Analyzing 2012 March Madness Coverage

Right then, after a crazy opening round that saw two 15 seeds move on, the NCAA basketball tournament settled down a bit over the weekend. Ohio, a 13 seed, are the lowest seed remaining. One could say the same about TSN’s television coverage in Canada. It started off a bit shaky, but seemed to fall into place over the weekend. There are always those who are dissatisfied with television coverage of a sports event, especially here in Canada where Canadian networks have to live up to the high standards of their US counterparts. However, based on the reaction I received, many viewers think TSN’s coverage has improved significantly from last year.

As a couple of readers said, you can’t beat CBS’s coverage. I couldn’t agree more with this. CBS, especially with TNT’s NBA personalities included, does a spectacular job with the tournament. Let’s not kid ourselves, TSN’s coverage could probably never be as good as CBS’s. But neither could any other Canadian network’s IMO. There just aren’t any basketball studio hosts the calibre of Ernie Johnson or Greg Gumble in Canada. And while Jack Armstrong, Leo Rautins and Sherman Hamilton are knowledgeable, they aren’t Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Seth Davis.

So what has TSN improved from last year? A lot in my opinion. Kate Beirness is more knowledgeable about college hoops than James Cybulski. Not to mention she is a better studio host. Cybulski stumbled over his words and often made mistakes last year. It seems many agree that Beirness looks like did her research before the tournament. She looks prepared.

The rest of TSN’s studio coverage is just about the same as last year. Although Hamilton, Armstrong and Rautins seem more prepared this year than last. Of course all three have a full-time job covering the Toronto Raptors, so much like Barkley and Smith on American TV, they don’t spend most of their time from November until March watching college hoops.

The formula for TSN’s game selection is quite simple. They have usually selected games with a Canadian playing in them. Which is the right move. They have shown some games that are also on CBS, but I don’t see a problem with this when there is a Canadian angle. TSN is a Canadian network, the easiest storyline to draw in the average sports fan (and non-sports fan alike) is when a Canadian is playing. When there are no Canadians, the best game seems to take precedence. TSN also seems to shy away from using CBS coverage when only TSN or TSN2 are showing coverage (and there are others game on). Again, this is the right move. If I had one complaint about TSN’s game selection it is they stay with games that are over a bit too long.

One major way TSN could improve their coverage is online streaming. Many people are at work on Thursday and Friday afternoon. TSN could probably do reasonably well with online streaming. The NCAA’s service is no longer available to Canadians as of this year.

I received one comment saying theScore’s coverage was better. One reason for this (from the same person) was that TSN doesn’t show the whole tournament. This is where I think it is worth pointing out that TSN had 24 (it was actually closer to 25) hours on coverage on Thursday and Friday. Equal to what theScore had in the past. TSN2 supplemented coverage with about 20 hours. There is no possible argument that TSN showed less on Thursday and Friday than theScore.

TSN inevitably had scheduling issues on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday it was MLS and curling. On Sunday, more curling and NASCAR. When the MLS and NASCAR aired there was only one game taking place. That game was on CBS and TSN2, so again, there is no reasonable complaint. As for the curling, the World Women’s Championship is of national interest (remember what I said about storylines for the average sports fan). It is in TSN’s contract that they have to broadcast those games. And why wouldn’t they? Curling is one of the five most watched sports in Canada.

In total, there were games taking place between 8:30pm ET and midnight on Saturday when TSN wasn’t broadcasting coverage (and CBS was on until 10:30). On Sunday from the time CBS went off the air at 7:30pm, TSN came on from 7:30-9:30pm. There was no coverage on Canadian basic cable from 9:30pm until midnight on Sunday.

So, those with basic cable missed out on about 3 hours of the first 48 hours of coverage. Not too bad. Perfect? I suppose not. Certainly better than last year.

As I said, I like TSN’s coverage. I liked theScore’s coverage too, but I didn’t like when I taken from a game I was interested in. At least TSN shows close to full coverage of games. I know not everyone prefers this, but I do. Sure, like many others, I’ll probably move on to CBS next weekend, but I think TSN did a fine job of keeping viewers up-to-date when there was up to four games on this weekend.

Hockey ratings… Basketball fans can bring on the jokes about everything in Canada having to refer to hockey, but I have some hockey ratings from last week. 664, 000 watched Senators @ Canadiens on TSN Wednesday night. That’s less than the Leafs and Canucks draw when they play an American team on Wednesday Night Hockey. Of course Habs ratings have fallen steadily as the playoffs get closer (not for them of course). I hope to have HNIC’s weekend ratings on Monday or Tuesday.

