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 LaFontaine...plus, 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 days...free 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:

http://support.crtc.gc.ca/CRTCSubmissionMU/forms/main.aspx?lang=e

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: playbackmag.com

1 comment:

Voice Over said...

I was looking for Don Lafontaine and I found your nifty blog - so I thought I would drop some original (humanoid) content and a link to my website if you don't mind...

I am a voice over guy myself - and I was just curious to see what kinda stuff was being said about my hero Don.

Thanks!

~ Terry Daniel