Sunday, September 30, 2007

On Thin Ice

Okay, I'm not much of a hockey fan. Over on Sivacracy, I took it with a grain of salt when they renamed the blog Sabreocracy and redesigned their entire web template to be a garish blue and gold in honor of the Buffalo Sabres run for the Stanley Cup. During that period I even signed up Sabres Insider, so I would have some electronic fan knowledge, but I never really embraced the game. I follow only four sports teams: The Dodgers, the French World Cup soccer team, The French World Cup rugby team, and the Dodgers. (The Dodgers are enough of a split-personality team that I think it is okay to list them twice.)

But I find myself interested in hockey in light of reports in the mainstream media that tout the way that the NHL is leading the way in offering their fans more Internet access to webcasting and a variety of social media tools in order to stimulate new fan practices. As I read Henry Jenkins' book about fan culture -- Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers -- this month, it is interesting to follow connections between traditional group behaviors and those spawned by the Internet. As those following this development point out, however, the NHL's eagerness to embrace Web 2.0 fandom probably has more to do with flagging TV viewership numbers since they moved from ESPN to Versus. But I thought their web offerings were pretty good in and of themselves. For example, the NHL has a considerably less stupid kids page than most government websites.

Why should it matter? As Siva Vaidhyanathan points out in this recent Altercation piece, it shows that the consumer isn't able to impact many media choices even in the age of niche markets and the long tail, because corporate capitalism and oligarchical politics still write the rules of the game.

So here I sit, an American, with money ready to spend, living in an age of hyper-fast digital communication, and I cannot get anybody to sell me all the services I want. I want to see the Patriots and the Bills every Sunday (I know: why would anyone WANT to see the Bills this year). I want my Texas Longhorns on Saturdays. I want to see the Yankees and/or Red Sox every night. I want to see The Simpsons every Sunday and The Office every Thursday.

DirectTV will get me NFL and MLB if I pay for the premium subscription packages. But it will not let me see any local channels or network feeds. I am not making this up. They blame the FCC. I don't really understand.

DishNetwork will get me local network channels, but it does not carry either the NFL or MLB packages.

And Comcast would get me the baseball and the local, but not the football. Well, that's if they could ever find my house.

Why won't these companies take my money?

Vaidhyanathan calls upon his fellow sports fans to elect an administration in 2008 that takes "media regulation" more seriously in a nice example of electronic rhetoric.

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