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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Hockey Night' a significant casualty of cord-cutting revolution

Anyone who knows me well has heard all about my adventures in cable-cutting. I got rid of my cable last summer after the NBA Finals, something I never thought I would do. Here were are well into the fall slate I still haven't renewed my subscription. I'm doing pretty well, but one thing I've struggled with is finding live sports.
Sure, every Lions game is on network TV and their Monday Night Football game on ESPN was simulcast on WXYZ-7 in Detroit, an ABC affiliate. So there's really no lapse in coverage on that front, but I work on Sundays anyway, so I'm not home to see the games.
The Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons are all on Fox Sports Detroit these days. The last time I remember not having cable, all three teams were still being broadcast on UPN-50 (now CW-50), available over the air.
As an avid fan, I subsist by watching ESPN for Xbox Live, an underrated way to go, which has live college basketball and football and replays from the ESPN family.
There were a few times the Tigers were the Fox game of the week on Saturday this summer and I got to see much of the ALCS on the network as well.
Often I'm at work or the gym, both places which have cable, during many of these teams' games, so I'm not completely missing out. But the rub comes with "Hockey Night In Canada," a CBC staple that sometimes features the Red Wings. (I would watch games that didn't have Detroit matchups.) I recall getting CBET-9 from Windsor over the air even in rural Springfield Township as a kid, so when I installed my new super antenna, I assumed I would be sitting pretty this hockey season. Wrong.
Over the summer, CBC stations went through the digital transition that was mandated by the FCC more than two years ago in the U.S. It took a few weeks for me to find out why I could no longer receive my target signal, but I got an answer from the network earlier this week via email:
"The digital coverage area is somewhat smaller than that of the discontinued (analog) signal."
So that's it? No more HNIC freebies for Michiganders without cable? It's a sad realization.
There have been some nice things about my adventures sans proprietary service provider, for instance not having a cable bill every month. Also, over-the-air broadcasts come in high definition, so I'm still seeing the same picture (even better in some cases). But the loss of "Hockey Night in Canada," something I've watched since I was a child, is the most significant casualty in my television transformation.


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