In recent months, conventional broadcasters such as CTVglobemedia and CanWest Global, have urged the federal government to slap a $350 million a year TV tax on Canadian consumers in order to support local television stations.
The private broadcasters claim that viewership on local over-the-air television stations is in decline and that a tax is required to keep the stations from being having to shutdown.
So it's interesting that this Sunday, rather than airing the 97th Grey Cup Championship on local CTV Network affiliates where it will attract the largest audience, CTVglobemedia will be airing the big game on its digital specialty sports channels, TSN and Réseau des sports (RDS) TSN's sister French language sports service.
While CTV stations across Canada are available in almost all 13 million TV households via over-the-air signals or cable and satellite, TSN is available in just nine million households and only through subscription cable and satellite television.
The result is that approximately four million Canadian households will be unable to watch the big football game.
Instead of airing one of Canada's most watched sporting events, CTV and its local affiliates will air two episodes of Corner Gas, The Amazing Race, Desperate Housewives and CSI: Miami.
The decision by CTVglobemedia to air the Grey Cup on its profitable digital specialty channel (TSN earned over $52 million in 2008 on revenues of $211 million) with just nine million subscribers rather than on its less profitable CTV local affiliates which reach more than 13 million homes was clearly designed to maximize profits at the firm rather than viewership.
The decision by CTV to air a highly watched, profitable show such as the Grey Cup on its digital specialty network rather than its conventional network suggests the network is attempting to drive Canadians to subscribe to its very profitable specialty channels and away from their conventional over-the-air stations.
In simple terms, CTV is increasing profits at TSN at the expense of the CTV network. Should taxpayers, then be required by the federal government to support losses at CTV?