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When Rogers purchased NHL televisions rights for the next 12 seasons last November, everything was promised to be different. As Sportsnet rolled out its new flagship broadcasts, Wednesday Night Hockey, a reinvigorated Hockey Night in Canada and Hometown Hockey over the past week, the broadcasts felt remarkably similar to what we have watched on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central, HNIC and TSN in the past.
On Wednesday, Sportsnet signed on to show their first Wednesday Night Hockey telecast. In the studio were Hockey Central stalwarts Darren Millard, Doug MacLean, Nick Kypreos, joined by new recruit and former TSN analyst Darren Pang. While the studio itself was large, expansive and impressive, the on-air talent was the same as many regional broadcasts last season. But one can hardly really expect Sportsnet to compete with TSN’s James Duthie, Bob McKenzie and Aaron Ward regardless of how hard they try. What was more impressive, however, was Sportsnet in-game production. It felt very similar to a CBC broadcast, with CBC’s former lead broadcast crew of Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy and reporter Scott Oake still intact. The Canadiens-Leafs matchup gave us our first glimpse of the best innovation Sportsnet has offered thus far, the sky cam they installed at the ACC.
Something that I thought worked better than the Wednesday night broadcast was the debut of Hockey Night in Canada. Having the games spread out across CBC, City, Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet One was fantastic. Almost too much to keep track of. George Stroumboulopoulos exceeded my expectations as the new host. My only complaint is he seemed rushed at times during Sportsnet’s fast-paced pregame show. It was strange seeing Sportsnet microphone flags on CBC, but the broadcasts still felt very-CBC for a Sportsnet-produced broadcast. Again, Hughson, Simpson, Healy and Oake were at the helm in the primary 7:00pm ET broadcast on the CBC. Elsewhere former CBC personalities were equally well represented. Rick Ball and Kelly Hrudey were in St. Louis, Bob Cole and Greg Millen were in Tampa Bay, Garry Galley and reporter David Amber was in Philadelphia.
Elsewhere on Saturday night, Don Cherry was cut down to a 5 minute segment in the first intermission. I think in a small dose, his continuing presence on Hockey Night will be fine. But where Sportsnet really missed the mark was the second intermission. Officially the Hotstove has been axed, but Sportsnet has kept a lighter version of it. With insiders Cox, Friedman and Kypreos in studio, Sportsnet has the opportunity to return the Hotstove to its former glory. I know Scott Moore has been clear that he wants to shift the focus away from off-ice stories (which I think is a mistake, but that’s a different matter) to on-ice, but devoting one segment a week to trade rumours seems important, regardless.
While the broadcasts on Wednesday and Saturday were really more of the same, City’s Sunday night broadcast of Hometown Hockey was new and innovative. Unfortunately, it didn’t really appeal to me. Sportsnet seemed to want to capture a family audience, which is fine for a Sunday evening broadcast, but it could come at the risk of alienating fans. It doesn’t seem like a weekly must-watch for me. The studio panel, with George, Healy and Cox, looked very casual with no ties, in a style similar to many English soccer broadcasts in Sky and the BBC. It was an interesting, and noticeable differentiation from just about every other sports broadcast in North America.
All early ratings were slightly down from last year. The Wednesday night games averaged 2 million (MTL-TOR) and 1 million (VAN-CGY) viewers. Canadiens-Leafs is now the most watched broadcast in Sportsnet history though. Saturday numbers were also slightly down. The early games averaged 2.25 million viewers, with TOR-PIT leading the way at 1.57 million. The late games averaged 1.31 million viewers.
Just when you thought Rogers and Sportsnet couldn’t fill their schedule with any more hockey, here we are with an announcement that Sportsnet will broadcast the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s playoffs and special events in a four-year agreement.
Let the record show this deal is only for a grand total of four games a year — three Clarkson Cup championship playoff games and one “special event” to be named later. The CWHL will also take pride of place on sportsnet.ca, with game scores being featured on the site for the first time ever.
It’s good to see more womens sports on television, even if it is only four games. I’m not going to lie, I had never heard of the CWHL until this announcement, but if Sportsnet can give them a bunch of new fans, then you could consider the deal a success.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled that Sportsnet is on board to be our official playoff and special event broadcast partner,” CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress said. “This deal means unprecedented exposure for the female game, with more fans getting the chance to see our talented players in action every season and not just every four years, which will inspire more young girls to lace up their skates and pick up a stick.”
