No, we're not talking about Hannah Storm. We're talking about tomorrow's Washington-Pittsburgh game on NBC.
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No, we're not talking about Hannah Storm. We're talking about tomorrow's Washington-Pittsburgh game on NBC.
Though Calgary's exit from the playoffs means the party's over at TSN, it's still been a pretty good run for the specialty channel. Having a Canadian team in the playoffs for the first time drove TSN's ratings up an incredible 42 per cent over last season.
Averaging 567,000 viewers, TSN topped its previous high of 440,000 set in 1992. Much of that was fuelled by the Calgary-Chicago series, though having two series go to the maximum didn't hurt. The final game of the Calgary series on Monday drew 1.1 million viewers, the largest first-round audience in TSN history.
Tuesday's Washington-New York final barely missed the million mark, with 917,000 viewers.
The news wasn't quite so good at CBC, where audiences dropped 17 per cent, mainly because it had one less Canadian series than it did last year.
CBC's audience drop was due mainly to a four-game fizzle by the Montreal Canadiens and the new NHL deal that gave one Canadian series to TSN. Also hurting was an Anaheim-San Jose series played mostly after bedtime in the east and featuring two teams that Canadians care little about.
The good news is that the first-round ratings stars, the Vancouver Canucks, are still alive and are playing Chicago, a team many got to know better through the Calgary series. Canucks games averaged 1.5 million in the first round and should hit the 2 million mark this time.
Also good news is the second-round schedule, that guarantees CBC at least two games in its traditional Saturday night spot. Having the Ovechkin-Crosby series could boost ratings, but many of those games will also be on NBC meaning some of the audience will gravitate south.
On the topic of things from the south, Versus is averaging 445,000 for its first 21 Stanley Cup telecasts, a 29 per cent increase over last season. That's a pretty small number (comparable to about 45,000 here) but up is never bad.
Last weekend's games on NBC scored ratings of 1.2 and 1.0, the latter tying taped poker. But the NHL did beat out supercross and seniors golf, so things are looking up.
The countdown to J-Day (when the first Jays game is scheduled for TSN2) is now 21 days and counting.
Adding to the drama is the fact that Friday's Anaheim-Detroit playoff game is on TSN2, meaning Rogers subscribers won't be able to watch it. At least there won't be a string of complaints about Friday's Anaheim-Detroit game being on TSN2 after TSN and CBC made a last-minute deal to move the game to the public network. While a deal will surely probably get done by then, this whole stalemate between Rogers and TSN has been a bit of a mystery. One thing is for sure: It's not about the asking price for TSN2. According to sources, TSN is asking Rogers to pay less than 30 cents a month per subscriber. TSN, by comparison, gets more than $1 a month. Even for a channel that shows a lot or reruns, 30 cents doesn't sound that outrageous. ... Speaking of Rogers, guess who's going to be carrying this year's NFL package of games produced by the NFL Network? Surprise, it's Rogers Sportsnet. This year's Buffalo Bills game in Toronto is on a Thursday night, which happens to be NFL Network property. Under last year's deal, that would have been shown on TSN, a possibility this year that knotted a lot of underwear at Rogers headquarters. That's why Sportsnet is now doing more NFL games and TSN will have to find something else eight nights of the year. ... Darrin Fletcher has shown some improvement as a Blue Jays TV analyst, though reading stats on air makes it sound like he hasn't spent a lot of time doing homework. Also not helping was his referring to Alex Rios as ``Jose Rios" Tuesday night.
AND SPEAKING OF MISSTATEMENTS ...
Matt Vasgersian's trail of missteps, stumbles and on-air gaffes should not surprise anybody. After all, the MLB Network announcer was one of the first hires by the egregious XFL. Here's his latest apology, which came after a lame joke about a guy Vasgersian claimed looked like Donovan McNabb. The only resemblance was the guy's skin colour.
Sometimes, desperation is a good thing, even if it is born out of having no choice.
Last season, the FAN 590 shopped around a bunch of Toronto Argonauts games that ran into conflicts with Blue Jays games. It found exactly none, which either said something about the state of the radio business or the popularity of the Argos.
