It was all about the money…

This whole HNIC theme song fiasco can be sumarized by one word: MONEY. The creator of the song, Dolores Claman, through Copyright Music & Visuals has sued CBC for an unreasonable sum of money ($2.5 million) for supposedly using the song in ways not allowed by their agreement. I believe the Copyright Music & Visuals then used that unreasonable sum of money as a bargaining chip against CBC by saying ‘ settle this lawsuit or we won’t renew’ but when CBC refused to settle the ridiculous lawsuit for a ridiculous sum of money they were forced to say thanks but no thanks. CBC even offered one last ditch effort by offering to go to arbitration to settle the issue once and for all but apparently Copyright Music & Visuals didn’t like that avenue, possibly because the inevetible outcome would be far below their rediculous $2.5 million claim and instead sold the song to CTV for what is rumoured to be around $2.5-3 million. If that sum is true it tells you exactly how rediculous the Copyright Music & Visuals $2.5 million lawsuit was. They were suing for as much as the song was worth.

What I find odd is why CTV would even be interested in the song. Yes, the song has a lot of tradition and intrigue to hockey fans and even Canadians in general, but does it really bring added value to TSN hockey product? The tradition was related to Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, not hockey in general and although the song has tradition and intrigue, I really don’t see it as something that will add to a hockey broadcast. In fact, for me it will detract from the hockey broadcast because I not view the song not as a symbol of hockey but rather a symbol of money and greed and commercialism at its worst. TSN does a lot of creative and original stuff with their hockey coverage and are very good at what they do (Pierre McGuire excluded) and effectively outright stealing someone elses open music just seems cheesy and amateurish.

Even more dumb is how CTV is trying to sell their buying the song as saving the song from “obscurity” and that they only got into the negotiations after CBC backed out on Friday. The song was not going to fall into obscurity and had it not been for CTV I expect it would likely still be on CBC next fall. I am almost certain that CTV has been in contact with Claman and Copyright Music and Visuals far before Friday. I am sure Claman knew they had CTV as a backup and thus felt at east putting all the pressure on CBC to agree to their demands and not vice versa. If Claman had no other suitors there likely would have been an agreement with CBC earlier.

So there we have it. Money and Greed have ruined yet another great tradition in hockey and we can no longer start our Saturday winter evenings with the same song we have for so many years.

This article has 9 Comments

  1. Money and Greed have ruined yet another great tradition in hockey and we can no longer start our Saturday winter evenings with the same song we have for so many years.

    And apparently this great tradition was not even worth a fraction of CBC’s money in the end. Doesn’t that tell you something?

    I don’t think anyone doubted that this lawsuit was based on money and greed (isn’t that what all lawsuits are based upon?). I don’t think CBC truly appreciated the value of the theme song (although it’s very difficult to put a price tag on something so sentimental) but it was a great move on TSN/CTV’s part to pick it up. It’s a paltry $2.5m investment, and the returns could be massive. TSN obviously realized it was worth something and pounced on it.

    It might be awkward at first, but it’ll set in, and with the new Canadian teams package TSN has, they’re offering a much more attractive telecast than CBC right now. Instead of the Leafs taking centre stage, viewers will have the opportunity to see more Flames, Canucks, Oilers, Habs, and Sens games.

    I’ll have to disagree with you again, David, on Pierre McGuire. I think he is one of the brightest analysts in the game, although I can see how he can get on people’s nerves with the way he talks.

  2. It’s a paltry $2.5m investment, and the returns could be massive.

    I don’t think anyone watched HNIC because of the song nor will anyone stop watching because they no longer have the song. Similarly, I don’t think anyone is going to tune into TSN because they now have the song. People will tune in for hockey, not 10 seconds of music to start the telecast. It is just a song and I think maybe people will start viewing it just that way.

    TSN now has more games and more of the Canadian teams but CBC is still what CBC has always been: Saturday night hockey and the playoffs.