• TSN has finally redesigned their website. From the look of the previous one, the last update occurred in the early 2000s, which is an eternity when it comes to the evolution of web design. They seem to have finally implemented a responsive design for those visiting on tablets and phones, as well as gone with the whole “white space” look which makes it look somewhat similar to the Sportsnet.ca redesign that has been partially launched. ESPN will also be launching a new site shortly heavy on white space.
• Kraft Hockeyville will return for the next three years with Sportsnet taking over where CBC left off. Hockeyville looks to improve arenas and support grassroots hockey in communities across Canada with over $3.5 million of contributions.
• Hockey analytics are hotter than ever with teams and networks jumping onboard the NHL’s version of Moneyball. Sportsnet recently aired ‘A Numbers Game’ which took a look at the history and current status of the analytics era (online version here). TSN launched ‘TSN Hockey Analytics’ this season which will break down all the fancy new advanced stats that are available and will screen on TSN platforms including live game broadcasts and online. Full details available here.
• Sportsnet have released a sneak-peek time lapse video of construction of the new Hockey Central set for the upcoming season. It doesn’t show what the set actually looks like as I guess they want to show that off on opening night, but who doesn’t like a good time lapse video?!
• If you’re a fan of TSN Radio Toronto’s Blue Jays beat reporter Scott MacArthur, Toronto Sports Media have a Q&A interview with him discussing his recent interview with Colby Rasmus and the baseball beat in general.
• If you’re a fan of La Liga or just watching soccer in general in Spanish, then good news for you. The CRTC has approved beIN Sports Espanol for carriage in Canada. Check your local provider to see whether they carry it (Bell Fibe already is). The channel is included in your monthly fee for the English version of the channel.
• Speaking of Bell, NBA League Pass will finally be available this season to those with Bell Fibe or Bell Satellite. I have no idea why it was never carried and what caused the change, but for $150 you can view all out-of-market NBA games this upcoming season. Look out for the Canadian TV schedule in the coming weeks.
• Over at BarDown (TSN’s attempt at a Grantland/Deadspin-type of site, I think), there is brief interview with TSN’s founding president Gordon Craig on how TSN came to be formed way back in the summer of 1984. Fun fact: Even back then, TSN was using darts and snooker as programming filler.
ICYMI Posts From This Week:
Circle your calendars, people!! Monday morning at 10:30am ET, TSN will go from having two national channels to five in a bid to remain the number one sports network in Canada in light of losing the national NHL rights to Rogers. Announced back in May, TSN and TSN2 will become TSN 1 through 5 as three additional channels come online just in time to broadcast the final tennis major of the year, the US Open from Flushing Meadows in New York. All channels will be available on TSN.ca and the TSN GO app.
Four of the five TSN’s will be used as regional feeds for NHL games this season, doing away with alternate channels such as TSN-Jets and TSN-Sens which were only available in that particular market. Similar to how Sportsnet’s channels are broken down by region, TSN will be similar, as follows:
TSN 1 — BC, Yukon, (Update: Alberta) (Pacific)
TSN 2 — National
TSN 3 —
Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut (West)
TSN 4 — Leafs viewing area (Most of Ontario)
TSN 5 — Eastern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic (East)
TSN haven’t stated outright this is how it structured, but based on the release of their regional games for the Senators, Leafs and Jets, as well as other information, it should follow this pattern. I don’t know at all the way most cable/satellite TV packages work across the country, but if regular/current TSN is part of the basic package, that will switch to the TSN associated with your region. For example, regular TSN in Montreal will become TSN 5 as the basic/default TSN channel. At times, TSN 1, 3, 4, 5 will be showing the same programming for big events in order to reach the maximum number of viewers possibly (those with only basic cable).
The following providers have signed on to have all five networks available to customers (Videotron seems to be the biggest name that is missing):
- Bell Fibe / Satellite
- Cogeco Cable
- FibreOP TV (Bell Aliant)
- Shaw Direct
- Source Cable
- TELUS Optik TV
UPDATE: Channels listings for each provider can be found here.
