How Do CTV’s Commentators Stack Up to CBC’s?

It is really hard to judge how good, or bad, CTV’s Olympic coverage is in 2012. It all depends on the viewer. Some would say it is better than CBC’s, some would not. Some would say that it is a lot better than CTV’s 2010 coverage, but again, some wouldn’t. It mostly comes down to quantity vs. quality. There is no question that CTV had more coverage than CBC and TSN ever combined to show in the past. CTV alone is broadcasting 18 hours of coverage day, with 15 additional hours on both TSN and Sportsnet. In 2008 CBC and TSN combined for about 18 hours of coverage daily. Rarely were both broadcasting at the same time, giving viewers a choice of what they wanted to see. What does come into question about CTV’s broadcasts, though, is the quality.

It does seem that the “Canadian-ness” of CTV’s broadcasts is toned down in 2012. Maybe they listened to viewers. Maybe they realized that the US Men’s Basketball team, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are as popular in Canada as most of our own athletes. The opening montage, which featured only Canadian athletes in 2010, has been replaced by one with a sea of colours representing athletes from all over the world. Featured prominently are Bolt, Lebron James, Kerri Walsh and Misty May, Roger Federer, and Michael Phelps, alongside Canadian stars Jessica Zelinka, Dylan Armstrong, Christine Sinclair, Alexandre Despatie and Adam van Koeverdan.

In that sense, CTV’s coverage of the London Olympics is immeasurably better than their coverage of Vancouver. As a viewer, I feel like I’m watching the world coming together, instead of prominent Canadian athletes being cheered on against others.

One thing that hasn’t changed from CTV’s coverage in 2010 is the song in that opening montage (and every other montage). Believe is back and as annoying as ever. I actually like the instrumental version, but hearing the full version every time a Canadian wins a medal and at the close of every Primetime broadcast is grating. And the new version by The Tenors isn’t any better. I still cheer on the Canadian athletes, but I’ve learned to quickly change the channel after the event is done. Of course this will return in 2014 (more on that later).

The hosts of CTV’s broadcasts are great. Brian Williams is still the best Olympic host in Canada, maybe in all of the English-speaking world. He is not afraid to speak his mind, which, in my opinion, is important for a well-respected journalist. With CBC gaining Olympic rights back from 2014, this is likely Williams’ last Olympic Games. A few have complained about him (my favourite is that he reads from a script. Every host does). I’ve tuned in every night during the Olympics so far to watch CTV’s Primetime show.

The only CTV host who is close to as good as Williams is James Duthie. I was a bit concerned about his knowledge of summer sports. Turns out I was wrong. Right from the opening broadcast it was clear to me that he had prepared for London. He is witty, and actually funny, unlike, for example, Ron MacLean. His co-host Jennifer Hedger is mostly good as well. Maybe she isn’t the most exuberant of TSN’s SportsCentre hosts, but she is one of the most professional. Morning hosts Dave Randorf and Catriona Le May Doan are the worst of the bunch at CTV. Randorf is very knowledgeable. He is an Olympic veteran as a former Daytime and Primetime host for TSN. Le May Doan, on the other hand, is too close to the Canadian Olympic team. She feels like a Canadian cheerleader, not an Olympic co-host. Maybe CTV should have found another role for her in London.

None of TSN’s hosts have stood out to me. Kate Beirness constantly makes mistakes, although she does correct them. She is a young, talented broadcaster; however, maybe too inexperienced for such a large role. Michael Landsberg is a great interviewer, but not a great host. His joke about Mark Heese appearing on Off the Record didn’t come across as a joke at all. Made it look like he just wanted to promote that he hosts a sports talk show. Darren Dutchyshen at least hasn’t made an embarrassing error like he did in Vancouver. He is probably the best of TSN’s hosts, but isn’t as good as his primetime counterparts at CTV, Sportsnet and NBC.

Speaking of Sportsnet’s primetime host, Brad Fay is the stand out host of Olympic coverage for me. He is very knowledgeable on Olympic sports and could become the star host that Sportsnet has never had (ala Maclean at CBC and Duthie at TSN).

As for their commentators, most are unforgettable. Some in a bad way. Rod Smith (aquatics), Rob Faulds (rowing), Gord Miller (athletics) and RJ Broadhead (beach volleyball) are among the standouts. Smith’s cadence and booming voice are perfect for swimming’s biggest events. Faulds is an Olympic veteran, he was part of CTV’s 1992 coverage in Barcelona. And who knew Broadhead was so knowledgeable about beach volleyball?

Thank goodness I don’t watch much gymnastics, apparently. I haven’t read many good things about Rod Black. And his call of Rosie MacLennan’s first gold medal for Canada in London was one of the worst Olympic calls I have ever heard. After the scores for the Chinese gymnast came up, Black excitedly yelled “Jump for joy Canada!” Sure I was happy for MacLennan, but jump for joy? Everyone talks about Jamie Campbell’s medal calls seeming scripted, I wonder how long Black had worked on this one?