Either way, the FAN decided to put those games on its website, mainly because there was no alternative other than having announcers Mike Hogan and Peter Martin talk a lot louder. But a funny thing happened: people actually listened.
Okay, not a lot of people but probably more than anyone expected. While the numbers were hardly overwhelming, averaging between 8,000 and 9,000 listeners, they weren't bad. The FAN's HockeyCentral at Noon simulcast, for example, attracts about 2,500 online listeners. (Other comparisons aren't available because of the antiquated ratings system, which will be replaced by presumably more accurate digital measuring devices in the fall.)
So when the 2009 CFL schedule left the FAN with five regular-season conflicts and two in the pre-season, it didn't even consider looking for another radio station.
``I think (Internet radio) will continue to grow," says FAN v-p and general manager Nelson Millman. ``We may be a bit early on this, but clearly there's an audience and who knows where it will go?"
In addition to 13 Argo broadcasts the traditional way, the FAN will continue its weekly Inside The Argos show with Hogan and Sandy Annunziata.
CBS announcer Jim Nantz is the winner of the Sports Emmy for outstanding play-by-play. Oh please, please don't say it's for his work at the Masters. If it is, there can't possibly be a God. ... Toronto Raptors producer Paul Graham will join the CTV Olympics group, with Dan Gladman taking over his duties with the basketball team. ... Not that we're counting, but there are only 22 days left before TSN2 airs its first Toronto Blue Jays game, meaning that unless TSN and Rogers Cable make a deal, Rogers service reps have only 22 more days to practise explaining why their customers can't watch a Rogers-owned team. ... Just wondering: What is poker still doing taking up valuable time on sports channels? Couldn't it be replaced by something sportier, like lawnmower racing? ... Also wondering: Why do commercials by fear-monger Joel Matlin (the home alarm guy who tries to scare the bejeezus out of listeners) appear so often on sports radio? Are sports fans easier to scare than other radio listeners?
If anyone is wondering why CBC and TSN want Canadian teams as part of their hockey schedule, it was illustrated over the weekend.
TSN still has a Canadian team, the Calgary Flames, and as a result scored the highest ratings of the weekend. CBC, with Vancouver awaiting its next opponent and Montreal wondering how it could all go so wrong, saw its Stanley Cup playoff audiences take a dive. Saturday's Sharks-Ducks game was one of the least-watched Saturday night games on CBC all season.
None of this, of course, should shock anyone. Neither should some of the other ratings.
The Blue Jays are hot and scoring solid April ratings on Sportsnet. The NBA continues to draw flies (58,000 for Saturday's Denver-New Orleans playoff game.) Formula One racing is doing pretty well (163,000 for an 8 a.m. start.)
If there is a surprise, it's that a world championship hockey game between Canada and Hungary managed to pull in an average audience of 331,000 viewers. For Hungary? More amazing, it was on tape delay so anyone who cared already knew the results.
Then again, it is hockey.
Here are the most-watched sports events of the weekend, according to BBM Nielsen Media Research overnight ratings.
1. NHL playoffs, Flames at Blackhawks, Sunday, TSN: 885,000
2. NHL playoffs, Rangers at Capitals, Friday, TSN: 637,000
3. NHL playoffs, Devils at Hurricanes, Sunday, TSN: 628,000
4. NHL playoffs, Ducks at Sharks, Saturday, CBC: 551,000
5. NHL playoffs, Penguins at Flyers, Saturday, CBC: 542,000*
6. NHL playoffs, Capitals at Rangers, Sunday, TSN: 376,000*
7. Baseball, Blue Jays at White Sox, Friday, Sportsnet: 349,000**
8. Hockey worlds, Canada vs. Hungary, Sunday, TSN: 331,000
9. Baseball, Blue Jays at White Sox, Saturday, Sportsnet: 329,000
10. Baseball, Blue Jays at White Sox, Sunday, Sportsnet: 299,000
* Viewers for NBC not calculated
** Ontario and Pacific regions only
Let's examine the curious case of the 24 Toronto Blue Jays games previously owned by CBC.