The TSN presser about the new channels touts “more live game coverage, more choice of games/events taking place at the same time, expanded coverage of marquee live events, and effective scheduling of TSN studio programming”. This is noticeable from day one. TSN will dedicate four channels (TSN 1, 3, 4, 5) to showing four different feeds from the US Open (a more detailed US Open post to come later this weekend). Two feeds will feature dedicated court coverage, another will be ESPN’s feed featuring interviews and court-to-court coverage (jumping around to certain matches) and the fourth will also be court-to-court coverage (possibly the feed from the Tennis Channel).
Here is what the first week looks like as per my Bell guide:
- Four different feeds for US Open coverage on TSN 1, 3, 4, 5 all day and night.
- EPL game on TSN 2 at 3pm ET.
- Off The Record, Pardon the Interruption, Sportscentre from 5pm to 7pm ET on TSN 2.
- Monday Night Baseball on TSN 2 at 7pm ET.
- Sportscentre at 11pm ET on TSN 1, 3, 4, 5 and loops overnight. Random/replay programming on TSN 2.
Tuesday and Wednesday
- US Open coverage on TSN 1, 3, 4, 5 all day and night.
- TSN 2 canned programming during day. OTR, PTI, SC and studio programming run during afternoon and evening.
- Same as above but instead we get something new: Two NCAA football games on Thursday night. College football fans rejoice! Wake vs. Louisiana-Monroe at 7pm on TSN 2 (from ESPN U). Boise State vs. Mississippi at 8pm ET on TSN 3 (from ESPN).
- Sportscentre loops in the morning on 1, 3-5, TSN 2 has Aussie Rules football live.
- US Open coverage as above but with something new: 2:30pm ET on TSN 2 is NASCAR Sprint Cup practice. Speed Channel (RIP) fans rejoice!
- Friday night US Open coverage goes to only TSN 2 while the other channels show SC at 6pm followed by CFL.
- NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying shown on delay at 11:30pm ET on TSN 4.
- Three different EPL games on TSN 1, 3, 4 in the morning. No more online-only game and all five 10am EPL games will be on Canadian TV. Soccer fans rejoice!
- ESPN College Gameday on TSN 2. Sportscentre loop on TSN 5.
- Into the afternoon, US Open on TSN 2, 4, 5. NCAA football double-header on TSN 2 and 3. That’s four games. NCAA fans are foaming at the mouth at this stage.
- Saturday night: US Open on TSN 1, 4 & 5, NCAA on TSN 3, NASCAR on TSN 2 and MLS late on TSN 1 (Vancouver in action, hence the game on the “Pacific” feed).
- Both early EPL games: Tottenham vs. Liverpool on TSN 1 & 4, Aston Villa vs. Hull on TSN 3 & 5. SC loop on TSN 2.
- US Open features on all five channels at 11am, with TSN 5 breaking away in the afternoon for NASCAR Canadian Truck series.
- CFL matchup Winnipeg vs. Saskatchewan at 4pm ET on TSN 1, 3, 4, 5; US Open coverage continues only on TSN2.
- Sunday night has NASCAR on TSN 1 & 5, US Open on TSN 2 & 4, and Sunday Night Baseball on TSN 3.
So there we have it. More US Open than ever before, more EPL than before, more college football and more NASCAR, and that’s just week one. Seems safe to say this will be nothing like the way Sportsnet uses their four regional channels, showing the same programming 95% of the time. If you only have one TSN channel on your cable package, prepare to miss out a lot of sporting action in the future (then again, that’s the point right? To get more people to subscribe to a higher-tiered package to get all five channels).
For those on Bell, the new channels will be on channels 1400 through 1404.
It’s been awhile. Here are a bunch of things you may or may not know about.
On July 29th, the Blue Jays got their highest ever ratings for a non-opener. Just over one million people tuned in to watch the Jays take on the Red Sox, a record that has been set and broken numerous times since the beginning of the season as the Jays slowly climbed into first place in the AL East. Since then, the ratings have gone down slightly as the team crashed out of first place and now sit a number of games out of the wild card spot. The All-Star game was the most-watched in Sportsnet history with an average audience of 653,000. Ratings for the Home Run Derby were up 11% from last year. Both no doubt due to some Jays being featured.
