Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Canadian Hockey Television Hit by a Nuclear Bomb

Although this news has flown under the radar more than I expected, the news that Rogers Communications has been given a monopoly over NHL programming in Canada is going to have a huge impact on the game in our country. Rogers is paying $5.2 BILLION for this 12-year contract. Big bucks!

If you want to know the nitty gritty details about how this will affect the various stakeholders, William Wolfe-Wylie has put together a pretty good run down over at Canada.com.

For the Cliff Notes version, here is what is going to happen.

  • TSN will have *NO* rights to any NHL games. Remember, TSN is the prime sports network in Canada, and has always been #1. This will change. 

  • The CBC, the original broadcaster, will have no rights to NHL games. A special agreement between CBC and Rogers will allow Hockey Night in Canada to run for four more years, but after that? *poof*?

  • The CBC will get NO advertising revenue during that time, simply being paid to cover its costs. Given that hockey ad revenue is about 50% of the CBC's total revenue, Stephen Harper must be cackling with glee.

Who wins when monopolies exist? Hint: IT IS NEVER THE CONSUMER!

The media in this country is already consolidated amongst a very few parties, and Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet) have a disproportionate share of the media pie. This deal just consolidates things even further, leaving consumers with less quality and choice.

Even as I watch less and less hockey than I used to, this deal still pisses me off. Here is why this deal is not good for the consumer.

  1. Hockey Night in Canada is dying. Yes, it'll have four more years, but Rogers will exercise full editorial control. HNIC has always been a high-quality broadcast, and CBC gives hockey a lot more respect than Sportsnet ever has.

  2. This may also help kill the CBC, which the current Canadian government would just love to happen. People will be laid off, and other programming will suffer. Hockey ad revenue helped the CBC produce other shows.

  3. More expensive for us? TSN is purely a national broadcaster, while Sportsnet does break up some of its programming into regional networks. If you want to see more games, you may have to pay for the other Sportsnet region channels. Ugh.

  4. On-Air Talent: Sportsnet's 'talent' is piss poor compared to TSN and CBC. Nick Kypreos is a buffoon, and Doug MacLean should have stuck to coaching. TSN has, by far, the best panel, and CBC is a close second, apart from Cherry. We might expect Sportsnet to hire some of TSN's talent, however.

  5. Less variety of broadcasts. It's great to see different productions and different viewpoints. With everything controlled by one broadcaster, you lose that. The lack of competition may also lead Sportsnet to stagnate with their on-air product, as they don't need to worry about what TSN is doing.

  6. Don Cherry: Yes, Rogers will likely pay him millions to pollute your eyeballs with his ugly suits and his Bobby Orr ass-kissing. Ugh.

The NHL is making an amazing amount of money off of this deal, and Rogers does have the infrastructure to bringing content to people that doesn't involve the TV. This deal shows, at least, that the NHL is still a player in the business world.

Still, shame on the NHL for choosing just one provider for the Canadian airwaves. Less choice is never good for the consumer, and this smacks purely of Bettman's one-dimensional thinking.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Blockbusted: Blockbuster Shuts Down for Good

(c) AP

It seems that video rental chain Blockbuster is finally set to have the plug pulled and have the remains cremated.

Blockbuster LLC, the video-rental company now owned by Dish Network Corp. (DISH), will close its remaining 300 U.S. stores, ending an era for a retail chain that was once a hallmark of shopping centers across the country.

I didn't know Blockbuster still had 300 stores opened, did you?

Unlike most of the hipsters on Twitter who are laughing at the corpse, braying "I told you so! OMG NETFLIX KILLED YOU HAHA!", I prefer to have fond memories of Blockbuster Video.

Yes, Blockbuster failed to adapt to the new digital age, but it doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the role it had in my life.

It is quite strange to see such a large company just completely disappaear. Blockbuster outlets were pretty much EVERYWHERE, and Blockbuster was one of North America's biggest entertainment companies. Before the internet, filing sharing, rampant PPV usage, and easy CD copying, Blockbuster (or Rogers Video) provided the go-to place to get some at-home entertainment.

Here is how I'll remember Blockbuster:

  • When I was first dating my wife, we'd often go to the nearby outlet and rent a movie or two for the night, or get the occasional video game. It gave us a chance to go for a nice walk and cozy up on the couch for a night in. We somewhat homebodies, so a Blockbuster night, especially on a cold, rainy Vancouver night, was just perfect.

  • When I was a kid, I couldn't afford to buy too many video games. I could, however, afford to rent many games for a couple of days. I'd often rent RPGs and just plough through them in the short time I had to rent. These were the days a RPG could be finished in about 20 hours, and not 100.

  • Blockbuster, especially near the end, often had sales on used games and movies. This was a good chance to get some really good deals that you couldn't get elsewhere.

  • The Tangible: I find it much more satisfying and easier to browse through a physical inventory. Sometimes, you'd come across a movie you hadn't seen or heard of before, and it may turn out to be a hidden gem. It's much harder to browse online than it is in person.

  • The Pain: Spoiled kids these days don't know what it is like to have the movie or game you want OUT. Yes, we had to experience the pain of not always getting what we wanted. It made us appreciate what we did have.

  • Try before you buy: For video games, it's often hard to get demo versions. Renting a game was a good chance to try it out before plunking down $60 on it. Of course, these were the days before free/freemium games came about. 

  • The Con: My friend and I really wanted to rent Final Fantasy, but were a bit short on cash. Blockbuster tagged certain games with different colours, with one colour being the premium games (more expensive) and others being older games. 

    In order to be able to rent the game, my friend changed the tag on the Final Fantasy to be marked as an older game. The clerk said that the game was marked as premium, but, since the game was clearly tagged as an older game, she changed it in the system and we *just* managed to afford the rental. I felt so dirty, yet so devious.
Farewell, Blockbuster, and thanks for the good times.