clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Politics As Usual

My favourite day used to be Sunday.

NBC would throw on a solid-double header combo and with a couple good couches, you were set for the next five to six hours.

When the first round of the playoffs rolled around, things got even crazier.

NBC would sometimes feature a triple-header on Sundays and then TSN would take a hockey breather and show the nightcap West Coast game. Yep, four straight games - you could basically wake up, get some food, and hit the couches till Monday.

Basketball Nirvana.

Gone are days of the "quadruple-header," but in recent years the amount of televised basketball in Canada has more then made up for this in my books. During the NBA season, there's rarely a night where you can't catch at least one NBA game, even with a basic cable package that includes CTV Sportsnet, The Score and TSN. And of course subscribers to all four of Sportsnet's channels get even more games then this forming a dream package for the hard-core NBA fan.

So where's the beef right?

How about with the discovery that thanks to MLSE, next season, unless you're a subscriber to RaptorsTV, you won't have the same plethora of NBA game options, particularly in regards to the Raptors. From various media accounts it seems that about 25 of the Raptors' games next season will only be shown on RaptorsTV. This of course is a great ploy for Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment to boost its subscriber base for RaptorsTV (which apparently has lagged) and will force viewers outside the Ontario region perhaps to shell out the big bucks for the channel.

From a business perspective however I'm not sure I quite understand this. On a short-term basis, yes, if fans want to see games bad enough, they will have to pony-up. However even with what seems to be a renewed interest in the team locally, can a team that's averaged 29 wins during the past four seasons generate sufficient enough interest in RaptorsTV throughout the rest of the country? And in fact, from a long-term perspective, wouldn't it make more sense to expose the market outside of Ontario to MORE games rather than less - especially if the Raptors do have a breakthrough season and challenge for the playoffs?

And maybe that's what MLSE is banking on. An end to Toronto's playoff drought would certainly increase interest in the club so perhaps MLSE is hoping that if they can get people to buy-in early, then they'll have a sustainable viewership for years to come so long as the team is successful on-court.

If this is the case however, it brings up some other issues. If you're MLSE and you're going to try and increase viewership for RaptorsTV, instead of FORCING viewers to watch, how about improving the quality of the programming now offered so people WANT to tune in? I don't know about you, but I could think of a few things/people I'd change in a hurry off the top of my head concerning the channel in its current form...

But who's fooling who?

Really, the proverbial writing's been on the wall for quite some time and not just in relation to RaptorsTV. Media pundits have been bemoaning the death of network television for years as it gets replaced by more specialized television services. Raptor fans having to now tune into RaptorsTV to watch games is just an extension of this and mark my words, what once started at 25 games via RaptorsTV, could very well end up at almost an entire season in the near future.

The big loser in these changes is of course the casual fan, the one who flipped through his package of channels and stopped at the Raptors game because it "caught his eye." If Raptor games are only on specialized channels like RaptorsTV in the future, how does MLSE expect to draw this type of viewer in? I think this is especially pertinent because outside of Ontario, the vast majority of viewers are the "oh, I was just flipping through the channels and the game was on" type at present. And furthermore, there are still very few people across the nation who have a digital box (thus allowing them to view specialty channels like RaptorsTV) either because they don't have access to the technology or have simply decided not to "upgrade."

This HQ writer just hopes that with any "upgrade," after all is said and done, that the fan doesn't end up holding the short end of the stick.