Senators on Saturday… CBC still hasn’t announced the distribution for Hockey Night in Canada this coming weekend. I think Penguins-Senators will go to Ottawa and Atlantic Canada for sure. The Leafs and Habs are both out of the playoff picture, while the Senators and Penguins are fighting for home ice. I think it will also go to British Columbia. Many Canadians receive CBC HD on cable from Toronto and Vancouver. By putting a different game on CBC Vancouver, more Canadians will have access to multiple games in HD. CBC experimented with this earlier this season. I think the Leafs game will air in Alberta though, but I could be wrong. CBC will officially release details early this week.

Formula 1… Ben Edwards, BBC’s new Formula 1 commentator, can get a bit excited, can’t he? Having said that, I think he did a fine job in his first Formula 1 on BBC assignment. It didn’t hurt that he had a thrilling race to call. Him and analyst David Coulthard need to work on their chemistry a bit though. They seemed to talk over each other a bit too much. That will come as they do more races together. Gary Anderson, BBC’s technical analyst in the pits, is a nice addition, but I think he was used too much.

Less McKenzie… BBC seemed to use pit reporter Lee McKenzie sparingly on Sunday. Which was surprising considering popular drivers like Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa didn’t finish. One reason for this could be because the BBC didn’t show the race live. As a result, they may have just shown all of their interviews at the end of their highlights package.

Fabrice Muamba… Let me finish this by asking everyone to keep Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba in your thoughts. Muamba collapsed during Bolton’s FA Cup game against Spurs on Saturday. He is in critical condition. Dan O’Hagan, who commentates on FA Cup matches (he wasn’t working the Bolton vs. Spurs game) said on Twitter, “…would hate to be broadcasting there.” Jon Champion, who was commentating on ESPN in Britain, spoke for the masses when he said “Secretly, we fear the worst, but hope for the best”.

24 thoughts on “Analyzing 2012 March Madness Coverage

  1. Of course Ottawa-Habs had viewers on RDS whereas Van and Tor games versus US teams didn’t.

    • Yes. Although Habs RDS ratings have been taking a dive lately too. Can’t even make top 30.

      I’m interested to see the CBC rating for the Friday game. Interested to see if it is higher or lower than TSN.

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  3. Online streaming would definitely be a huge plus, whether it is free or just a few dollars like in the US. What I don’t care about, and don’t want, is their stupid Bell mobile TV garbage.

  4. I’d imagine it’s one of their sneaky ways to get people to switch to Bell, but it seems to be backfiring. Does *anyone* have that package?

    I can’t get Bell at all even if I wanted to (apartment, nowhere to put a dish), so they’ve left me with no legal way to watch anything except what TSN thinks I should care about. And I don’t care about who has the most Canadians either.

    • Exactly. And its the problem with Bell and Rogers owning the two largest (or at least 2 of the 3) television providers and the two big sports channels.

      Similarly, I’m actually a bit surprised Rogers hasn’t tried to get Extra Innings off Bell and make it cable-exclusive.

      • these problems did not exist years ago before the crtc went into a communist state, we used to get direc tv and dish network in canada, and never watched canadian cable, now the crtc banned it and caused a monopoly, all canadians should rise up for their freedom, and get rid of the crtc, crtc is nothing but an evil corporation. they knew usa satellite like direc tv had 40 million a year in subscriptions from canadians, so they banned it so the only cable monopoly rogers or bell satellite would get all the $ instead, however they both are terrible service providers. I WANT MY DIREC TV BACK FUCK U CRTC

        • Haha communist state. I pity if you ever have to live in a real communist state, not quite as enjoyable as Canada, I’d imagine.

          Where did you get the 40 million number from? I find it highly unlikely. It had never really been legal to sub to Direc TV in Canada, and it is still possible.

  5. I was very upset with TSN’s coverage, especially with the Duke-Lehigh game on. As much as TSN is looking to pull ratings, most viewers would rather watch it on CBS just to avoid TSN’s annoying ticker. Those of us who wanted to watch the Michigan game barely caught any of the action.

    Since TBS, TNT and truTV aren’t available in Canada, TSN and TSN2 should show the games that are on those networks, leaving viewers to go to CBS if they want that specific game. There’s no reason when there’s 4 games going on that only two are available.

    • CBS’s ticker is bigger and blocks a good amount of the screen, just saying. I was watching the Senators game on Friday night until the Notre Dame game started, so I can’t really comment on TSN’s coverage for Friday.

      • well you know not much about ncaa basketball, if you prefer to watch a lame nhl game over the ncaa tournament. really is this why not all the games are on canadian cable, cause canadians prefer watching lame duck sports like nhl or curling, over the greatest tournament on the planet next to the world cup of soccer.

        • That’s YOUR opinion. I can watch whatever the hell I want. I happen to prefer the UEFA Champions League to the World Cup and the NHL playoffs to March Madness. Not that I hate March Madness, but there is no reason why I should spend every second of my day watching it. I watched my favourite hockey team (Ottawa) and then my favourite college team (Notre Dame).

