Saturday, August 9, 2008

NASCAR TV Hits A Brick Wall In Canada


After a tremendous fan turnout for the Montreal race weekend, Canadian fans of NASCAR are looking forward to the extended TV coverage from ESPN of both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series this weekend from Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, they will have to look very hard.

ESPN is not carried in Canada. So, ESPN has an affiliated network called The Sports Network (TSN). While ESPN has a minority stake in the network, it is actually owned by CTVGlobeMedia, a Canadian TV company. This single channel is very busy with sports from both the US and Canada, so it must sometimes expand to a second temporary channel. This is called the TSN - Alternate Feed (TSN-AF).

On Friday, TSN-AF will carry the Sprint Cup qualifying from The Glen. Saturday, it will host the Nationwide Series qualifying. The live Nationwide race will be on TSN-AF and areas of Canada that receive the ABC Television Network on cable.

Finally, on Sunday the TSN - Alternate Feed alone will have full coverage of the big Sprint Cup Series race. That is the good news.

Here is the bad news. Effective July 29th, almost all of the Canadian cable TV providers have dropped their distribution of TSN-AF. A couple of big systems out West were first and now the East side providers have also given up.

Originally, the TSN-AF "overflow channel" was provided free of charge to the Canadian cable TV companies so they could show more sports. Not anymore.

Now, TSN wants the cable companies to agree to carry a new sports network called TSN2 when it comes online in the Fall. The cable companies who do not agree to add this new fulltime channel lose the ability to show the TSN - Alternate Feed programs for free.

The response from the Canadian cable companies has been swift. Most of them have said no and TSN-AF has been discontinued. The cable companies are saying TSN pulled the feed, while TSN has been silent. All we know is that where Canada is concerned, a large chunk of NASCAR TV programming is suddenly in the dark.

Needless to say, many Canadian NASCAR fans are in for a rude awakening this weekend. Click here for the link to the TSN blackout story in the Toronto Globe.

Here is the TSN-AF program list
that shows Canadian viewers missing the IRL race from Kentucky and NFL pre-season football among the sports no longer available. Here is a bigger motorsports list for some perspective.

TSN will re-run the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races on a tape-delayed basis very late that same night, but that certainly is not the same experience as seeing them live on TV.

How and when this mess will get sorted-out is anyone's guess. It just seems a shame that after a memorable Montreal weekend, Canadian TV viewers are suddenly shut-out of a classic NASCAR road racing weekend at The Glen.

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31 comments:

Sophia said...

I just wanted to say my fellow Canadian fans have my sympathies for having things yanked so quickly.

I DO enjoy IRL but at least have a year to realize no more of those races except for a handful.

But NASCAR IS more exciting....stinks for Canadian fans of NASCAR to lose access.

Where is Race Buddy for them??

Dot said...

Oh, our poor neighbors to the North. I feel so sorry for them.:(

Not that I think they're on Mars, but can they get satellite(sp?)up there? Would it pick up our channels? Does their cable work like ours, where there are different tiers to buy? Can they make TSN A-F a pay channel? Is NASCAR/TV down here willing to help them in some way?

I know we read from a Canadian on this site. I hope he/she answers. Or, JD do you know?

Hi Sophia.

Gymmie said...

Yes they get some of our channels/shows, I think it's more those closer to the US border vs. those further up north. I know border US states like Washington get Canadian channels. I have a friend in Seattle who has quite a few favorite Canada shows :).

I know from reading the boards that our Canadian friends have been screwed over many times in the past. It's truly a shame...I hope something can work out for them.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dot,

Unlike the US, there is no other option for the millions of cable TV viewers in Canada. This TSN-AF was the only way for cable viewers to see anything except the Nationwide race this weekend.

They do have SPEED, so they will see the wrap-up shows, but that certainly is not the same.

ESPN owns 20% of TSN, so they do not compete with that network.

JD

Bill H said...

JD, hope you dont mind the link inclusion:

PC owners in Canada should look at TVU. (http://www.tvunetworks.com/) I have seen ESPN, ESPN2 and Speed (look for the wheels network) carried on there and have watched a few races on it. Its free.

BillWebz

Bill H said...

Just a followup - ESPN2 is listed as Sports 2(Mobile) on TVI - and I would recommend downloading the software instead of watching it in their website.

Anonymous said...

dot,
Where you have the FCC we have the CRTC. Much of its mandate is to protect Canadian culture (artsy jobs). They are in charge of licensing channels and providers whether cable or satellite. ESPN, TNT and a few others are not licensed here and other channels, that must include a percentage of Canadian content, purchase rights to show some of their programs up here. In some ways it is convenient since we don't need to chase down which ESPN channel is carrying the show it just appears on TSN or TSN-AF. The problem is that TSN bought the exclusive rights and is now choosing to not broadcast the shows. No amount of money will get a pure ESPN or TNT feed to my TV legally. There are gray market satellite providers where we can get spillover but some consider it almost on par with smuggling causing some producer to go home hungry.
sophia,
It is all further complicated by our major internet providers taking up after Comcast and trying to shape or throttle what we receive via the net. They dislike streaming, p2p or torrenting so watching via nascar.com risks you not being able to get even standings updates for the weekend. To try RaceBuddy was to risk usable internet speeds. CRTC has yet to rule on the legality of this. Some US sites are also blocking viewers from other countries from viewing their shows from the net.
pam

Anonymous said...

