Sports

OUA.tv does more buffering than bolstering

Photo: Sarah Nolette

I sat and stared at a laptop screen that may as well have been blank.

I was taking part in a frivolous effort to watch more than five consecutive seconds of the Gee-Gees football game against Windsor. I knew it wasn’t my Internet connection causing any problems, so it had to be the website. A new program introduced by the higher-ups at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference this year, OUA.tv is supposed to be the one place you can go to see a live stream of almost every OUA sporting event.

It is, but really, it isn’t.

It’s undoubtedly a novel idea, but a flawed execution leaves the user with a less than fulfilling experience. Having some form of free streaming service is better than not having any at all, but there is no real reason the product should be subpar.

Prior to the 2013 university football season, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) reached a six-year deal with Rogers to nationally broadcast multiple CIS events. One of the specific focuses would be the newly launched Sportsnet 360 channel, becoming the hub of OUA sports. There would be a place for the entire country to see what Ontario’s best athletes have to offer on a national level.

All the biggest games of the year are right there throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Sportsnet’s cameras were there to catch the return of the Panda Game, and even Gee-Gees basketball star Johnny Berhanemeskel’s Wilson Cup-winning shot over Carleton. But as for coverage this year, there has been none.

Just before the start of this school year, Rogers announced they had terminated their deal to carry OUA regular season football and the Wilson Cup playoffs. Many see Rogers’ $5.2-billion acquisition of NHL rights as the reason for the drop, simply meaning they cared more about Saturdays being dedicated to hockey than anything else.

More than 12,000 people witnessed this year’s Panda Game in person. It will most likely be the highest attendance of any OUA game this year, yet it was nowhere to be found on television.

Comparatively speaking, ESPN, the largest sports broadcaster in the United States, has a 15-year deal worth $3.6 billion with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which only contains three more universities than the OUA.

Understandably, the profile of college athletics in the U.S. is miles above that of Canada. But to think that Sportsnet or TSN, the latter of which recently expanded its service to five channels, can’t afford to help raise the exposure of collegiate athletics in Canada doesn’t quite add up. The two networks are owned by Rogers and Bell respectively, the country’s biggest and wealthiest media providers. Would it be so hard to broadcast even just a few games per year?

Nationally televised college football games in the U.S. put teams on the map and have massive implications on the revenue and exposure of the schools. In Ontario we could have something to be proud of, but instead we are subjected to nearly unwatchable broadcasts on a website that can barely handle the traffic.

It’s fiscally understandable that not every game can be on television, but a streaming service would be best served to complement TV broadcasts—not replace them.