Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Survey Says....

So, a poll of NHL players was conducted, courtesy The Hockey News. On newstands now, or you can buy it online and read it on your computer...see, that's what I'm talking about, Big Business, the internet is your friend! You can even get single iTunes for magazines.

Anyways, for some insightful analysis of this survey, check out this entry on Mike Chen's Hockey Blog, where I first read about the poll. For some irreverent analysis, however, stay right here.

Just want to highlight a couple of the funnier answers...particularly those given by only 1 player. The fun is trying to guess who said what.

"What’s the worst thing about your job?"...At least one player answered each of these:
"Protein shakes, watching video, late nights, filling out forms, fighting, autographs, missed childhood, girls, money, Cam Janssen, getting yelled at, pre-game skate, coaches and being booed"

"Cam Janssen"...I can just see Tomas Kaberle hunched over his stall in the dressing room, madly scribbling in his answer. Or perhaps Janssen himself wrote it, after all the Dr. Phil he watched during his 3 game suspension?

"Filling out forms"...yeah, can't the NHLPA just hack our email and read the relevant ones to us? Why do I gotta put in my name and password every time?!

"missed childhood"...well, couldn't be Sidney Crosby, it's too soon. Chris Chelios? Likely didn't miss it at all, just's been a lot of years since then.

"getting yelled at"...well, nobody likes that. However, I'll say Bryan McCabe...I know I'm constantly cursing his name after each turnover, giveaway, or blown chance...sigh.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hockey Rights in Canada, plus streaming!

Well, I wouldn't have thought it possible, but the word has come down today, CBC will keep Hockey Night in Canada coming on Canadian TV sets Saturday nights for six more years. More coverage here.

To be honest, I was kinda in Bell Globemedia's corner (CTV, TSN) for the past couple years, ever since I found out the rights were up for renewal. I've grown exhausted of the overall quality (or lackluster) of CBC's production. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Cole and Harry Neale, may they live to be 1000 years old. And Ron MacLean and Don Cherry are Canadian staples, although if I never have to watch Ron interview Colin Campbell again, I'd be alright. But, I'm talking about PRODUCTION...sound (mixing, levels, quality and creative use of), music beds, graphics, stats, interactivity, etc. On these fronts, CBC is about 15 years behind TSN, 30 years behind NBC. But that's just me.

On the other hand. CBC recently, maybe 6 weeks ago, updated all their graphics (except the GIANT in-game time clock, the most needed upgrade), some newer music here and there, and new voice overs for their production. Most of it is crap, but hey, it's newer. Here's hoping they have even newer stuff planned for next year, and keep it fresh for another 6 years. Basically, if you watch a game on NBC, and then watch CBC (or vice versa), you'll know what I'm talking about. NBC takes full advantage of the 'new NHL', including much better access to the players during games. There's an on-ice interview at the end of each period, generally you can hear the mics that the refs wear to announce penalties, and every period or so they do the "Verizon Sounds of the Game", where we get to hear what Sidney Crosby talks about on the bench. Full marks NBC!

Here's another highlight from the article, from league commissioner Gary Bettman:

"...this coming Saturday, when Hockey Night in Canada will begin a new tradition which will only enhance the viewing pleasure for hockey fans in this country: Both games of the double-header will be provided in high definition."

Sweet, it's been low-def Oilers, Flames and Canucks for too long! Well done! Hopefully this doesn't mean they've stolen some HD cameras from the Leafs and will continue to offer 'fake HD', where the main camera is HD, but any side or opposite angles are decidedly standard definition. Anyways, you take what you can get in this country.

The article mentions that the CBC's beloved "Hockey Day in Canada" (the annual triple header featuring all six Canadian teams) will continue...hmmm, last I heard, the NHL was committed to its current ridiculous schedule, which doesn't even have each Canadian team meet next year!

But wait there's more. And this is the biggest news, if you ask me (from the CBC article):

"Also, a multimedia package including live and on-demand video streaming of all CBC's hockey broadcasts will be available online at in the near future. That means fans in Canada will be able to watch any Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on, regardless of what game is being broadcast in their area of the country."

Hallejujah!!!! I streamed a game off Comcast's site Friday night, and it was awesome. The game wasn't on anywhere locally, but since I was able to stream it, it DOESN'T MATTER WHERE I LIVE (unlike LEAFSTV)! I get the feeling I'm gonna be watching a lot more hockey now that I can just go to and click on the feed I want. Damn, I think I'm drooling. Here's hoping for a decent resolution, 30 fps, and Quicktime (Please Lord, don't let them fall into the Windows Media trap that lives in). CBC currently uses Quicktime and Real Media (yikes...but I think that's just for the older Linux crowd).