Rogers NHL Schedule
ICYMI, here is the press release with the full slate of over 200 games that Rogers will be showing on CBC, Sportsnet, FX Canada and City. There are still 150 games to be added to that schedule of national and regional games. Look for a more detailed post on the new NHL coverage in Canada closer to season start.
The NBA released the 2014-15 schedule last night. Not that it matters much to anyone here, but for the first time in a long time, the Raptors have a decent amount of games on national television in the US. Nine in total, with three on ESPN, one on TNT and the remaining on NBA TV. The annual Christmas Day marathon will see Wizards-Knicks, Thunder-Spurs, Cavs-Heat, Lakers-Bulls and Warriors-Clippers. TSN and Sportsnet will release their Raptors and NBA schedules closer to the season opener. It will be interesting to see how fewer NBA will be on Sportsnet and whether TSN picks up the difference.
Tennis has been in the news lately as a number of Canadians perform well in big matches, especially at Wimbledon in June where TSN recording its highest-ever ratings for the men’s and women’s final. Milos Raonic made it to the semi-final where an average of 766,000 viewers on TSN and RDS tuned in, and on the women’s side, rapid-riser Genie Bouchard lost in the final in straight sets but it still drew a combined English-French audience of 1.8 million with a peak of 2.1 million. The men’s final between Djokovic and Federer got 823,000 combined. Even the men’s doubles final with Canadian Vasek Pospisil got just over 300,000.
The Rogers Cup in Toronto and Montreal didn’t draw close to any of those numbers as the Canadians were all bundled out early. CBC got 178k for the finals on Sunday and 148k and 133k for the Saturday semi-finals. The US Open begins on TSN on Monday.
FIFA World Cup Ratings
The final between Germany and Argentina garnered a new ratings record for soccer in Canada. An average of 4.9 million viewers tuned in (nearly 40% more than the 2010 World Cup) with more than 11 million people at least watching part of the game. The third-place game drew 2.3 million, which wasn’t as high as other playoff games. This was the last World Cup for CBC as TSN takes over from 2018.
Deckchairs on the Titanic
Bruce Arthur from the National Post to the Toronto Star. Cathal Kelly from the Toronto Star to The Globe and Mail. Damien Cox to Sportsnet full time from the Toronto Star. All continue to be garbage clowns. Richard Westhead also leaves The Star and goes to TSN as a “senior correspondent” having covered sports business on and off over the past 20 years.
WWE Network in Canada
Rogers announced recently they signed a 10-year agreement with WWE for broadcast and online distribution. Rogers inherited WWE programming when it took over The Score and will continue to show Raw, Smackdown and it’s other weekly shows, as well as distribute WWE pay-per-view events. Fans will receive see more WWE than ever before with this new deal.
Also included are exclusive rights to the WWE Network. Launched in the US in February, American subscribers pay $10 a month for Netflix-type service that includes thousands of hours of archived programming as well as exclusive online-only shows. Here in Canada however, it is a pale comparison. First, you have to be a Rogers cable customer, and it is currently a video on-demand service through their system. So, instead of watching whatever you choose, you can only watch from a very small selection. How small? According to this Reddit post, 12 PPVs. That’s the list, and one horrible looking graphics package to present it on, all for $12 a month. Classic Rogers.
While Bell and Rogers customers can access TSN GO, TSN’s online streaming service, Sportsnet’s equivalent that launched back in June is still currently only available to Rogers customers. Sportsnet NOW allows you to stream all seven Sportsnet channels on any device anywhere in Canada, blackout-free. Somewhat unusual there isn’t a two-way street when it comes to Rogers and Bell customers being able to watch the live streams, but of course, being a customer of any other cable company in Canada is far worse in this situation.
beIN Sports Connect
Previously known as beIN Sports Play, the online service of beIN Sports will now be known as beIN Sports Connect and offer more matches and features than the previous incarnation. Users will be able to stream the English and Spanish network as well as matches that are available only online.
Available via beinsportsconnect.ca, it will set you back $20 a month with an option for a discounted yearly subscription. Streaming is available on desktops, tablets and smart phones. beIN Sports are exclusive holders in Canada of soccer leagues including La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Capital One Cup, League Championship, Russian Premier League, as well as the World Superbike Championship, World Rallycross Championship and more.