When the public network decided last fall that it couldn't afford to keep losing money on the Jays, it dropped baseball -- leaving the team with 24 more games to try to get on television. TSN wasn't interested, so Rogers Sportsnet took them.
But Sportsnet apparently decided to take advantage of the situation to promote its regional package of channels. Those 24 games will be available only in the Ontario and Pacific regions. Those living in the West and East regions will get other major league games.
Sportsnet says it's doing this to offer viewers more choice. To illustrate that point, a release sent out yesterday points to the fact that the four Sportsnet feeds will carry 24 baseball games next week -- an impressive number.
In fact, I did hear from two viewers who were keen to watch tonight's Boston-New York game and were thrilled to hear it was on Sportsnet West. I also heard from others in Atlantic Canada and the west who called this a blatant cash grab, in effect forcing them to buy the multi-feed package.
Many fans in those regions aren't too happy about not getting to see their beloved Jays. They're Blue Jays fans first, baseball fans second. And they can't understand how a Rogers-owned channel is depriving them of watching the Rogers-owned Blue Jays.
Sportsnet, of course, has offered a solution. Those living in the East and West can buy the digital Sportsnet package (available at popular prices) and have a choice of watching the Yankees and Red Sox night or the Jays and White Sox.
Technically, they are being offered more choice. The catch is they have to pay for it.
Rogers Cable has been hinting for some time that a deal is near regarding its eight-month standoff over TSN2. Needless to say, people took them as about as seriously as those villagers took the boy who cried wolf.
But a development today may indicate that settlement is at hand. The Toronto Blue Jays have placed five games on TSN2 starting May 19, meaning a Rogers-owned property is scheduled to be carried on a channel that Rogers doesn't carry.
How embarrassing would it be for Rogers to tell its Southern Ontario customers that its team's games are available only on Bell TV, Star Choice and Cogeco? A lot more embarrassing than telling irate subscribers that Raptors games are available only on its competitors' systems, that's for sure. Especially when the only place to watch a Jays-Red Sox series next month is on TSN2.
If a deal isn't done by then, somebody should do a reality show on the Rogers customer service desk for that series.
But before we get too far into reading these chicken entrails, both sides are being cautious lest hopes get raised too high.
``The two issues are unrelated," said Rogers Cable spokesperson Nancy Cottenden. ``We want to carry the channel and are continuing to work towards a deal."
TSN echoed that.
``We think we are getting closer to a deal," TSN president Phil King said. ``Do we think it will be launched by the middle of May? It's not impossible, but you'll have to talk to Rogers."
The five games are in addition to the 20 TSN is already slated to carry. The games in question are part of the package that probably would have ended up on the Rogers preview channel, or not broadcast at all.
What King did say is that the addition of five Jays games is part an overall plan to boost the digital channel.
``We will continue to build TSN2 until it's the second most popular sports channel in the country," he said.
Hmm. Wonder who the current No. 2 is? Oh yeah, Rogers Sportsnet.
So far, the Stanley Cup playoffs have provided material for one of those good-news, bad-news jokes as far as TSN and CBC are concerned.
The good news for CBC is that it's dominating the sports ratings thanks mainly to the Vancouver Canucks and to a lesser degree the Montreal Canadiens. The bad news, outside of the fact there probably won't be any Montreal Canadiens in the second round, is that ratings are down 7 per cent overall from last year's first round.
The good news for TSN is that ratings are up 19 per cent as of Monday, thanks mainly to the presence of the Calgary Flames. The reason for this is obvious, of course. TSN's ratings are up mainly because it has a Canadian playoff team for the first time and CBC's are down because instead of having three Canadian teams as it did last year, it has only two now.
There is some bad news for TSN, outside of the fact that it probably won't have a Canadian team in the next round. The fact is that the cable network is again coming up short in efforts to match CBC ratings.
While the Flames are producing some of the highest NHL ratings ever at TSN, they have yet to hit the million mark that's a given when Canadian teams are featured on CBC. In managing to land events like the Grey Cup and Canadian content in the Stanley Cup playoffs, TSN has argued that it can match CBC's ratings.
