SUN Hockey Pool

Our free TV ride nearing end?

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

How important is Hockey Night in Canada to your Saturday nights?

Enough that the thought of shelling out a few bucks to keep it beaming into your living room won't dim your passion for the oldest, most beloved tradition in Canadian sports television?

No, we're not suggesting for a minute that this CBC icon is headed for the world of pay-per-view. But it's a question that jumps to mind this week as the CRTC delves into a series of hearings that could affect exactly how much money you'll have to fork over on future cable or satellite television bills.

On the one side, you've got a group of "over the air" conventional networks -- CTV, Global and CBC among them -- asking for the same type of "fee for carriage" that specialty and digital channels now enjoy (initially awarded to compensate for their higher placement on the various tiers of channels).

Then, there's the cable and satellite guys, who want no part of the added fees because a) they think the conventional networks are doing just fine, thank you, without them, and b) they have every intention of passing the extra cost on to their customers if it goes through (and guess who's going to have to take the angry calls about it all?).

In the middle are folks like me who can remember the days when we didn't pay a dime for any TV channels, and got just about all we needed with the right antenna. Ah, but that was long before the world of specialty and digital television arrived. Who knew the wonders that a TSN or Rogers Sportsnet or The Score, or any of the dozens of other sports-specific networks that now exist, could bring into our lives?

All that being said, it'll be interesting to see the reaction to the new fees if they are indeed approved. Cable mogul Ted Rogers told the CRTC hearings he figures it would add about $5 to each customer's tab, and that he'd make sure a line on their bills would tell one and all who was responsible for the increase (the networks point out the cable guys add new charges all the time, and not always for a good reason).

Some folks will see $5 for what it is to their home budget -- less than 20 cents a day -- and not bat an eyelash. Others will be outraged at the thought of paying anything extra for something they've basically gotten for free their entire lives.

But, then again, isn't that the way our world is going these days? And just another indication that nothing, it seems, stays free forever.

ANOTHER NEW VIEW: Oh, those wacky folks at TSN. It wasn't enough that they put an analyst between the benches for an NHL broadcast. Now they're up for something else new. Chris Cuthbert and Glenn Healy will both be at ice level at HSBC Arena in Buffalo for tonight's Rangers-Sabres telecast. Yes, it's a broadcasting first, at least in the NHL (TSN points out Soviet broadcasters did the same during the 1972 Summit Series). "It'll be an interesting experiment," said Cuthbert, whose first pro sports broadcast -- an indoor soccer match in Montreal in 1982 -- was done from field level. "I hope we can make it work so we can do it again. I don't foresee the day when we do all our games from ice level, but it may be a nice perspective to use on occasion. When you're six storeys up, the game gets, as Glenn likes to say, a little antiseptic. You don't get a real feel for what's going on. (At ice level), you really get inside the game"

'NET GAIN? The dismantling of the sports department at Global Ontario Television is almost complete. The network announced Wednesday that, beginning in January, Rogers Sportsnet will produce the sports segments for Global News Ontario, with Sean McCormick anchoring the updates at 6 and 11 p.m. A customized sports package is planned for Global Morning News later in the new year. The move means current Global sports anchor Don Martin is out of a job, along with several other staff. At the end of August, the network canned its 11:30 p.m. Global Sports (originally Global Sportsline) and terminated veteran sportscaster Jim Tatti. He's now on XM Radio's Home Ice.

AROUND THE DIAL: Fox and Speed TV have acquired U.S. rights to Formula One auto racing in a three-year deal that runs through 2009. Four of the F1 broadcasts will air on Fox, including the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal ... The Score attracted an impressive 238,000 viewers for its Vanier Cup broadcast last week. By contrast, the Mitchell Bowl (Ottawa-Saskatchewan) the previous Saturday drew 89,000 ... Sportsnet News is getting a new name -- Sportsnet Connected -- as of Jan. 8 ... Sunday's Bears-Patriots game earned a 15.4 rating for Fox, the highest NFL number on any network so far this season.


Videos

Photos