Pretty sure that should catch you up on everything that has happened over the past few months. Here’s hoping we can get some posts up here more consistently as the sports world begins to awaken from their summer slumber, including a post next week as TSN adds three more channels and expanding their coverage.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup begins Thursday afternoon in Brazil as the host country plays Croatia. 32 countries from six continents will take part in the World Cup, with games played in 12 cities across Brazil. Canadian viewers will have access to every game from Brazil 2014 on television in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Italian. Games will also air on radio and CBC is launching a FIFA World Cup app to allow for live streaming on mobile devices.
English coverage will air on CBC (56 matches) and Sportsnet (8 matches). Scott Russell, Nigel Reed and Craig Forrest will host CBC’s primetime coverage every evening, with a live game (usually at 6pm ET) followed by an encore. Andi Petrillo will host CBC’s afternoon coverage, along with analysts Reed and Lloyd Barker. CBC also has two reporters in Brazil, Brenda Irving and David Amber. CBC will utilize the world feed commentators for their World Cup broadcasts, featuring Peter Drury, John Helm, Dave Woods, John Roder, Martin Fisher, Gary Bloom, Kevin Keatings and Dan O’Hagan.
English-language coverage is also available in Canada on ABC, which will broadcast 10 matches including the final. ABC’s coverage, which is produced by ESPN, features hosts Mike Tirico and Bob Ley. ESPN’s commentators are led by Ian Darke and Steve McManaman, who will call the final. Their other commentators include Jon Champion, Daniel Mann, Derek Rae, Adrian Healey and Fernando Palomo. Other prominent analysts on ABC include Stewart Robson, Efan Ekoku and Roberto Martinez.
French language coverage will mostly air on Radio-Canada, with TVA Sports picking up 18 matches as well. TLN will provide coverage in Spanish and Italian through its Univision Canada and Mediaset Italia channels. The main TLN channel will also show every game in Spanish or Italian, including encores in both languages. Spanish coverage will feature Univision commentators from the United States, while Italian coverage will feature Italian domestic commentators from Sky Italia.
You may be wondering, just who exactly are these world feed commentators? In that case, here is a quick rundown of where you may have heard each of them before.
- For Premier League viewers, Drury is probably the most familiar name and voice. He calls many of the Premier League’s biggest Sunday matches for the world feed. He was formerly a commentator at ITV, where he worked every World Cup between 1998 and 201o, as well as every European Championship between 2000 and 2012.
- John Helm has called every World Cup final in Canada since 2002. Helm is a bit of an oddity in that he doesn’t commentate on many big football matches anymore, outside of the World Cup. Ironically it was some 15 years ago that Drury pushed him aside as a commentator at ITV. Since then he hasn’t featured much on British domestic television.
- Dave Woods is a regular fixture of the world feed for both the World Cup. He has also worked for the BBC and was Five’s primary commentator when that network held Europa League rights. In Britain he is perhaps better known as a rugby league commentator, calling the biggest Super League matches for the BBC.
- John Roder regularly works matches for BBC highlight programs Match of the Day and The Football League Show. Last year he was one of the commentators for the Confederations Cup in Brazil.
- Martin Fisher also calls matches for BBC’s Match of the Day and The Football League Show. He has also recently called the UEFA Champions League final on the world feed.
- Gary Bloom was once the main commentator for Channel 4’s famed coverage of Football Italia, back when Serie A was the envy of the rest of Europe. Aside for the World Cup, I’m not sure what he’s done recently to be honest.
- Kevin Keatings is Sky Sports’ Spanish football commentator. He covers La Liga matches each weekend, as well as many UEFA Champions League matches featuring the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
- Dan O’Hagan is yet another commentator who works for BBC’s Match of the Day and The Football League Show.
Here is the complete English-language broadcast schedule. All CBC and ABC broadcasts are preceded by a 30 minute pregame show. Since most of Brazil is in the Atlantic Time Zone (ET + 1 hr), those are the times listed here.
