Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ice Network's 2012-13 Season Pass: Between a rock and a hard place

So you know that part in the previous post where, in discussing some of the trouble fans might have with Ice Network, I said Some have trouble getting a live stream from it...?

As you may have heard by now, just about ALL of us will have trouble getting a live stream from it—whether we subscribe or not.

Full disclosure here: while Ice Network only posted their official Season Pass invite to the website just today, the news actually came to me about a few days ago, since my particular subscription renews in mid-August. But as anyone with deadlines and work/family requirements is prone to do, I skimmed the first few lines of the email (to confirm what it basically is to me—a reminder to my husband that a Pass Renewal was on my birthday list again this year) and went on to other things, intending to read it in more detail later. So I never made it to those critical lines, now seen on as well:

Please note, 2012 Hilton HHonors Skate America will be shown live and on-demand; however, due to television rights holder restrictions, the remaining events of the Grand Prix Series will ONLY be available on-demand, seven days after the end of the event.

Aye, there’s the rub. And quite a wicked one at that!

Sorry I’ve been slow to realize this; I see it’s a predictably hot topic right now at FS Universe (among other forums, surely). But I guess in my “skimming” of the email I saw this line that preceded that line I just quoted—

Enjoy all the premier events you've enjoyed in the past, including the 2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the 2012 Grand Prix Series and the 2013 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships...

--And I stopped there. Why read on? It says “Enjoy... the 2012 Grand Prix Series.” I’d had a haunch that there might be more to the story than the Universal Sports access pass I mentioned last time, but hey, Ice Network was still covering the GP series for us, so all was fine.

I haven’t had a lot of time to process this yet... this seemingly helpless move from Ice Network, this outrageous slap in the face for fans just trying to keep up with the sport they used to watch regularly on glorious “free TV,” this agonizing setback on the broadcast/narrowcast/any-cast front. Are we back to passing on news of questionable-quality Turkish streaming video links via the Skatefans message boards? Are we left to scour YouTube as soon as we know the men’s SP at NHK is complete?

And what about the fact that Ice Network is still charging $39.95 despite the major change in schedule? For that discussion, I suggest you head to Peter Murray’s Blazing Blades website. He has posted a very thoughtful commentary on the situation, and why 40 bucks for what is clearly NOT “what we’ve enjoyed in the past” is still a deal that we, as fans, should get behind and support if we’re able. Please go read it... he’s articulated the matter quite well.

And I’ll add this one thought to the mix: Ice Network is probably in the quintessential rock-meets-hard-place dilemma right now. They need more (or at least the same number of) subscribers to stay afloat, but they know they can’t give them what they once did. They try to promote the new deal as honestly as they can, but to many of us it looks like they’re “burying the lead” as journalists say; taking the real story (about the rights issues and loss of live streaming) and hiding it within the copy in the link I posted above, and that makes us angry. The folks trying to make it all work surely have less than kind thoughts for The Powers That Be—be they at U-Sports, its parent company NBC, or the ISU, or all the above—that are monopolizing the rights. But Ice Network is a business, not a blog. If it comes out swinging at the sources with whom it’s trying to play nicely, it could make things worse... or at least make them bad for a longer period of time.

But if YOU want to “come out swinging” over this mess—be it anonymously or otherwise—my comments box is always open for business. Have at it!


Ice Charades said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ice Charades said...

Perhaps they're hiding behind the literal - enjoying the events "in the past" - as in it already happened seven days ago.

That's too bad because it is hard to get excited about the competition when you already know the results.