My weekly TV column is up at Torontoist.
So recently there has been a kerfuffle of sorts, because WWE announced they were bringing the WWE Network to Canada. Now, this should have been a slam dunk, no-miss proposition. Canada has always been a hotbed of wrestling fandom: obvious easy market, obvious profit. Right?
Except that the WWE Network has partnered with Rogers Canada, one of the biggest cable providers in the country, and literally removed every single thing that was good about the Network from the Canadian version. To wit:
|ASPECT||ORIGINAL AMERICAN VERSION||INFERIOR CANADIAN VERSION|
|Cost||$9.99 per month||$11.99 per month|
|Method of delivery||Over-the-top via internet to computers/XBoxen/Rokus/etc.||Premium on-demand cable channel|
|Availability||Anybody who can pay for it||Rogers subscribers only (which means MORE THAN HALF THE COUNTRY can't get it and those who can have to sign up with a specific cable company to do so)|
|How one can watch||Computer/TV/Tablet/phone||TV only|
|Back catalog||Every pay-per-view ever and thousands of hours of TV footage||Literally only eight pay-per-views at launch|
I’m not kidding about the lack of back content either. Take a look at this:
Here is how the archive is labelled – looks like a total rush job, I expected stripped down version but this is low pic.twitter.com/REXz71VO4P
— Live Audio Wrestling (@LAWradio) August 12, 2014
(The full list of launch content, incidentally: SummerSlam 1992, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2005, Great American Bash 1989, Bash at the Beach 1994, 1996 and 1998, ECW Heatwave 1998 and 1999, and ECW One Night Stand 2005.)
So it’s a horrible botch job and Canadians who want the proper WWE Network will just have to not use the American service via a VPN because that would be wrong, but really, we can’t reasonably blame WWE for this, because Rogers owns the TV rights to WWE in Canada and because of that you had to know that, from the get-go, they would come in and ruin the Network for Canadians because it’s Rogers.
See, thanks to the way the Canadian telecommunications industry is regulated and operated, Rogers literally does not have to give a damn. Rogers is one of three companies – the others being Bell and Shaw – that dominates 90% of internet provision in Canada. It is also one of three companies (the others being Bell and Shaw) that dominates television in Canada. Out of the 60 or so channels that make up most “basic premium cable” packages in Canada, the Big Three own thirty-two of them. (Another twelve are American-owned, eight are owned by a corporation called Corus Entertainment, and eight others are either publicly operated or independently owned.) While we’re at it, Bell and Rogers control about 65% of the mobile phone market in Canada (a third company, Telus, controls about another 25%).
These companies don’t have to worry about somebody out-competing them because they have completely regulatory-captured the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission). If you want a mobile phone? There’s no such thing as Bell, Rogers or Telus offering a better rate than the other; down the line, their rates and services are virtually identical. They all have budget carrier brands as well: those match up just the same too. TV services? Barely any measurable difference between the 2-3 options you have anywhere in Canada (usually one of Rogers and Shaw, plus Bell). Internet? Same shit, different day. Most of the “independent” ISPs in Canada are actually re-sellers who buy bandwidth from Bell or Rogers at cost (the big guys are legally forced to offer pipe at cost for resale otherwise they wouldn’t do it) so even if you have an indie ISP like Teksavvy, Bell and Rogers are still getting your money.
The net result of all of this is that internet/TV/wireless in Canada is a bad joke, has been for basically ever, and barring a major sea change in regulatory attitudes it’s never going to change – heck, right now Bell and Rogers are running ads on their own TV and radio stations under the guise of a “consumer advocacy group” that additional competition in their marketplace would “kill Canadian jobs” so they’re loading the deck as we speak. It’s ridiculous and awful and everybody knows it’s ridiculous and awful, but no politician is ever going to campaign on it because did I mention that Bell and Rogers own all those TV channels? Including multiple news channels? Amazing how that works.
So the WWE Network in Canada was always going to suck. Because we can’t have nice things here, not in the telecom sense.
Reaction to the previous wash samples was generally in favour, with a contingent strongly holding out for unaltered original pages.
Well, this may change attitudes. Because here are some more greywash samples. But this time around, rather than me doing the washes, Davinder is doing the washes. And as you may have noticed, Davinder is better at this whole “art” thing than I am.
The difference, I think, is apparent.
EDIT TO ADD: In comments, Murc dissents:
Dalakhra and Kahal’s faces in particular just look WRONG.
This is where we have to disagree especially, because I speak for both Davinder and myself when we say that one of the main attractions of greywashing to us both is the fact that we can really visually emphasize the fact that most of the cast of this comic isn’t white.