Thursday 6/12, 5:00pm – Brazil vs. Croatia – CBC (John Helm)
Friday 6/13, 1:00pm – Mexico vs. Cameroon – CBC (Peter Drury)
Tuesday 6/17, 4:00pm – Brazil vs. Mexico – CBC
Wednesday 6/18, 7:00pm – Cameroon vs. Croatia – CBC (Dan O’Hagan)
Monday 6/23, 5:00pm – Croatia vs. Mexico – CBC/SN
Monday 6/23, 5:00pm – Cameroon vs. Brazil – CBC/SN
Friday 6/13, 4:00pm – Spain vs. Holland – CBC (Dave Woods)
Friday 6/13, 7:00pm – Chile vs. Australia – CBC (Dan O’Hagan)
Wednesday 6/18, 1:00pm – Australia vs. Holland – CBC (John Roder)
Wednesday 6/18, 4:00pm – Spain vs. Chile – CBC
Monday 6/23, 1:00pm – Holland vs. Chile – CBC/SN (John Roder)
Monday 6/23, 1:00pm – Australia vs. Spain – CBC/SN (Dan O’Hagan)
Saturday 6/14, 1:00pm – Colombia vs. Greece – CBC/ABC (Adrian Healey & Taylor Twellman)
Saturday 6/14, 10:00pm – Cote d’Ivorie vs. Japan – CBC (Gary Bloom)
Thursday 6/19, 1:00pm – Colombia vs. Cote d’Ivorie – CBC
Thursday 6/19, 7:00pm – Japan vs. Greece – CBC (Gary Bloom)
Tuesday 6/24, 5:00pm – Greece vs. Cote d’Ivorie – CBC/SN
Tuesday 6/24, 5:00pm – Japan vs. Colombia – CBC/SN (Kevin Keatings)
Saturday 6/14, 4:00pm – Uruguay vs. Costa Rica – CBC/ABC (Jon Champion & Stewart Robson)
Saturday 6/14, 7:00pm – England vs. Italy – CBC (Kevin Keatings)
Thursday 6/19, 4:00pm – Uruguay vs. England – CBC
Friday 6/20, 1:00pm – Italy vs. Costa Rica – CBC
Tuesday 6/24, 1:00pm – Italy vs. Uruguay – CBC/SN (Gary Bloom)
Tuesday 6/24, 1:00pm – Costa Rica vs. England – CBC/SN
Sunday 6/15, 1:00pm – Switzerland vs. Ecuador – CBC/ABC (Adrian Healey & Alejandro Moreno)
Sunday 6/15, 4:00pm – France vs. Honduras – CBC (John Roder)/ABC (Daniel Mann & Kasey Keller)
Friday 6/20, 4:00pm – Switzerland vs. France – CBC
Friday 6/20, 7:00pm – Honduras vs. Ecuador – CBC (Kevin Keatings)
Wednesday 6/25, 5:00pm – Ecuador vs. France – CBC/SN
Wednesday 6/25, 5:00pm – Hondruas vs. Switzerland – CBC/SN (Dan O’Hagan)
Sunday 6/15, 7:00pm – Argentina vs. Bosnia – CBC
Monday 6/16, 4:00pm – Iran vs. Nigeria – CBC (Dan O’Hagan)
Saturday 6/21, 1:00pm – Argentina vs. Iran – CBC
Saturday 6/21, 7:00pm – Nigeria vs. Bosnia – CBC (Dan O’Hagan)
Wednesday 6/25, 1:00pm – Nigeria vs. Argentina – CBC/SN
Wednesday 6/25, 1:00pm – Bosnia vs. Iran – CBC/SN
Monday 6/16, 1:00pm – Germany vs. Portugal – CBC
Monday 6/16, 7:00pm – Ghana vs. United States – CBC (Gary Bloom)
Saturday 6/21, 4:00pm – Germany vs. Ghana – CBC
Sunday 6/22, 7:00pm – United States vs. Portugal – CBC (Kevin Keatings)
Thursday 6/26, 1:00pm – United States vs. Germany – CBC/SN (Gary Bloom)
Thursday 6/26, 1:00pm – Portugal vs. Ghana – CBC/SN
Tuesday 6/17, 1:00pm – Belgium vs. Algeria – CBC
Tuesday 6/17, 7:00pm – Russia vs. Korea – CBC (Kevin Keatings)
Sunday 6/22, 1:00pm – Belgium vs. Russia – CBC (Gary Bloom)/ABC
Sunday 6/22, 4:00pm – Korea vs. Algeria – CBC/ABC
Thursday 6/26, 5:00pm – Korea vs. Belgium – CBC/SN
Thursday 6/26, 5:00pm – Algeria vs. Russia – CBC/SN (Kevin Keatings)
Saturday 6/28, 1:00pm – A1 vs. B2 – CBC/ABC
Saturday 6/28, 5:00pm – C1 vs. D2 – CBC/ABC
Sunday 6/29, 1:00pm – B1 vs. A2 – CBC
Sunday 6/29, 5:00pm – D1 vs. C2 – CBC
Monday 6/30, 1:00pm – E1 vs. F2 – CBC
Monday 6/30, 5:00pm – G1 vs. H2 – CBC
Tuesday 7/1, 1:00pm – F1 vs. E2 – CBC
Tuesday 7/1, 5:00pm – H1 vs. G2 – CBC
Friday 7/4, 1:00pm – Quarterfinal #1 – CBC
Friday 7/4, 5:00pm – Quarterfinal #2 – CBC
Saturday 7/5, 1:00pm – Quarterfinal #3 – CBC/ABC
Saturday 7/5, 5:00pm – Quarterfinal #4 – CBC
Tuesday 7/8, 5:00pm – Semifinal #1 – CBC
Wednesday 7/9, 5:00pm – Semifinal #2 – CBC
Saturday 7/12, 5:00pm – Third Place Match – CBC