Thus far, it isn't.
There's bad news for viewers, too. TSN is continuing to go the cheap route and pick up U.S. broadcasts of NHL series, which really isn't what Canadian viewers should be getting. Speaking of cheap, CBC had planned to saved money by showing Games 3 and 4 of the Vancouver-St. Louis series in standard definition before a grocery chain offered to pay the bills for HD.
You have to wonder if the chain got a tax deduction, though it's not clear if the CBC is now a registered charity.
TV BY THE NUMBERS
Here are the latest sports ratings on English-language TV in Canada, as supplied by BBM Nielsen Media Research:
1. Canucks at Blues, Tuesday, CBC: 1,668,000
2. Canucks at Blues, Sunday, CBC: 1,625,000
3. Blues at Canucks, Friday, CBC: 1,323,000
4. Bruins at Canadiens, Monday, CBC: 1,248,000
5. Canadiens at Bruins, Saturday, CBC: 1,174,000
6. Blackhawks at Flames, Monday, TSN: 938,000
7. Flyers at Penguins, Friday, CBC: 784,000
8. Sharks at Ducks, Tuesday, CBC: 738,000
9. Flames at Blackhawks, Saturday, TSN: 727,000
10. Penguins at Flyers, Sunday, CBC: 722,000
An aquaintance who never has warmed up to those living south of the border once claimed that if a Canadian did something that ranked as maybe the stupidest thing this country has ever seen, it would only be one-tenth as stupid as the dumbest thing ever done in America.
That may be an exaggeration (maybe 8 times, but 10 is a tad harsh) but here's a case he can cite to back his theory: The Roger Millions gaffe, which now does appear to be more a technical error, though those who make their living with a microphone should know better than to ever utter such words whether it's live or not, truly was dumb.
But the Millions' fiasco pales in comparison to the work of the mental giants behind the microphones at radio station Rock 104 in Mississippi. Those logging on to a live-streamed Southern Miss Golden Eagles game Saturday found not football but a conversation that included tasteless sexual references, belching and at least one racist remark.
Turns out these geniuses didn't realize the microphone was on.
``The employees were not aware that their conversation was accidentally being picked up by a live microphone and could be heard by Southern Miss fans who were trying to listen to the web cast of the game," an apology from Blakeney Communications, the company responsible for the webcast, stated. T``he conversation was NOT broadcast on the radio.
``The employees deeply regret any offensive remarks which may have been made and wish to apologize to Southern Miss fans. They have been severely reprimanded by Blakeney Communications. The comments made do not represent the views or opinions of Rock 104 or Blakeney Communications, Inc."
That last statement sure is a comfort.
If Rogers Sportsnet reporter Roger Millions was looking for fame, he's found it. His appearance on Sportsnet last night has assured him eternity on YouTube.
Rogers honcho Phil Lind dropped into The Star yesterday, mainly to chat with our editorial board and business department about the cable company's objections to Global and CTV getting more money for cable carriage. He made some good points, but that's not really my field of interest.
I figured I'd take the opportunity to ask for the latest on TSN2 and why Rogers is the lone holdout in carrying the digital channel, thus depriving Southern Ontario viewers from watching NHL playoff games, the Raptors, tennis and auto racing. Of course, it was mentioned that MLSE and TSN also deprived viewers of Raptors games by putting them on a channel that was guaranteed carriage in the country's biggest market.
Not surprisingly, there were few answers that will satisfy the deprived masses.
``If you've followed the YES Network in the States and a lot of others, it’s about money, coming to some sort of saw-off and price that’s all.
``It will be sawed off. There will be TSN2 on the dial. I don’t know when. I’m not authorized to say anything more than that."
Makes you wonder if the vice-chairman of the country's biggest cable company isn't authorized to say more than that, then who is?
I'm told, by others not authorized to say more, that this issue runs much deeper than what Rogers wants to pay for TSN2. It's about what Rogers is paying for a lot of things in the TSN family. Even if that's not the entire story, the fact is it's about one thing: money.
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