With a flick of a switch, and the power of a battery company, streaming video of shows people actually want to watch (legally) comes to Canada. CTV announced today (Friday) that starting immediately episodes of three of the top-rated shows on television will be available to Canadians on CTV.ca – Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives will see their new episodes available for four weeks after their first airing, allowing those who miss out to catch up.
This is triumphant for CTV, who has oft-struggled to keep their sagging broadband audience at bay after a disappointing lack of continued support beyond certain series, as they can lay claim to the only major Canadian network offering multiple high-tier series in a legal and well-supported platform (All of BellGlobeMedia’s online presences have integrated a new online streaming system far superior to their old one).
This could also be triumphant for people in Canada who have seen “This Video is Not Available in your region” one too many times – with all of the major American streaming sites, whether CBS’ Innertube or ABC.com’s episode viewer, locked out to eyes North of the border due to CRTC regulations, this could be the Great White Hope: a light at the end of the tunnel for an emergence of a broad and all-encompassing broadband presence.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to work.
The reasons we can’t watch American broadcasting are one thing: there are all sorts of rights issues at play when you have a Canadian company buying the rights to air a series in their own country while another one directly adjacent offers the same service for free, and free of the Canadian branding. While we might all hate how our Super Bowl commercials suck, and how sometimes we’d like to see a nicer logo than Global’s ugly half-moon in the corner of the screen, it’s the way things are.
Now, if the Canadian network is willing to acquire rights to stream these shows in Canada, that opens up a lot of doors, some of which feature man-eating tigers (“Rocky VII, Adrian’s Revenge!”). One of the central tenets of the writers’ strike was the inability to define the worth or value of online streaming, and the same problem arises when you attempt to negotiate a contract. It’s a major hurdle that CTV, clearly, wanted to cross, but it’s a huge barrier to making this process work.
And CTV’s “success” isn’t really an example that any other network can follow (Global has been streaming Survivor for awhile now, but that seems somewhat more isolated). In order to make this feasible for the network, it had to be the top three rated demographic shows for the network (Presumably) – these are not small series, but rather large ones that people watch and are likely to perhaps want to watch often. On top of this, CTV isn’t just paying for it through normal advertising, jumping in with two sponsors (Duracell and Volkswagen) in order to offset costs.
The reason for the uncertainty? It could be the size of the Canadian market (Small), the concern about the form’s long-term validity, and paranoia over jumping into uncharted waters. It seems as if jumping through all of these hoops only to find out that it just isn’t working isn’t in their best interest: grabbing Survivor for Global was likely a headache, and this deal seems to have been long in the making through various diffivult stages.
So, this leaves Canadians up three shows, but down the dozens available on other services – this announcement gives hope, however slim, that perhaps a new template for these agreements has been reached that next year’s shows, or future shows, can find their way online in an equitable and fair manner for all Canadians. This was only ABC’s deal, so perhaps networks like CBS might be able to open their own vaults to shows that CTV owns the rights to, such as fan-favourite Jericho.
But are they willing to take a risk with a show no longer on the schedule and, more importantly, not in the top of the ratings? Or will they stick with the popular shows, therefore denying Canadians to discover and catch up on great shows like Jericho or, say, Dirty Sexy Money like American fans are? It creates a frustrating scenario wherein you see the potential, but all it’s being used for is what major corporations and sponsors think will turn them a profit in the end.
So, for now, it’s a game of wait and see…and a game of seeing whether this all gets renewed for next season, as the deal for the three ABC shows lapses in May.