Sunday 7/13, 4:00pm – Championship Final – CBC/ABC
As anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably figured out over the past month, I have a real problem with CNN’s coverage of the missing Fight MH370. And my argument isn’t that the story doesn’t constitute news. It certainly does. In fact it probably has deserved to lead every national newscast for the past month, except for a few days after the horrific mudslides in Washington. Instead my problem is that CNN shills out hour after hour of MH370 coverage, at the expense of other very important news, for ratings. Which leads me to my second problem, that America is more fascinated with this than it is with other news items, such as Russia annexing a sovereign country or the America’s new medical insurance program, which in some way directly impacts just about every American.
And this coverage has undoubtedly paid off for CNN in terms of ratings and profit. Recently released ratings for the month of March show that CNN is ahead of competitor MSNBC for the first time since last summer. MSNBC, for their part, has tried to stay away from excessive plane coverage. This shows a general correlation that more plane coverage = higher ratings, less plane coverage = lower ratings. CNN’s weekday primetime coverage for March 2014 is up 35% in total viewers compared to March 2013. Between March 12 and March 14 Anderson Cooper’s “360” beat Bill O’Reilly’s “Factor” on Fox News three consecutive nights.
And, so, it absolutely baffles me that so many people have watched CNN repeat the same news hour after hour every day. In fact, it seems much of the news is the same each day that passes. CNN’s coverage was fantastic in the first few days after the plane’s disappearance. However, CNN’s coverage quickly turned to filling time with conspiracy theories and other inane filler that doesn’t actually result in the reporting of any news, you know, what news reporters are supposed to do. The inane on CNN has ranged from countless “aviation experts”, some of whom have very questionable credentials, to a full-time reporter at a flight simulator in Mississauga (the only time Canada is ever mentioned on CNN, I might add), to model planes and the use of “breaking news” for the smallest of items.
I’ll start with the aviation experts. Some of these experts are in fact ex-pilots or flight engineers, or at least I’d hope they are. However, CNN’s go-to man on aviation expertise is Richard Quest. A CNN regular, Quest is only moonlighting as an expert on MH370, he has a day job as a CNN business analyst. One could question why Quest even still has a job at CNN, after he was found in Central Park with crystal meth in 2008. But I’ll simply stick to questioning why he is a plane analyst (er aviation expert), and the answer is I haven’t a clue.
Another aspect of CNN’s time-filling is their use of planes, big and small, real and fake. CNN has used the simulator in Mississauga quite often to show what it is like for a plane to ascend, descend or turn left at a rapid rate. Only problem is none of us viewers can actually tell what these movements feel like, so we have to rely on the CNN reporter inside the cockpit to describe them for us. Fascinating stuff. If a life-size simulator wasn’t enough, Don Lemon appealed to the inner-child in all of us when he showed the plane’s movements using a model plane a few weeks ago. This 80 second video is great because it pretty much sums up CNN’s speculation as well. And, unbelievably, it wasn’t Don Lemon’s worst on-air moment of the past month, but more on that later.