          How do you know what I know about college hoops?

  6. I also found out that it now costs in the US for the Streaming of the games (It was free last year) and Bell was offering a package for the 1st 3 rounds of the tourney on TV (All the Games that TSN and TSN Did Not Broadcast throughout the second and third rounds and the 4 First Four Games that were only available by online).

  7. I avoided CBS whenever Nantz & kellog were doing the games – they’re so way over the top.

    I also noticed that the quality of play has really deteriorated over the past decade with players using schools like Kentucky as NBA finishing schools, no one of any quality staying 4 years and general dearth of American based talent with European players largely opting out of the NCAA route.

    The strategy is still there but during the season and now into the tourney, there has been some snoozers and just outright lack of talent on display.

    • you are slly sir and dont know much about ncaa basketball, there is more parity the last few years i nthe sport as there ever has been before and that is a good thing. look at calipari teams loaded with nba talent like memphis and derrick rose team and kentucky last year, neither of them won the national title however. maybe you never heard of vcu or butler last year, cause you were watching curling instead thanks to tsn

      • He’s actually right, mate. More and more top players are one and done or are coming out of Europe. It is, to a degree, draining the talent in college basketball. Just look at the 1st round selections in the draft in June and see how many of them made it to their Junior or Senior year.

        Don’t just assume that you know more than everybody else.

  8. Not a fan of Ben Edwards. He has an annoying voice; reminds me of Jonathan Legard. I watched a live stream of Croft and Brundle on SKY instead, which is what I’ll continue to do providing I can find a really good quality stream. Brundle is just top-notch, and I feel Ted Kravitz is really underrated. SKY > BBC.

  9. most canadians do whatever the government tells them to. we never used to have these problems worrying about if a game is missing on tv for ncaa tournament, we used to have direc tv until the crtc banned it. crtc is an evil corporation, before in canada you could go to radioshack and buy dish network or direc tv. now it all banned and very impossible to get up in canada. and tsn and tsn 2 is terrible with ncaa tournament coverage, they put hockey on 1 night on tsn 2 when basketball should of been on, and on tsn they have womens curling really? why is that even on tv for , especialy over ncaa basketball. that is ridiculous. also now does not allow canada to get the march madness on demand on the computer which sucks. the games that are missing on tsn, i have been forced to watch on european internet site that steals tv signals. it is ridiculous tsn and tsn 2 cant put all the games on somehow. also cbs always has a game on, and sometimes tsn or tsn 2 will show that game as well so the same game is on 2 channels that is ridiculous. this is the best sporting event on the planet, they need to cover it better in canada in the future. or i will be spending my march from now on in usa. ALSO WE USED TO GET TBS IN CANADA AND TRU TV USED TO BE COURT TV, AND WE USED TO GET COURT TV IN CANADA. THE ONLY CHANNEL WE NEVER GOT WAS TNT ON NORMAL CANADIAN ROGERS CABLE. however since the crtc crap came into effect 4 or 5 years ago, court tv now tru tv is no longer on the air, and neither is tbs it was replaced by peachtree tv. that is ridiculous, if you gonna ban direc tv and dish network in canada, atleast put tbs and tru tv back on cable. some of the shows on canada action tv are the same as tru tv, however they dont put the ncaa tournament on. wake up canada basketball was partialy invented in canada, it pathetic that crap like curling is getting more attention by tsn than ncaa tournament. id love to see ratings compared, i bet more people rather watch basketball than freakin curling are you kidding me canada?

    • We used to get WTBS in Canada, which became Peachtree TV. Court TV Canada was a separate channel from Court TV US. Those channels re-branding had nothing to do with the CRTC. Do your research before you make false accusations.

      Sorry to break it to you, but curling is about the 5th most popular sport in Canada (behind NHL, NFL, CFL and maybe baseball).

      You can see some of the ratings right here:

      TSN won’t even release the NCAA ratings because they are so low. I hate to break it to you. March Madness has a cult following in Canada. There are those who really like it, then there are many who simply don’t care. Because you like college hoops and others like curling doesn’t make you better than them, which you seem to imply.

    • Someone feels butthurt.

      Firstly, WTBS was re-launched as a local independent station, simply as a condition of their new national MLB contract (which required them to stop showing Braves games nationally through TBS, and didn’t allow them to show their new package on WTBS)

      Secondly, in Canada, Court TV got re-launched as Investigation Discovery. And Discovery, most of the time, has better content anyway.

      Though I agree, I’d like to see maybe, simsub CBS game on CTV Two, then use TSN/TSN2 to show TruTV/TBS/TNT games?

  10. In my opinion, Canadians should have more options with their cable choices. Speaking without the consent of the author of the post, but clearly there is a frustration in his tone in regards to the coverage of US sports in Canada.

