As they sang in Bye Bye Birdie, we love you Konrad, we really do. CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein is my new hero. The dude stood up to CTV, Global and CBC and said get your filthy, stinkin' mitts out of the pockets of consumers.
Well, he didn't say that exactly. (Read more about today's decision here.) But today's ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to turn down the public and private network's request to get in on the carriage fee boondoggle is a big fat win for consumers. The very thought of somebody jacking your cable bill an estimated $2 to $10 bucks a month, in this economy (when people who still have jobs are scrambling to cut bills $20 -$40 a month) was sickening. Yet past experiences led many of us to believe the CRTC would just roll over and hand the lobbyists their booty.
Not our friend Konrad. Dr. No said no.
He didn't fall for the CRTC hearings theatrics. Boo-hoo-hoo, ad revenues are in a slump, our 40-, 50-year-old licences to print money are starting to expire. Sure the economy and specialty competition is hurting CTV and Global. But so is throwing ever-increasing millions at Americans to import more shows than you need in order to win bragging rights in the Canadian ratings race. Sure, overspend your way to the top, that's free enterprise, but don't cry poor and come crawling to the government for another publicly-funded revenue source with which you can recklessly overspend again. The banks and car companies are beating you to the bail out line, next window, thanks.
The big fat bone Konrad threw the networks--allowing them to negotiate with cable companies for those second time zone windows to their programming, sounds like a pretty savvy compromise. If you sit in Toronto and you want to watch Heroes at 11 p.m. on the B.C. feed instead of 8 p.m. (bad example--Heroes has turned to crap), it might cost you a buck or two a month. Then again, will the highly competitive networks want to do anything to diminish those time shift ratings, which damn well do count? Will that keep the cost to do this down? Konrad von Solomon.
The other big shoe to drop today--the CRTC is prepared to tear down that protectionist wall and allow more channel competition as well as more a-la-carte ordering by consumers. Is that ESPN Canada I see skating up centre ice?
I've lost track of how many friends are saying they are sick of paying sixty, seventy bucks a month for the seven out of 60 channels they actually bother to watch. Imagine being able to order, say, AMC, TCM, TMN, CNN, TSN, Sportsnet, Comedy, and, say, CBS for Letterman. Okay, add CH, gotta watch Live @ 5:30. That's it, dump the rest in Lake Ontario and send me the bill.
Network TV is in a slump, the impact of that 100-day writers strike is still watering down content and nobody is in a mood to give more money to broadcasters. I haven't read the fine print on today's decision yet, but judging by the early read, Konrad, you are The Man.