No country for old broadcasters

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated by HD?

Maybe you think there aren’t enough shows to watch. Maybe you have the sneaking suspicion you’ve been suckered into buying something you don’t need.

Well, you’re not alone. The only ones who are really happy about HD are the Sonys of the world, raking it in. A very small cargo cult of gadget freaks complain that the CBC isn’t broadcasting enough in HD, but there’s a good reason for that. It’s fucking expensive.

Whole studios have to be switched over. Monitors, cables, cameras, lenses. Staff.

Does anyone really need the Mercer Report in HD? Well, you got it. Their studio switched over, so you got it if you wanted it or not.

It takes big money and big broadcasters to do this. This is the high end, and TV is constantly pushing it. Interestingly enough, another part of the industry is pushing hard at the low end. I’m talking about the blurry videos on YouTube. The amateur productions on MySpace TV. All this stuff with 0 barriers to entry.

What got me thinking about this was the CBC’s recent call for pitches for “original online content.” They’re looking for cheap, original content that reflects Canada, fulfills the CBC’s mandate, is online and innovative, will be very popular, and can provide a measurable source of revenue.

Should be easy, what? Send in those ideas, already!

And in exchange for handing us your million-dollar idea, the CBC will give you, uh… um. A form to fill out.

If we’re going to do this, we need to smarten up a little bit and realize the game has changed in this arena. This isn’t Canada anymore, this is the internet.

Consider the case of Christine Gambito and Happy Slip Productions.

Never heard of her? Her videos are watched by millions around the world. She placed 2nd in last year’s YouTube Awards for Best Comedy and forced them to change their revenue sharing model. In her favour.

She writes, produces, edits and directs the episodes herself. She plays most of the music and does almost all of the acting. She’s a one-woman production company and TV station, with a single show over which she has full creative control that pays the bills to support her and her children. She works from home.

That’s hard to compete with. She doesn’t need us.

And you might laugh at the production values and the stereotypes, but it’s hard to laugh at her audience.

Is lunch hour the new prime time? Are these “content creators” getting the Net Pub Eng? Reading InsidetheCBC? How else can we reach them? Do they know how to write the proposals we require?

If your audience is used to directly interacting with a show’s sole creator, commenting on episodes, remixing and parodying, filming their own versions, do they really care if their Rick Mercer is in HD?


  1. phil
    Posted January 18, 2008 at 4:48 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The Mercer Report is no longer HD. Air Forced took the studio to go live Friday nights. I guess you work in radio, Ouimet.

  2. Allan
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I see a different message here than one simply disparaging HD.
    The HD upgrade is just an expensive and unavoidable technical transition.
    What seems very much overlooked is the changing expectation of the audience in what they want from broadcasting. So too, the industry is slow to understand that the vanishing of barriers to entry into “the game” means that traditional media are being left behind as the population starts “doing it for themselves”.
    I think that’s at least part of what this post is saying.
    You can take your HD and your giant array of podcasts and you’re still way behind about what’s possible now and what people are expecting and want from audio-visual media.
    They want more than what’s always been there. And the floodgates of YouTube have shown them that they can have it.
    I’ll take fuzzy and brilliant over clear and silly any day.

    And please, let’s not kid each other.
    The decision to go HD was made by the television industry in the good ol’ USA years ago, and not by any senior managers in Canada looking at sales figures.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Sorry Alphonse you’re wrong in this case.

    In the US the FCC mandated the change to HD. In Canada the CRTC did not.
    So the Canadian networks weren’t sure what do.
    However, in a meeting I attended senior management said the CBC decided to go HD after seeing that consumer sales of HD sets in Canada were unexpectedly high, especially at Christmas 2006. It is likely that DVD/Blu-ray sales are driving this rather broadcasts but broadcasters have to adapt and fast.

    Apparently execs at CTV also saw the same sales figures and came to a similar conclusion.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Whoever wrote this post probably complained in 1995 that the internet was nothing but silly games and message boards for Radio Shack geeks. Technology evolves and CBC needs to follow suit. If you own a high def TV you can see the astonishing difference. Nearly every prime time American show is broadcast in HDTV. The picture is stunning. Even more important, CTV now produces most of its Canadian series in HDTV. CBC is way behind. It was probably a silly idea to start in Toronto with Mercer and Air Farce. A show like The Hour would have been a better choice, because it’s broadcast daily and so much of it is studio based. Also the target audience is younger and more technologically savvy. But HDTV is not like the addition of stereo TV audio during 1980s. It is more like the transition from black and white to colour. Nearly 20 per cent of Canadians will own HDTVs this year. Many still haven’t figured out they also need the set top box from their cable or sat company. Or if they’re lucky enough to live in Van, Tor, Ott or Mtl they can receive CBC TV signals in digital HDTV over the airwaves. The bottom line is that it’s the future and we can’t afford to miss this technology. It’s not pie in the sky. Everything from American Idol to 24 and CSI are shot in HDTV. CBC ought to convert its entire prime time schedule by next season.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 4:08 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece
  6. Ted
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 11:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    For anon @ 12:57, the wording was “low to no cost,” not budget.

    I think everyone understands (or should by now) that all good content costs money, and there is no desire at all to do anything that does not compensate creators.

    It probably should have been worded better, but the call ultimately means that we don’t have a lot of money to spend, so let’s look at ideas that will generate some revenue, and ultimately cover the costs.

    And for the record, I see a ton of people doing podcasts already in HD, and delivered in a higher fidelity than broadcast can over traditional channels.

  7. Justin Beach
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 11:34 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Oh…and you’re right. 10-15 more years and there will be no more ‘broadcasters’ , no more ‘distributors’, just production companies and audiences. Any ‘media’ organization will only be worth what it produces in house.

    I go on at length about this here.

  8. Justin Beach
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 11:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The people really happy about HD are the telecoms. The idea behind HD wasn’t just to improve the quality of the picture. It was to free up broadcast bandwidth so that it could be sold to the cell phone companies.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 10:57 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    These people are producing and posting their own video for revenue. CBC is soliciting projects with “low and no budget” without compensating the creators. Why would anyone, within the corpse or outside, work for CBC for nothing? Do they really expect volunteers? Content costs something and until CBC accepts this there will be nothing uploaded but recycled junk like The Hour staffer taking a leak.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted January 17, 2008 at 9:47 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    This looks like prime time material for the CBC.
    The king of all media can spend $10 million advertising it.

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