CBC makes case for amateur sports
When the Canadian Olympic Committee sounded off recently about the lack of amateur sports on television, CBC Sports boss Scott Moore was a tad irritated.
While he understood that the COC wasn't pleased that its application for an amateur sports channel is still collecting dust two years after it was filed, he felt that his network's contributions to amateur sports were being ignored.
He has a point. Nobody does more amateur sports than CBC.
``We continue to be the only major broadcaster that consistently schedules amateur sports and we're proud of that," he says. But Moore's not sure there's a case for the kind of blanket coverage the COC is proposing.
``Generally, I agree there isn't enough amateur sports on TV," Moore says. ``Is there enough demand? That's the question.
``Can there be more? Yes, but we and the private networks have to look at the investment, the return and the audience numbers. It's easy to say there should be more, but there's got to be a return."
In other words, unless these sports can draw a large enough audience to justify the rights' costs, they're not going to get much more exposure.
Take the case of skier Erik Guay. Barely two weeks after Canadians went ga-ga over our Olympic athletes in Vancouver, Guay won a World Cup championship. The event was shown on CBC the same day.
You'd have thought the country would be captivated by such an event. But fewer than 100,000 viewers -- 5 per cent of your average Hockey Night In Canada broadcast -- bothered to watch. World Cup races last weekend did even worse.
``Every Olympics without fail people talk about how exciting amateur sports are and that there should be more of it on television," Moore says. ``But they don't seek them out in big numbers.
``Every other year, we in the broadcasting industry think this is the year there will be a bigger holdover effect. But it doesn't happen and that's disappointing."
The fact is that amateur sports tend to get lost in the shuffle, unless the Olympics are on when huge dollars are at stake.
``It's a crowded marketplace," says Moore. ``It's tough to compete with all the major league sports on TV. Amateur sport has to compete with that and it's tough to compete with the big promotional push coming across the border. It's tough to build a profile."
Part of the problem does lie with CBC. Because little of its prime-time programming draws huge audiences, the network doesn't have much opportunity to promote amateur sports coverage.
When CTV runs a sports promo during Canadian Idol, it speaks to millions. CBC doesn't have that kind of clout.
Then there's the Bold problem. CBC runs a lot of amateur sports live on its oddly named digital channel. But because it has so few subscribers, much of that is wasted. That's why CBC wants another sports-specific channel, but that's another matter.
The fact is that amateur sports' only hope for exposure is the CBC. The private networks simply aren't interested in most amateur sports because they either lose money or barely break even.
If it hadn't been for the CBC, Canadian figure skating fans would be out of luck next week when the world figure skating championships start. Nobody else wanted the skating package.
It would be great to see more exposure for our amateur athletes. But the sad truth is that the public has to demand it first. Outside of the Olympics, that's not happening.
STARS ON ICE: CBC Bold and the CBC Sports website will have complete coverage of the world figure skating championships from Turin starting Tuesday at 7 a.m. As for the main channel, it will have coverage every weekday afternoon starting at 3 and live coverage on the weekend.
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PARALYMPIC PARADOX: CTV is saying it was so encouraged by ratings for the Paralympics opening ceremonies that it has changed its mind and will show Sunday's closing ceremonies live across the country. But there's no doubt that criticism of the network's earlier decision to show the opening ceremonies a day after the fact to most Canadians had something to do with this move. While the CTV-Rogers Olympic consortium is carrying more Paralympic coverage than ever, the fact is that there's an appetite for more. CTV, which had not planned to carry the closing ceremonies, drew a combined audience of 1.4 million for last Friday's opening show. It was aired live only in B.C. Sunday's finale begins at 10 p.m. EDT.
TFC BETTER DEFINED: Once again, all Toronto FC games will be carried on Canadian television. But there is an improvement this season: all games will be in HD. CBC is carrying the bulk of the games with 13, starting April 25 against Seattle. Rogers Sportsnet has 10, beginning with the May 1 game against Real Salt Lake. MLSE-owned GolTV has the other seven, including the season opener March 27 in Columbus.