Ok, well that's about all I have to say on this at the moment. Gotta let it sink in. I think I'm fine with CBC having the rights (not that I can do anything anyways), as long as they step up and prove that they deserve it, instead of winning it just cause they're the incumbent and "Canada's Network", despite what the numbers say. Richard Stursburg is the newly minted head of CBC Sports, so hopefully he's watched a few other broadcasts in his day (he used to run the show over at TSN, so there's hope!). Let's see some more HD cameras and much much better production. Truth be told, I didn't want to pony up to the extra tiers from my cable company just to get TSN HD (your area may vary). I'd rather cancel the cable outright, and live off the 'tubes, which as of today, has become a lot more realistic.

No, the main victory from today is the streaming games. Looking forward to it...I wonder when it takes effect, probably not until 2008? I was hoping this week, the most exciting playoff race (in the Eastern Conference) in years! Go Leafs Go!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

TV Listings Web Site That Actually Doesn't Suck

While this may be old news to any of my fellow TV junkies out there, gotta spread the word...Allow me to introduce the hands-down best site for TV listings that I've ever come across, Snapstream's!

Just cruise over to their page, enter your postal code, choose your TV provider, (de)select any channels you want shown in the grid, and voila. Now you have a grid you can drag, with a little red line that moves as time passes, and you can click on any show you want and it actually gives you decent information (repeats, cast, etc). Much beyond what even my set top box shows.

Seems to only work in Firefox, but that's no shocker. Anyways, just share the happiness, for all of us who've long suffered the set top guide, or worse, the Channel 13 scroll listings...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

O Canada, We Sit and Wait for AppleTV...

Ok, I just read this interesting blog entry regarding the new AppleTV device, specifically the current lack of Canadian content for the thing.

So, I felt inclined to add my two cents...which grew into about $10 worth of analysis of the CRTC, Canadian Networks, the future of broadcasting, and of course, Canadian content (the quality, the lack, the marketing, etc). My comment is #7 on that page, but I'll post it here as well, just cause it took so long to write, but please check out the link above to get the whole context:

While there's nothing I like better than ripping into the CRTC (except maybe ripping into the CBC), I feel Canadian content creators/owners/distributors themselves are also to blame. They need to be ones pushing the CRTC (and maybe they're trying, who knows?) to be better and more competitive. Our system in this country just flat out does not work.

Take this evening for example. CBS is running Survivor tonight (Wednesday) instead of the regular Thursday slot, due to basketball or something. But wait a minute, Global runs Survivor on Thursdays...Bones and Prison Break are on Wednesdays...what's Global gonna do?! Survivor is no good a day later, due to co-worker induced spoilers, but if they bump their regular programming to match CBS tonight, then they'll lose viewers for tomorrow nights' regular shows, people who tune in tomorrow, expecting Survior, and those expecting a day-late Bones or House or whatever else Global bought up at the big conventions down south. Also, they likely won't have prepared any promos this past week telling people when to find their shows, since we don't seem to produce episode specific promos in Canada. Blah, makes my skin crawl.

If there was any thinking, internet-savvy people in higher up positions, then I'd be able to launch iTunes, browse to the CTV section of the Canadian iTunes Store, and buy, download and watch Degrassi, Corner Gas and Robson Arms (If I wanted to, just for example). Also, I could browse to the Movie section and choose from a wide variety of Canadian films, most of which people have never heard of, because people here also do not understand marketing. They think if they open a film on 25 screens across Canada, then that's a huge widespread success?! And most never even come out on DVD...rediculous! They spend their entire marketing budget on a few bus boards in downtown Toronto, useless.

Internet Baby! iTunes, and online distribution methods like it, are the way to go, it's painfully obvious. But I'll give credit where it's due, CTV does manage to stream (Windows Media...yuck) shows on their site, and I visit TSN Broadband every day during the hockey season (especially since I don't get TSN on my cable box, cause I'd HAVE TO subscribe to the analog tier in order to get the HD feed...the main reason I hate the CRTC).

Where was I...blinded by my own rage here. Oh yes, the CRTC. As luck would have it, they are up for a review this year, and I'm praying the Conservatives will blow them up but good. This is the only way to save Canadian content providers: not by propping them up with 'blood money' made from second-rate simulcasting of US shows and running the same Tim Horton's and Subway ad every single break, sometimes the same ad back to back. No, but to challenge them to find new avenues to get their content to the people who want it the most.

I also prefer to watch the US feed of 24. Global's feed removes not only the US HD ads, which I prefer over the Canadian low-def poorly lit slap-stick (even though I mostly fast forward everything anyways), but they also remove the pre-show promos voiced by Big Voice Guy, Don, they also shove their cheap looking 'Viewer Discretion' warnings into every commerical break. Bah, who needs it, I'll just watch it on the West Coast feed, which thankfully is not simulcrapsted.

But wait, if we Canadians watch all our favourite US shows on US networks, won't that kill Canadian advertising, which Canadian networks use to fund new Canadian shows? Well, no, I don't really think so. The fact is, a good show is a good show...I don't care where it comes from (My favourite show is the British "The Office", for example). Let's look at Corner Gas. They've been averaging 1.6 million viewers, making it one of the highest rated Canadian shows. You think people are watching it for the Subway ads?!!??! Nope.

