Networks play nice and viewers win
Let's hope the Great Hockey Game Swap sets a precedent.
In one of the most unusual broadcasting deals of all time, CBC and TSN traded hockey games last week, mainly to solve a couple of conflicts. Regardless of the reason, it served viewers very well.
TSN was planning to show the Boston-Carolina game while moving the Anaheim-Detroit match to TSN2. But it moved the latter to CBC, which had
a bunch of reruns no hockey that night. That meant not only a big audience for CBC but a lot of satisfied Rogers customers, who still can't get TSN2 until a deal is announced. (That should be any day now. I'm told Rogers has actually cleared space for the channel.)
In return for that Friday night surprise, CBC gave TSN its May 11 broadcast of the Pittsburgh-Washington game.
It happened, basically, because of conflicts. While TSN had its Friday logjam, CBC was facing a potential nightmare on May 11 because Game 6 of the Washington-Pittsburgh and Vancouver-Chicago series were both scheduled for that night. Assuming both series were still going, CBC would have had to either split the broadcast to different regions or start showing the Pittsburgh game and leave it to show the Vancouver match. Both solutions would have sparked a march of torch-and-pitchfork-carrying hockey fans along Front St.
So the swap served everybody -- and mostly the viewers. Too often, viewers end up missing out because one network won't shop its excess games to its competitors. Even if it does, the competition won't play ball for fear of helping their rivals.
See what happens when everybody plays nice?
The other oddity in this deal was that TSN ended up with the smaller audience on Friday. Maybe it will make that up next week.
It was a weekend of oddities. NBC scored a 1.4 rating for Saturday's Washington-Pittsburgh game, up 40 per cent from the comparable game last spring. Sunday's ratings aren't available yet, but a triple overtime thriller should score better than normal.
Speaking of scoring better than normal, Toronto FC did just that Saturday.
Maybe it was having hockey as a lead-in, or maybe it was the thirst for a winning team here but Toronto FC pulled in its biggest audience of the season Saturday. Its 1-1 draw with Columbus attracted an average audience of 261,000 on CBC. Overall this year, TFC is averaging 178,000 viewers on the public network, a vast improvement over 2008.
Here are the top-rated sports events of the past weekend, according to BBM Nielsen Media Research overnight ratings.
1. Hockey, Blackhawks at Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 1,879,000
2. Hockey, Hurricanes at Bruins, Sunday, TSN: 805,000
3. Hockey, Ducks at Red Wings, Friday, CBC: 746,000
4. Hockey, Penguins at Capitals, Saturday, CBC: 632,000*
5. Hockey Night In Canada pre-game show, Saturday, CBC: 574,000
6. Hockey, Ducks at Red Wings, Sunday, TSN: 567,000*
7. Hockey, Hurricanes at Bruins, Friday, TSN: 514,000
8. Baseball, Orioles at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 340,000
9. Soccer, Columbus at Toronto FC, Saturday, CBC: 261,000
10. Baseball, Orioles at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 255,000
* NBC's Canadian audiences not calculated