Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How To Roger Canada's National Game

Rogers Media is set to take exclusive broadcast control over all NHL content in Canada. The CBC retains their Hockey Night In Canada brand — and that’s about all, really. For the next four years the Corp will be broadcasting Saturday night games and the Stanley Cup play-offs, but Rogers is in charge of all aspects of production, and receives all the ad revenue.

What this means for Canadian hockey fans is still a matter of speculation. Four years from now, if you want to watch hockey, you may have to subscribe to Rogers for the pleasure. Or, if your ISP is non-Rogers (inevitably, for some of us, since Rogers’ purview does not yet cover every square inch of our home and native land) perhaps they’ll cook up a pay-as-you-watch scheme. The details are yet to be worked out. In the meantime, casual fans can tuck into Rogers’ table-scraps, humbly reheated by our national public broadcaster.

What this means for CBC Television is also a matter of speculation. They’ve just lost half their ad revenue.

I’m old enough to be nostalgic about HNIC and CBC Television. I’m also just young enough to realize nostalgia is no way to go forward. Other people with deeper pockets were doing a better job of broadcasting hockey (TSN was the best, IMO). If the only edge the Corp had over them was Don Cherry, it was way past time to focus — keenly — on innovation elsewhere.

What does this mean for the game? The medium is the massage, after all — the optics of pro hockey affect the play of the game. And up here, nobody watched HNIC without sitting through commercials for The Nature of Things. The same people who made David Suzuki made Don Cherry, and in that weird melange viewers were often forced to consider aspects of the National Game they might otherwise have given a pass.

If you think I exaggerate (“Nobody makes Don Cherry except for DON CHERRY!”) ask yourself: how many minutes has Rogers devoted to misty-eyed salutes to fallen Canadian soldiers?

Rogers might take Grapes on-board (I’m not holding my breath), but I’m pretty sure David Suzuki isn’t part of the deal. The Corp delivered Canada’s yin-and-yang with those two, and one thing Rogers will be keen to eliminate is any hint of the sort of second-guessing Suzuki’s “yang” brings to the enterprise — any enterprise.

Rogers has four years to prove itself a capable host of Canada’s Game — and all the bizarre, conflicting ideologies tangled up with it. Which brings me to my last thought. Let’s see a show of hands: how many people are fans of Rogers? OK, now how about fans of Gary Bettman?



Buddies in bad threads.

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