Advertising during a TV show is an outdated model. It's also expensive, that's why so few do it well. I know I would jump at the chance to sell my show direct (via iTunes, or other online method) to my fans! That's the pool of opportunity Canadian content providers need to dive headfirst into. You think Avril Lavigne gives a damn if her songs are played on Canadian radio?! No, but I'll bet she's interested in seeing those iTunes sales numbers!!! Hence all the bonus content you're finding on iTunes music these music videos, alternate mixes, PDFs of lyrics and art, and concert tickets, etc.

Everything is a marketing opportunity, if people use their heads.

I think my point a minute ago was supposed to be, if Canadian broadcasters would quit spending all their money on licencing US content, and instead develop their own shows, we would start to see higher quality Canadian content, and more of it. People don't care where content comes from, they'll watch it if it's good and they like it. We're so protective in Canada, but at some point you have to just worry about playing your own game, not worry what the other team is doing...sorry, watching the Leafs trying to get into the playoffs these past weeks is wearing me down. ;)

The government already has the Canadian Television Fund, which all the cable companies pay into to fund home grown programming. But then when the show is made, they bury it against Hockey Night in Canada, instead of running them in decent timeslots against, dare I say it, American shows. America churns out the same percentage of crap as we do, don't worry. I say it's time to rise to the challenge. But bottom line, nothing will get watched if you don't market it...put out the pilot on iTunes (or the show's own web site), stuff like that.

Anyway, broadcasting may not be completely dead just yet (live sports for example), and ads will always be around. Either we buy the shows outright (TV on DVD, iTunes), or get them free, but with ads. I would love to see more Canadians take advantage of the freedom of the Internet. Cut out the middle man, in this case, the dinosaurs at the CRTC and cable companies, and sell direct to your audience.

The Apple TV will hopefully provide the missing link for many people to send digital content to their living room. I think it's pretty cool, although I have a lot content not in iTunes which may not play, and I already have my iMac hooked to my HDTV with a 20ft DVI cable anyways.

Thanks for your time, I didn't intend to write this much, but my blood just boils when I think of all the content we're "not allowed" to get in this country. And when I think of all the content we should be making on our own, but we're too worried about CSI and Law & Order. On the other hand, there's plenty of hockey to watch! Course, hockey has it's own regional ridiculousness, try being a Leafs fan outside of "Leafs Nation"...

Bottom line, Canadians should be all over iTunes...buyers and sellers alike. Here's hoping those screenshots from the new iTunes are indeed signs of things to come, sooner the better!

Also, I read an article earlier today about how all the best Canadian writers go South to write for US shows. Maybe if we produced more shows here, some of them might stay? We have plenty of talent, just look at our roster of world famous comic actors.

All this being said, I myself have not yet sent a letter to the CRTC, which is pretty lame of me, I just haven't made the time, but I will. Here's some decent contact info, looks like they have fancy new forms and everything:

Might I recommend the "Complaints and Inquiries" button? :) I'm gonna tell them I really don't approve of simulcasting...let me watch American shows the American way, and I'll watch Canadian shows the Canadian way, whatever that ends up being. I'm paying the Canadian cable company to get the US networks, I fail to see where it says I don't get to watch them in their entirety!

The CRTC site says your complaint will be responded to within 10 business days, so they do read them. I did send an email to TSN last week thanking them for TSN Broadband, but I also asked them why doesn't it work in Safari yet, etc. Somebody will read it, and that's enough to make it worth it. It feels better to get it off your chest.

One more thing, a good site for more information on all things Canadian Production-related:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ah, streaming games...oh wait...

Now you too can sign up to beta test (for $4) LeafsTV's first streaming regular season game, Tuesday vs Washington. Excited? Yeah, so was I, until I looked closer. Don't get too excited, cause once again for the usual insane reasons, you have to LIVE IN THE MAPLE LEAFS REGION in order to stream the game....sigh.

The 'beta test' is limited to 5000 people anyway, but it would have been nice to at least have a shot at it. Well, maybe if the Oilers or Calgary ever stream games I can qualify for that, since they're in my 'region'. Course, with Ryan Smyth gone to the Island, there's not much point in watching the Oilers.

Nice try fellas, guess I'm saving $4 next week. Amazingly that's actually a decent price if the stream is high quality, compatible with Macs, etc. Looks like you can choose your own camera angles, etc...reminds me of the promises made back when the Information Superhighway was first being paved.

Ok, gotta go Google how to spoof my IP, make it look like I live on the corner of Bay St and the Gardiner Express Way...dunno why they don't want my money, I guess non-Leafs Region money is worth less once it gets to the GTA? Is there a provincial exchange rate I haven't been made aware of? Do I love the Leafs less than my regional-rivals?

In the future what would be cool is to go to, and there's a huge menu there of every game, regular season and playoffs, for every team. Pick your team, pick your game, add to cart, and boom, streaming Leafs delivered to your digital door. What'd be even cooler is if they use Quicktime...Windows Media and the NHL need to get a divorce, but I feel like I've harped on that before.