Bill thanks. That does look interesting. pam

Anonymous said...

Yes it may be true that we Canadians will no longer get similar Nascar coverage that you get in the states but sometimes this can have advantages. Several years ago TSN experimented for one race using the speed F1 coverage. The negative outpouring for the loss of accurate information was so loud and so long that they immediately switched back to the excellent British coverage that we had prior. Another point that you might not be aware of and is actually more important from my standpoint is that in Canada the cable companies have now moved Speed up to another tier so that it is no longer easy to record and time shift programs like wind tunnel and TWIN and as TSN never carried the Monday version of Nascar Now with AB this is actually a far greater loss. I personally feel that this was done for Watkins Glen to provoke a far greater outcry than if they had done it for INdianapolis, Kentucky or Homestead as Canadians would much rather watch a road race than an oval race. The reality is that this whole matter is very much a tempest in a teacup it is no different than your favourite network show being cancelled by the big three networks, painfull maybe but look on the bright side there is always more curling, hockey or lacrosse to replace it. Now if we could only ban golf from TV permanently

Anonymous said...

To put this all in perspective I just checked the TSN website Nascar has been replaced by the Olympics. Now I understand that The Nascar thinks it is the centre of the universe but sometimes there is just a bigger sports story. Also look at it this way there are probably far more people in the U.S. that only have basic cable or antennas that cannot get ESPN than there are people in Canada now isn't that a bigger story. I can see the Headline now "poor Americans deprived of ESPN". How can they go on, how can life be worth living.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:37AM,

ESPN is a basic cable channel in the US. The percentage of over-the-air TV viewers in the US is so small it cannot be measured in any verified manner.

TSN believes that by removing the TSN-AF feed they can force the cable companies to sign-up to agree for the fulltime TSN2 channel.

It is the programming that is being held hostage and NASCAR is a part of that.

JD

Lisa Hogan said...

Sorry for the fans north of the border.

Adam T. Martin said...

You have my sympathy Canada.

fred W said...

On further investigation I have discovered that this whole situation is the result of a spat between competing media companies T^SN is owned by CTVglobe media most of the cable and satelite companies are owned or controlled by Rogers or Bell Expressvu, both of which have multiple sports channels that they own and are not in the least bit interested in the sports giant in Canada expanding. This is a pissing contest and little else. As Cogeco another of the cable systems is still carrying TSN-AF and some of the weekends action will be covered by ABC (by the way all Canadian cable and Satelite viewers get all the major US channels) the 60 to 120,000 Nascar aficianado's will still be able to get their Nascar fix.

Daly Planet Editor said...

fred,

This blog is focused on NASCAR and we are saying that almost all of Canada that currently gets cable TV is going to be without all the qualifying and the Sprint Cup race.

I think your estimation of the NASCAR audience is Canada is interesting.

JD

Jo said...

WOW sounds like Canadians are going thru the same peeing contest we NFL fans have lived thru for a few years with the NFL network vs cable companies. No one wins, least of all us fans. So I guess this means Canadians will have to sign up for online coverage and pay for that also or not get any live coverage of your sport of choice.

All the Canadians have my deepest heartfelt sympathy, if this is as long & drawn out as down here its gonna take awhile. Good Luck.

PO'd Canadian Fan said...

It is not true that all Cogeco cable services provide viewers with TSN-AF; I am a Cogeco subscriber (I haven't any other choice since Cogeco has the market in my area) and I DO NOT received TSN-AF. I DO however get ESPN Classic and TSN-HD so I can NOT watch the race in HIGH DEFINITION or wait for five years and watch the action at the Glen on replay!

I have found that complaints to TSN falls upon deaf ears. What really needs to happen is to let the "official sponsors of Nascar racing in Canada" (i.e. Old Spice, Lilydale, Canadian Tire etc.) know how their sponsorship dollars are beeing spent: on NO coverage or on DELAYED action to their Canadian consumers. We all know that money talks and this is perhaps the only way to make TSN listen!

speedangel said...

I was talking to a friend of mine that lives in Canada who told me that TSN has said for the least few years that they are a partner with NASCAR, and will soon be showing both the NW and the Cup races all season, but it's yet happen.

He also told me that where he lives, there have already been a couple missed races, and some fans have resorted to using a U.S. dish, which is illegal.

geowebster said...

1. Cogeco was showing the NASCAR content on Channel 156 (TSN-AF) this afternoon.
2. When all the shouting is done, there will be two TSNB channels and TSN will come closer to living up to its promise to make available all those NASCAR and other races.

Dot said...

JD,

I bet the Canadian cable companies are glad your column doesn't orignate up there. You'd never get to write about anything else.

