Hockey Night in Camsack ?

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First they brought us the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics, now they want to bring us a 24/7 TV channel about amateur sport.The Canadian Olympic Committee is asking the CRTC to hold a licensing hearing for an English and French digital TV service dedicated to amateur sports of all kinds. From the COC press release:

The Canadian Olympic Committee has long recognized the need for dramatically increased television coverage of Canadian amateur sport on a consistent and regular basis,” said COC Chief Executive Officer Chris Rudge. “These networks would finally bring our athletes into the spotlight and also motivate young people everywhere in Canada to get up out of their seats and engage in sport and a healthy lifestyle.”

The applications were formally submitted by the COC and its partners to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in early December. The proposed national digital television networks would each focus solely on Canadian amateur sport 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing Canadians to watch amateur athletes compete in regional, national and international events in both Olympic and non-Olympic sports. read the COC press release

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The COC admits that ad revenue alone will not sustain the services, so they want the CRTC, should it even license the services, to make them mandatory carriage. What that means is that the channels would be included in digital TV packages (cable and satellite) which would then give the COC assured subscriber revenue. Channels that are not mandatory ‘must carry’ services rely on subscribers who opt-in and pay extra for the channels. In Canada, the vast majority of those channels are struggling. As a ‘must carry’ the proposed channels ensure a revenue stream – and the COC and it’s partners have already suggested that their cut should be 60 cents per household per month.

The COC’s requirement for the channels to be ‘must carry’ will put them in conflict with more traditional broadcasters and other media companies who would love to get their channels out of the twilight zone and into digital prime time. It’ll be interesting to see how the private sector argues against supporting amateur sport in Canada – but I’m sure they’ll find a way.

The contents of the application will not be made public until the CRTC decides to have a public hearing. Once they do that, they will publicize the application (Gazette) and look for public response. That’s when we’ll see the full application. The COC hopes that will happen this spring, but the timing is entirely dependent upon the CRTC.

The CRTC usually holds a hearing within 55 days of Gazetting, and once they publicize the hearing, other companies interested in making an application for a digital channel will also be able to apply. So, it’s unusual for an applicant to publicize their application prior to Gazetting, usually for fear of giving away too much too soon to potential competitors. Given the nature of this application, it’s doubtful there will be too many others in the same playing field. The COC isn’t just handing out press releases, it has launched a web site for the new channels.

What I want to know is – who will be the Don Cherry of the amateur sport network ?

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