    As for Pierre McGuire, I agree that he has some insight but it far too often gets hidden behind his massive ego and his name dropping and his theatrics. He just loves to hear himself speak far too much. I despise it when he will interrupt the play by play guy to point out the obvious. He will also pander to the audience. I have heard him say almost completely opposite statements within hours of each other, one statement on the Fan 590 in Toronto and one statement on Team 1200 in Ottawa. He needs to tone down the ego, tone down the theatrics, and stick to analysis and opinion and he might be OK.

  3. David, I agree that the CTV/TSN purchase was pretty bush-league. If anything, I almost think that it may turn out to be free advertising for HNIC.

    In short, I think everybody is a loser in this one.

    CTV/TSN – Looks petty. Gains no audience (IMO)
    CBC – Embarrassed, but doesn’t lose audience (again, IMO)
    Copyright Music & Visuals – Greedy

  4. I’ve always equated the hockey theme song to CBC. I do admit though, the theme song never made me want to watch hockey – it was the game that sold me to it. However, you can’t deny the fact that the song has sentimental value, and viewers who have grown up with the song will find it rather odd that they don’t hear it on CBC anymore.

    The big winners here were TSN and CM&V, while CBC came out with nothing new to show. TSN is rapidly growing and expanding while CBC has remained stagnant.

  5. It never hurts to have more knowledge on which to base opinions. The songwriter’s daughter provides these details in her blog:

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008
    The Hockey Theme
    I just wanted to thank you, on behalf of my mother, for your support of
    the hockey theme. I also wanted you to know my side of the story,
    because it’s important to me. What I hope you will acknowledge is that
    the CBC has had an exclusive media platform on which to air its side of
    the story.

    First, to clear up some misconceptions. For 25 years, CBC paid my mother
    no license fees at all for the music. It was only in the last 15 years
    that they began to pay any license fee at all.

    Last week, after more than a year of CBC bullying, threatening and
    endless changing of positions, we offered the CBC the following deal:
    forget the lawsuit – just pay our legal fees (which we incurred because
    of CBC’s breach of usage as agreed in the license deal) and let’s keep
    the same licensing deal as before. That’s it…same as before. $500 per
    episode of HNIC. They did not accept.

    They kept bullying us, telling us the song was worthless, threatening to
    drop the song altogether if we didn’t give them exactly what they
    wanted, absolutely on their terms. If not, they’d hold a national
    contest and replace the song. Honestly, it became increasingly clear to
    us that this was their plan all along – to offer deals that were
    impossible for us to accept, so they would have the excuse to drop the
    song without being blamed for doing it. On Thursday, they sent us an
    email rejecting the offer and saying that it was sad we could not come
    to an agreement.

    Then on Friday, Scott Moore of the CBC announced the Song Contest to
    replace the theme. So, it was clear, for sure, that this was over for

    My belief is that when it started to become clear to the CBC that the
    public wasn’t happy with their decision, they announced that they would
    negotiate further. Frankly, my mother was so depressed, she just said –
    no, they don’t really want the song. It’s better at least if it dies a
    dignified death.

    When CTV made an offer, they promised that they’d use the song, and
    they’d use it in association with Canadian hockey. Of all the things,
    this mattered most to my mother.

    I know you are probably upset that we didn’t resolve our differences
    with the CBC, but no matter what they say publicly, they really,
    clearly, didn’t give a shit about the theme. Their only concern was they
    should not be seen to be the villains in getting rid of it. My mother
    became a very convenient scapegoat.

    To a composer, their music is like their baby – they don’t want to see
    it buried, or forgotten, or sidelined. And my mother, being a rather
    strong woman, just wasn’t willing to be bullied and threatened any more.
    A lot of people are going to call her greedy and opportunistic. Well,
    they just don’t know her at all. It’s going to sound trite if I say that
    “it wasn’t about the money”. But ask any composer of music if they want
    to see their work buried, and never played again. It’s easy to focus on
    the money. But it was never, ever about the money. Life, and people, are
    just a lot more complex than that.

    That’s my side of the story, for what it’s worth.

    Madeleine Morris

  6. It is always good to hear the other side of the story but I am not buying it. If it wasn’t about the money and just having your song heard, why the ridiculous $2.5 million lawsuit because CBC played it too much? The $2.5 million lawsuit is a fact that they cannot run away from.