Thanks to all who answered my questions.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Dot,

Neither the Canadian cable TV companies, TSN, ESPN or NASCAR is particularly happy about this column. I try to be an all-encompassing writer.

JD

kbaskins said...

TSN does a poor job of both their Cup and N'Wide broadcasting. There are many times I have to watch N'Wide races online because TSN has moved the race to TSN-AF. And this isn't the first time that TSN has moved a Cup race to TSN-AF. This middle stretch of the season between the FOX and ABC portions of the schedule is pretty hit-and-miss.

For example, during the TNT portion of the schedule, TSN joined the Pocono race in progress. MIS was on TSN-AF; so was Loudon. We got to watch three-and-a-half of the six TNT-broadcast races.

And if that wasn't enough, I keep getting pooped on by the west coast broadcasters who insist on preempting NASCAR coverage for their children's programming. FOX did it earlier in the year, and ABC has done it too. For example, those of us on the Left Coast will not be watching the N'Wide Countdown show Saturday morning because KOMO in Seattle will be showing The Suite Life of Zach & Cody, between 11:30 and noon PT (according to KOMO's website). They will start their NASCAR coverage at noon, about 15 minutes before the race starts.

This sort of poor broadcasting is what initially drove me to purchase TrackPass. And if I could get RaceBuddy year-round, I would gladly pay for that and downgrade TrackPass to TrackPass Scanner (because I love to listen to my driver's scanner).

At least I have a few internet options. I feel badly for my fellow Canadians who don't have the same access and have to rely entirely on TSN.

BTW, I highly recommend the Race Fan TV website for all motorsports racing scheduling. JD has a link on the right-hand side of the page.

--KarenB

Sophia said...

JD

I do not understand cable politics. We just found out TW carries Versus on two areas of town OUT IN THE BOONDOCKS!!?? We thought a greater tri state area, within an hours drive all had the same stations with the same cable provider??

So I can only imagine how things change across the country the size of Canada.

ALso with weather conditions, is that why Canada does not appear to have satellite? I ran into a woman at the Y tonight who says EVERY STORM her satellite goes out (we have had many high lightning storms this season) Canada is further north and I thought I understood Canada just has cable?

How does that work out in the boondocks?!

Never mind, I think this is a very complicated question to a layered deep, tv issue. :(

kbaskins said...

@ Sophia

Canada has two satellite providers: Shaw and Bell. As with the cable providers, the CRTC (which is analogous to your FCC) will only allow certain channels to be offered by the provider, and then it's up to the cable or satellite provider to choose which channels they will offer subscribers. As with any satellite or cable system, this is controlled by a card inside the box that is programmed remotely by the provider to lock or unlock channels.

-KarenB

Andrew S. said...

Hey JD, heard about this for my fellow Canuckistanis and it sounds like TSN chose this weekend to flex their muscle in hopes that NASCAR Nation would rise up and complain to the cableco's to add this new TSN2 channel.

I'm really glad all those people are upset and you are holding their feet to the fire. Wish you'd name some names so we know who to complain to! LOL

Just remember folks, gray is a beautiful colour. ;)

frankp316 said...

Mostly this is about the long running feud between Bell GlobeMedia & Rogers. Rogers owns Rogers Sportsnet and broadcasts their regional networks on digital cable. TSN only has TSN and has had to go through a long battle with the CRTC to get TSN2. And not surprisingly Rogers doesn't want to pay for it though you can be sure they will carry it when they have to.



But TSN is handling this in a heavy handed manner that assumes that Canadian NASCAR fans are dummies. They want us to whine to cable companies. But we're not as dumb as they think. We know it's TSN's fault.



I plan to write Toronto Star sports media columnist Chris Zelkovich. He doesn't like this kind of baloney and will go after TSN.



Note to John:NASCAR does have the power to twist TSN's arm and force them to carry all races live. A couple of years ago the Aug. Michigan race wasn't going to be shown live and TSN carried it on a channel set up specifically for the occasion. It's not a big secret that TSN hates NASCAR and only agreed to carry all NASCAR races only to get the Montreal race. Maybe they're in breach of their contract and NASCAR has the power to force them to do the right thing.

Daly Planet Editor said...

frank,

NASCAR is very bent out-of-shape on this issue. The big problem right now is that there is no solution.

Right now, only Canadian NASCAR fans are suffering. None of these big companies seems to care.

JD

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank SPEED for stepping up as best as they can. Contract constraints would limit their options, but on the fateful day of July 29 they did add 8 Cup practices. This was the day most Canadians lost the channel that TSN had been stacking with NASCAR. Whether the two are related I don't know, but SPEED did this despite the amount of flak they take from those that prefer other autosport series.
This is a time I am particularly grateful that the Trucks are in their hands.
pam (canuck)

Andrew S. said...

Good news I saw posted on a Canadian Satellite TV board. CSR at Star Choice offered a free month preview of Hot Pass. Hopefully the other cablecos follow suit or just make Hot Pass free for everyone.

Andrew S. said...

For those of you with ExpressVu (now Bell TV *gag!*) Check to see if the TSN-Alt is back on Channel 402

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