The craziest part of CNN’s coverage are the theories of what happened to the plane. Of course we really don’t know what happened and won’t until the black box is recovered, if it ever is. But that simple, newsworthy explanation would only take a minute to report. CNN needed something juicy that would last for days. And so, the conspiracy theories came in. The first of these was the immediate linking two Iranians with stolen passports (apparently a rather disturbingly often occurrence) to a supposed hijacking. When officials revealed the plane could be in any number of former Soviet Union countries, speculation began that the Iranians were going to use the plane for a later terrorist attack on Israel. Then investigators realized the Iranians were just normal passengers, so attention turned to the pilots, despite a complete lack of evidence that either had any motive. But no, CNN’s theories didn’t stop there at these surprisingly plausible explanations. CNN had to go a step further, quickly turning the “Zombie Plane Theory” (why not latch on to America’s most watched show, The Walking Dead?), while Lemon outdid himself questioning if the plane’s disappearance was supernatural or caused by a mini black hole.
But I think CNN’s coverage, and America’s consumption of it, shows a larger problem with society. In a reality show era of television, live 24/7 news has almost become just another form of reality TV. There are many examples before MH370. One of the defining examples was nightly primetime coverage of the Iraq War. CNN, along with Fox News and MSNBC, showed coverage of American bombings in Iraq. And the people loved it as all three cable news networks set ratings records. Fascinated viewers watched villages being bombed. Regardless of the fact that these bombings killed many innocent people, viewers didn’t care because they never actually saw this. It also deflected coverage away from talk about whether the war itself was just, ethical or any number of other things. Another example was the coverage of the search for the Boston Marathon bombers a year ago. Of course the difference was that search lasted 24 hours, not a month. And for the record, I thought it did make for fascinating television.
I think CNN could cover the plane story better by covering it less, and by focusing on other ignored aspects. For example cooperation, or a lack of, between the various Asian countries involved in the search could be investigated more. As could the poorly handled investigation by Malaysia or whether any Asian countries are considering better radar coverage. Or they could look into how outrageously easy it seems to board a plane with fake passports.
Actually I think CNN had one of the great, moving moments in news this year when it aired an interview with the previously mentioned Iranian passenger’s mother. Turns out she is living in Germany, receiving cancer treatments and awaiting refugee status. Her son wanted to visit her quickly in case her cancer became worse. He figured a stolen passport was his best chance to get from Iran to Germany. Due to his love for his mother, he was on the plane. And now she has to live with that. The interview is absolutely heartbreaking.
The other thing that is fascinating about CNN’s coverage is the flow of events. When it came to light the plane had taken a left turn after leaving Malaysia, which I consider the turning point in this whole event, CNN has constantly clung on to one small piece of news per day, before discarding it for something else when it is proven irrelevant. They started off with the “northern and southern arcs”, and how the plane could have been flown to some remote former Soviet airstrip unnoticed. Despite that logic tells us the plane probably flew south crashing into the Indian Ocean, CNN focused on the remote possibility that it was refueling somewhere in one of the “stans” for a potential future terror attack.
When officials revealed it had in fact headed south, CNN turned their focus to the pilot’s flight simulator. They made it sound odd that a pilot who loved flying would own a simulator. They came up with theories that maybe he had practiced flying a plane into the Indian Ocean, or maybe an airstrip on a small island in the Indian Ocean, and that this was (or had once been) recorded on his simulator. When these theories had finally run their course, and investigators announced there was a new “search area” off the coast of Australia, CNN moved their coverage to an entirely new continent.
And with this new search area came over a week of day-after-day coverage with breaking news, officials had found “their best lead yet.” Of course that isn’t saying much considering every lead in this story has turned out completely wrong. And so CNN took to showing grainy satellite images of objects in the ocean, and day after day these turned out to be ocean trash. And now with the news that Chinese and Australian officials have found the much-talked about, famous “pings” of the black box maybe they will finally find the wreckage and CNN can move on to reporting actual news about the crash, which I think we are all anxious to hear, and put behind them this embarrassing reality-show style coverage.