That matters. Yes, from context the alert reader can tell that Kahal is black-skinned rather than Arabic-toned, and that Fezay is probably darker-hued than Dalakhra or Rayana, and that Alric is whiter than all of them by far. But it’s not immediately visually apparent on the page, and we both think that it absolutely has to be for numerous reasons, not all of which have to do with storytelling.
I also think it’s important to stress that although Davinder is much better than I am at this, what you’re seeing here are still roughs. (Kahal’s skin tone in the first sample is mostly untouched and we’re experimenting with ways to really bring it out.)
But: we also realize that there are some people who really love the stark white lines of the original art. We get that and we appreciate it, and we’re going to explore ways to bring an “original edition” into print eventually.
This is absolutely insane – and perfect evidence that people who complain about use of the word “privilege” should really shut up, because I can’t think of a better example of behaviour stemming from belief in one’s own privilege to be a total dick.
(See also: the culture of gamer “ownership”.)
EDIT TO ADD: In comments, switchnode has pointed out that the MPOC blogger also has a personal history of being at least moderately controversial/possibly awful, as well as potentially sloppy in her historiography. My counterpoint is so what.
The criticisms and attacks made on MPOC aren’t about her personal history of internet use – they’re fairly obviously personal attacks and intended to shut her down. Even if they were relevant (and I can’t imagine a scenario where “she was mean first” would be even remotely relevant as a justification in this regard; I mean, come on, didn’t we all learn this shit in kindergarten?), violent threats would still not be justified. Period. End of story. Finito. That Is It.
For me, the best part of San Diego Comic Con (or, as it should really be named now, San Diego General Geek Interest Con That Just Happens To Include Comics As the Tiny Minority Interest They’ve Degenerated Into, or SDGGICTJHTICATTMITDI for short) isn’t going. In fact, it’s decidedly not going, because the building is pretty much at fire code capacity and the lines for everything are so long that you pretty much spend half the con queuing and frankly I’d rather go to a really well-run community-built mid-size con like CONvergence these days…but that isn’t to say that I don’t look forward to this weekend each year. Because this is the weekend that EVERYONE announces EVERYTHING.
There’s a lot to take in, and I’ll probably do some more dissection next week after the dust settles and we know everything (Lucy Lawless and Mockingbird in ‘Agents of SHIELD’! James Gunn signed to write and direct ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2′! First images of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman!) But right now, I’m interested in talking about Marvel’s new ‘Star Wars’ comics.
Interestingly enough, they look like a giant leap backwards to Marvel’s old ‘Star Wars’ comics. That is to say, they’re all going to go back to the gap between ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, filling in some of the gaps now that the old continuity has been thrown out and there’s a different group of people deciding what happened in the new expanded universe (and theoretically paying more attention to keeping things consistent than Lucas did, although that’s something that’s easy to promise and hard to deliver). Unlike Marvel’s old ‘Star Wars’ comics, though, they’re writing these with an actual awareness of the destination (Hoth), and less of an episodic random science-fiction structure. (Meaning that unless they’re keeping things very much under wraps, we won’t see Jaxxon the Space Rabbit.)
One other thing that I’m intrigued by (and I should stress here, I’m defaulting to “cautious optimism” more than enthusiasm, because my tolerance for ancillary ‘Star Wars’ material has gotten lowered over the years by…well, by reading lots of it) is that they also seem to be willing to explore the actual consequences of things that were glossed over in the old continuity. Mark Waid is going to be doing an entire series about Princess Leia dealing with the destruction of Alderaan, which is something that I don’t think has ever been sufficiently explored. That’s a horrifyingly traumatic experience, and I have to imagine that Waid has a lot to say about it. Another series, by Kieron Gillen, deals with Vader’s rise to power in the aftermath of the destruction of the Death Star. Since this is something I’ve talked about on my own blog, in which I suggested that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than Tarkin “holding Vader’s leash”, I’m interested in seeing where they go with this one. (Plus, I’m always a sucker for stories about devious internal politics among the bad guys. I don’t know why.)
Oh, and there’s also a ‘Star Wars’ comic by Jason Aaron which presumably features some sort of conflict between the Rebels and an empire of some sort, possibly an evil one. I’m sure it will be competently executed, but the pitch doesn’t exactly sizzle. Still, I’m much more interested in these than I have been in any ‘Star Wars’ comic in a long time, which is definitely a good sign for Marvel. Good luck to them, I say, and watch out for the fans who can’t handle change!