Starting a conversation about CIS championship paywalls
As "Super Championship Weekend" approaches, you may be getting your ducks in a row to watch take in all of that sweet, (mostly) home-grown #content. If you have Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360, you'll be fine. If not, there's CIS-SIC.tv.
But you've been warned: there's a paywall (again) for the semifinals and finals of all the games. Each tournament costs $6.95. Dale Stevens's Canadian University Basketball Discussion List email thread reminded me of the fee and he questioned the logic behind the paywall.
He got me thinking, so I asked the CIS about their policy and, well, their hands are tied. The league confirmed, via email, that Sportsnet says they must charge for the livestream. At first blush, I get it. Sportsnet wants people to subscribe to their channels and they don't want fans going online and getting the content for free. Who is going to buy a cable package for one weekend of CIS sports? No one. But that's an oversimplification; Sportsnet wants to have another feather in their cap for people considering a subscription. They can market it: "NHL! NBA! MLB! CIS! We are your home for sports!" etc.
But if Sportsnet wants to really push the CIS brand as selling point, then they have to make the whole product accessible because right now, I don't think the CIS is going to fire anyone up and influence their decision. They already cut OUA football and basketball because of viewership numbers.
And if you do have a Sportsnet subscription, why would you go to a livestream? If the paywall is to drive people to TV, I don't think it will work. A game on television is better than a laptop, but are people deciding between the two, or using a livestream out of necessity? Honest question.
Something else to keep in mind, more from a CIS perspective when negotiating the next TV deal: students are frugal with their money, even though they do have disposable income. Cost itself is a barrier -- we just don't want to take out a credit card and pay for stuff. So, a pop-up asking for money will likely turn off prospective viewers. Does anyone benefit from this?
I think the CIS product is good and when I introduce it to people, they agree. The paywall prevents people getting introduced to the product and both parties just spin their tires from a public awareness standpoint. To move the CIS brand forward, Sportsnet's championships paywall should be reevaluated. I'd argue it is in Sportsnet's best interest to open up those games to introduce those who actually want to see the product and hope that people enjoy the games enough to make the CIS a marketable sports entity.