    Here are a couple suggestions:

    1. TSN2 during the morning block (8-12), should show ESPN’s live morning Sportscenter instead of reruns of That’s Hockey 2 Nite

    2. Allow Canadian customers to purchase streaming packages from, that are specifically ESPN created content. The CRTC controls the air and radio waves but does not have the same jurisdiction over the internet. Subscribers for $15 a month, can have access to ESPN3.

    3. Probably the most simplistic yet unrealistic suggestion it open the airwaves. Allow Canadians the options to purchase DirectTV. First of all, we all have to realize that in this country our cable bills are ridiculously high in comparison to our neighbours to the South. Granted there is a bigger market, but when you see advertisements for $40.00 HD satellite versus the $100.00 cable we pay in Canada, it is frustrating.

    Since I have moved back from grad school in the US to Canada, I have been disappointed with the sports coverage in this country. But I have realized a couple of things. Hockey is king and if you come after the king you best not miss. (Wire Reference) College sports are non existent, unless you purchase the SuperSports Channel. TSN is building a monopoly on content, which only further strengthens their position as the market leader. When they own everything, they control everything, limiting choice for the consumer. Also, when you speak to people at TSN, Sportsnet and the Score, they do not understand our frustrations because they have access to ESPN and similar American channels at their place of work.

    My opinion since Day 1 is that TSN offers an inferior product than ESPN for my preferences. They might knock it out of the park with hockey, but come March I am hockey-ed out.

    • In regards to #1, they probably couldn’t because of Cancon regulations. I had suggested Mike & Mike as well for TSN2’s morning slot.

      When you say “ESPN-created content”, I’m a little confused about what you actually want. Is it ESPN First Take? Outside the Lines? NASCAR Now? Baseball Tonight? Because most other ESPN-produced talk shows (Numbers Never Lie, Dan Le Batard, PTI, ATH) are already on TSN/TSN2. Sportsnet offers more all-US baseball games than ESPN/TBS do. Same for NBA. What is and isn’t available in Canada usually has less to do with the CRTC and more to do with Canadian broadcast rights sold by the leagues.

      ESPN already runs an international streaming package for its NCAA football and basketball games on the international version of (which, last I checked, is available in Canada).

      I think the US/Canadian satellite thing is a bit overblown. Sure DirecTV offers $30 a month for the basic package for the first year or whatever, but it goes up to $55 after the promotion. Shaw and Bell offer the same thing here (albeit, you have to look a bit harder). It more or less includes what you get with the same package on Shaw Direct (except more HD, but Shaw Direct is adding more at the end of the year). Out-of-region sports nets aren’t included. All 5 Sportsnet channels are in the base package on Shaw Direct. It includes ESPN and ESPN2. Go up a package (and the price goes up to $65 a month) and you get BTN, ESPNews, ESPNU, MLB Network, NFL Network, SNY and YES.

      For Shaw Direct the base package (which includes TSN, Sportsnet and SN1) costs $45 a month. You can add the other sports channels for $5 a month (this isn’t available in the US, I don’t think). Shaw Direct’s version of DirecTV’s $65 package is Digital Favourites and it costs $63.

      TSN and Sportsnet are regulating each other. It would be great if someone else could get into the sports game, but there will never be a monopoly because they both want to outbid the other.

      • To be honest, the content is there, there are enough NBA, MLB and NFL matches on Canadian television that match our US counterparts. My complaint is the highlight shows to be honest with you either late at night or early in the morning before work. A compromise can be achieved. You can create two buckets (CDN content v. US content) The TSN Sportscentre can show the NHL, CFL, NLL, curling, minor league hockey, etc, while TSN2’s ESPN Sportscenter can touch on the NFL, NBA and MLB. My other complaint is that TSN seems to not show highlights from other networks until the third and fourth block of their highlight show. This is where I made my point about TSN monopoly. Granted, I will give you that Sportsnet is a player, but at the end of the day we are dealing with two superpowers that control content and distribution and that is troubling.

        As for the cable comparisons, there differences are a little overblown, but I think we can agree that there is more choice in the US than in Canada, but that might be a result of market size.

        All I am asking for is a little more choice.

        • I find theScore’s highlight show to be pretty good if you want a bit of everything. Since they don’t produce any content themselves, everything gets a fair shake. Its usually the only place to see any amount of EPL highlights. I guess I usually watch the start of TH2N and GolTV News to get my soccer and hockey highlights, I usually don’t care about much else. I think Connected is a lot better than it was a year ago.

          I would love to see a Canadian version of ESPNU. It could show ESPN’s NCAA FB/Hoops/Hockey, plus some CIS coverage as well. Of course the problem is there probably isn’t enough interest to make it profitable. Although, I suppose if The Fight Network can exist…

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