. It’s people like you that would be able to fill the void of local content distribution should CTV and CanWest decide to not rethink and readjust their business model.

    Lloyd, your points are very well thought out and communicated, and all of them make sense. I wish I could say that they’re all still relevant. Your discussion points got me thinking about the future of TV, not only within Canada, but the US as well.

    With products like Hulu integrating into set top application (like Boxee & Media PCs), along online distribution methods such as torrents, means its only a matter of time before all traditional broadcasting is offered in two models. Air ways and online. We may even see a complete shift to a solely online distribution model within a decade (yes, it may very well happen that fast).

    You argue time shift does not occur in the US. However it does. “The internet” often has tv show released within an hour of their EST broadcast, allowing PST folks to view the content before it’s aired locally. Although this is an illegitimate source or broadcasting, its popularity speaks to the demand for the options this distribution model offers.

    Hulu is also making huge inroads in the US, recently acquiring ABC’s shows (including Disney). This leaves CBS as the only broadcaster without content on Hulu.

    Why doesn’t CTV or Canwest pioneer this service for Canadians? Global does have something similar already, but in order for these type of products to be successful long term, there needs to be the ability to view the services anytime, anywhere, by anyone, by any application of their choosing. These applications would feed from your online broadcast servers. You then can insert local ads into the stream. Which ads play can be governed by the IP address (host name resolution) of the user watching the stream. Your local advertisers still get their messages and products out to market.

    What’s great about Hulu, is that it’s starting to benefits everyone. Viewers are not bombarded with ads continuously, as there is only one 30sec ad at the planned commercial breaks. When viewers are overwhelmed with ads, it only makes them want to hit fast forward on their PVRs. Online viewers also can’t skip over the ads, making the advertising more effective. And the viewers get on-demand programming, getting any show at any time, including local news.

    Paul Turnbull’s comments on how he watches his media is becoming the norm. I barely have the TV on anymore. I either am watching HD only channels (of which CBC is the only local station available in HD on Shaw), or watching HD podcasts from companies like Revision3.

    This campaign of CTVs, while understandable, is also proof of the warning signs that the tech community saw coming 3-5 years ago. Newspaper and traditional broadcasting WILL fall. It’s only a matter of when. I urge you to be prepared for this upcoming media distribution model, or be prepared to go out of business.

    Thanks for reading.
    @techlife

  28. Maybe this is something that CFRN and Global Edmonton should consider implementing…

    http://tinyurl.com/d37vvt

    With digital TV coming to Canada, those newsrooms should be able to distribute their news content not only on TV and their websites, but through mobile phones, taxi cabs, elevators – anywhere digital content can exist.

  29. *sigh*

    So many things to reply to, so little time…

    “Jeff Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    The point about American programming being needed to fund local news is misguided in itself. If buying all those U.S. shows is so expensive why not leave them in the States and produce local and Canadian programming?”

    – missed the point. Showing American shows is profitable. Why stop buying them? Keep showing them and don’t spend the profit on local news (would be the logical argument – not mine)

    Time shifting
    – If that’s your major concern with the cable networks, then just send them pre-time-shifted content with local ads in. It’s not like Shaw has to show the same stuff to the whole country, they can be city specific. Of course this wouldn’t work with satellite providers (who do have the send the same thing to the whole country, by my understanding). Seems to me like that would help.

    Topic in general – if Cable & Sat providers didn’t carry your content, you’d have less viewers. Less viewers = less ad money. It’s like Metro (an ad supported newspaper) trying to charge a building to have their newspaper box in it, even though it will increase Metro’s readership and thus ad income.

    Btw guys – don’t forget, we’re not normal when it comes to media consumption. Just because you don’t turn on the TV/watch local news, doesn’t mean everyone else is turning off and going to Twitter instead (they’re not). As Lloyd said, local news viewership has hardly changed at all, which is something I can believe and understand.

  30. Oh, and… Corner Gas was “canceled” (more retired really) by Brent Butt, the shows creator and star. At a million viewers an episode, the networks (CTV/CBC) would have loved to see it keep going!

  31. Rob – we’re not normal YET. And maybe the loss of a local media outlet would encourage others to get outside their comfort zone and realize how much better things can be!

  32. In response to the truth that people like me (and Rob and Mack) don’t represent the average viewer, which we don’t: I think the media companies that will survive need to think to the future not the present.

    Or in words that even a non hockey watching Edmontonian like me remembers:

    “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

    or perhaps

    “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

    Personally I think zeFrank may have said best in his piece called “Waves”:

    http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2007/02/020507.html

    (Actual piece begins about 40 seconds in after his intro bits)

  33. I think it is worng of you to do whant you are doing if you whant more moany for show’s you should let the tv who whant the tv tax they should use there own moany to do it not the people who has nothing to do with it it is not fair for us that is why this tv tax is bull and i am not going say the other word’s be couise it is not nice so plase do not tv tax us do it to the people who whant the tv tax.

  34. HI MasterMaq,

    Could anyone, actual you Mac, tell me a straight answer regarding Interstitial (pronounced…interstishial)and/or Filler program payments broadcasters in Canada (and/or anywhere) pay producers to create or find this material?

    Why do i want to know? Because I am starting a group / coop for All Artists called TorontoEntertainmentHaven (T.O.EH) and i was thinking of making a short short film section to produce Filler type programs etc. I really need to know how much broadcasters have paid or will pay or prefer to be paying for these and how long they are on average?? Thanks so much – Gord Welke-416-901-4436

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