Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Kimmel Bats 1000; HBO Finally Unpopular Enough for Canadian TV

The 1000th episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live (tomorrow night at 11:35 on City-TV and ABC) was the main topic today on TV Feeds My Family's weekly chat with CHML's Scott Thompson. (Listen in here.) Told Thompson I spoke with Kimmel yesterday in an oddly underpopulated ABC conference call with critics. Kimmel talked about his recent viral video send ups with girlfriend Sarah Silverman (both "I'm F***ing Matt Damon" and Kimmel's hilarious rebuttal, "I'm F***ing Ben Affleck," have drawn 12 million viewings on YouTube), surviving the writers strike and bonding with his new best friend Jay Leno; you can read more in the Canadian Press column I filed today, posted, among other places, over at
Also got into it with Thompson about the deal to bring long time "forbidden fruit" premium U.S. cable channels HBO, Showtime, Nickelodeon and ESPN across the border. Canadian cable and satellite companies, who we all know are, uh, hard up for cash, say their customers want these channels and that was so true--TEN YEARS AGO. If you haven't pulled the latest episode of Weeds off your computer, or watched it day and date with Showtime's broadcast on TMN, or a few months later on CTV, or in a box set DVD, wait another week, it will probably be coming to TV Land or, hell, Vision.
Now not even Americans want HBO, which has been in a creative funk ever since The Sopranos faded to black. Americans should instead be demanding access to The Movie Network and Movie Central, two long protected Canadian services which have feasted on the best HBO, Showtime and others have had to offer, cherry picking gems like Californication, Dexter and Flight of the Conchords. Add that to the graphic porn TMN shows every night after midnight and you've got a licence to print money, one of the few still cranking it out in these nervous times in the TV industry.
The CRTC will hold hearings looking into this in Ottawa beginning next week. They have been asked to allow HBO and the others in now that nobody wants then anymore because the cable companies, like everyone else in the TV business these days, have hit the wall in terms of growth and expansion. They need something shiny and new to bundle with the loser channels and justify the new rate increases.
Technology, however, has enabled resourceful Canadians to take an end run around CRTC restrictions for years. You don't have to subscribe to TMN to enjoy, say, the new HBO miniseries John Adams, you just need a computer with lots of memory and storage capacity and time to search and stream.
A fresher carrot for Canadian consumers might be the ESPN bundle, which would allow U.S. college football and basketball fans to see their favorites in action on their giant plasma screens without resorting to having their grey- or black-market dish re-booted every two weeks. Although paying for it legally just doesn't sound like any fun anymore, does it?
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