    Second, she never once said what CBC was demanding or how they were bullying her. And having dealt with government organizations (of which CBC is one), demanding, bullying, and penny pinching isn’t a common trait they possess. Nor is having the smarts to orchestrate a fancy scheme to get the fans to turn on the composer of the music just so they can move ahead with their plan to use new music without backlash. Besides, it was Copyright Music & Visuals that went public first and CBC had no plan for what new music to use and this have conducted this last minute new song contest.

    I am sure CBC is not all innocent in this but we all need to remember the absolute facts. 1. It was Copyright Music & Visuals that sued CBC for $2.5 million. 2. It was Copyright Music & Visuals that went public first. 3. It was Copyright Music & Visuals that sold the song to CTV for upwards of $3 million. Those facts don’t generally support Madeleine Morris’s general message all that well.

  7. 1. $2.5m for the song and legal fees. Against a big corporation such as CBC I’m sure Claman had an expensive lawyer, and perhaps at $500/billable hour it makes the sum look even more reasonable.

    2. Like I said before, I think CBC left CM&V no choice but to go public, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten anything out of it. Had they not gone public, I don’t think CTV would’ve picked it up so fast. It was a great legal tactic.

    3. Of course Claman’s out to get paid, and when CBC didn’t fork over the money that I feel they owed (considering they used the song for over 25 years without paying – whether the sum was reasonable or not is quite another matter) they went to CTV. You’d be crazy to turn down a $3m offer.

    I’ve also dealt with big corporations (CBC is considered more like a big corporation than a public serving government establishment) and they’re no fun to deal with. They’re out for every little penny, and they’ll find ways to argue against paying you. Big corporations trying to weasel money out of the little guys or refusing to pay up is nothing new, which is why I’m on Claman’s side. I’m tired of big corporate companies that screw over the little guys.

  8. Jason, just to point out a minor error in your math and the “reasonableness” of it all: Even at $500 an hour, $2.5 million equates to 5000 hours of work. That’s equivalent to working 24 hours a day for about 208 days. Assuming the Lawyers they employed had private lives, and weren’t billing them 24/7 – even if they had a team of 5 lawyers working 40 hours a week on it… that’s 25 weeks worth of work… or half a year. There’s no way they were employing 5 lawyers at $500 an hour, full time, for half a year on JUST this case. It just isn’t realistic.

    $2.5 million is a cash grab… plain and simple. To pretend it’s because of the “big corporation” on the other side and their high priced lawyers is a bit ridiculous.

    CBC has to pay lawyers to fight cases like this too, so why we should expect a PUBLIC corporation to pay out the woman’s legal fees over something as petty as all this is beyond the pale. She got her money, but lets not demonize CBC in the process eh?

  9. A couple of things about all this IMO:

    If CBC used Claman’s music for 25 years without paying her anything, that is as much Claman’s fault, as the CBC’s. As the composer, she had rights to the music since the day she penned it, and it is not as if Claman didn’t know what the value of music is (I believe the original CBC article says she has written over 1000 jingles). Most of the time, for jingles and the like, music is owned, not licensed, so the owner can use it without limitations.

    Claman’s daughter claims the licensing deal is for $500/episode – that would put the value of the music at about $17000/yr (34 weekends of hockey), which does not warrant a buyout value of $2.5-million. In reality, I believe the licensing was $500 per USE, so every time it played at the beginning of the show, each commercial, when it was used at the end of a show, etc. Once you start to add all that up, it is more apparent why CBC didn’t agree to that deal.

    And as for the CBC – well, we’ve all noticed the major re-structuring (Radio 3 gone… Radio 2 playing “easy-listening” suddenly WTF?), and frankly, the year without hockey was a financial disaster for them. I mean, here in Vancouver, the CBC sold the parking lot next to their building to a developer for a condo development! I know people who work at CBC here, and there have been so many cutbacks and job eliminations, it’s a wonder they still broadcast at all!

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