Maybe we just don’t have good amateur sports analysts in Canada. Or maybe too many of them are too close to our current athletes. Joanne Malar was unbearable on swimming, constantly shouting over Smith. She said Michael Phelps was swimming for Canada in the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay. Another shouter was rowing analyst Barney Williams. He surely jolted me out of bed while watching rowing at 6am. Again though, many times he seemed to cheer Canada to the finish line. Kyle Shewfelt, while excellent with his analysis, also seemed to get overly excited for Canadian medals. So did judo analyst Frazer Will, who repeated himself countless times during week 1.

The most surprising analyst for me is Mark Heese. He knows everything about beach volleyball and is able to make it easy to understand for casual viewers. Usually Canadian coverage messes up volleyball on the beach, but CTV’s coverage with Broadhead and Heese is just as good as their American counterparts at NBC. Heese also wasn’t a Canadian cheerleader.

Some viewers don’t like Blythe Hartley. I think she is actually able to explain diving a lot better than 2008 CBC analyst Anne Montminy. Again, like Heese, she stands out to me because she doesn’t overtly cheer for Canadian athletes on air. This even though her and Emelie Heymans were teammates for many years. It is rare that a recently retired athlete is able to put personal connections aside on television.

Maybe CBC deserves the credit, but Michael Smith and David Moorcroft are a fantastic pairing on athletics. There were CBC’s track analysts in Beijing. Moorcroft was able to provide an excellent British opinion this evening as the British team had an historic night, winning 3 gold medals at the Olympic Stadium. Smith, a former decathlete, gave insight into the heptathlon that many could not. Hearing Moorcroft made me realize that CTV could use a larger British presence on their coverage. They just happened to choose a Brit for the right event as day 8 athletics will go down as the signature moment of London 2012.

The two commentators that deserve the most attention are freelancers. One is in London, the other in Toronto. Both were TSN regulars some 20 years ago. Both get to call minor sports, sometimes on short notice. Paul Romanuk is CTV’s commentator for triathlon and weightlifting. He put Paula Findlay’s performance in the women’s triathlon in perfect context this morning. He is probably the most professional, unbiased commentator in Canada. Everyone else should look up to him. Jim van Horne got the call for Milos Raonic’s marathon match. He also called a women’s doubles badminton semifinal feature Canada. His knowledge of badminton was particularly surprising.

Both Romauk and van Horne had to work without analysts. Maybe it was too their benefit considering some of CTV’s other analysts detract from the broadcast. Romanuk on weightlifting and van Horne on badminton were the two standout commentators during the first week of CTV’s coverage, in my opinion.

There is one other thing that CTV got right. Using NBC coverage for tennis and basketball and BBC commentary for soccer. Using NBC for tennis gave CTV the ability to show whatever matches they want, without having commentators on-duty in a Toronto studio to call them in a moments’ notice. Basketball and soccer as best covered by the Americans and the Brits respectively.


42 thoughts on “How Do CTV’s Commentators Stack Up to CBC’s?

  1. I agree about CTV’s coverage: by and large, I’ve been impressed: I don’t feel like there’s as much homerism in the broadcasts. And while I don’t like how hard they push big names like Phelps, Bolt and the like over good stories like Jessica Ennis, I suppose that’s the business. People are going to be checking in on the few names they recognize.

    Also it’s great to hear Jim van Horne again, I haven’t heard him in years. Same with Romanuk. If they’re both freelancers, maybe CBC will take them on.

  2. Rod Smith has been terrible. From the first day when he mistakenly had the Canadian swimmer in the final, he made the same errors over and over again. He has to remember that we are watching on TV and we can see who is gaining on someone or who has the lead, he consistently had the wrong swimmer in the lead

  3. I’m glad the swimming is over so we don’t have to hear anymore from CTV about that AMERICAN swimmer and her Canadian parents.

    • You are talking about Missy Franklin. Over on NBC, those commentators could not stop talking about how Justin Beiber tweeted her and that the two will meet each other later on in his tour.

  4. “Also it’s great to hear Jim van Horne again, I haven’t heard him in years. Same with Romanuk. If they’re both freelancers, maybe CBC will take them on.”

    If TSN / TSN2 is involved with the broadcasting of the Olympic Games in 2014 & 2016, would they have some say in who announces certain events for the Olympics? Or would it be 100% up to the CBC?

  5. This is where personal preference comes in – I prefer Ron MacLean to James Duthie, in almost every aspect. I prefer his style of humour to Duthie’s (I find I only enjoy Duthie’s on twitter or when he writes a column).

  6. I only saw a couple of minutes of gymnastics, not sure who the colour commentator was. But after one gymnast made a mistake as she was walking off he said “but she’s adorable”….. that was too creepy for me so I never went back to watching any of that sport.

  7. Please nobody ever hire Joanne Malar to do colour commentary again. I’m sure she’s a very nice woman, but that quavery voice (that gets more quavery as she gets excited) gives me a headache.

  8. I agree that Beirness has not been great. Her voice and diction are only satisfactory. Staniszewski would have been the superior choice. Hedger should be better and should be paired with Dutchyshen. Don Taylor has been good although it is strange watching him do the show on Sportsnet at 300h Pacific. I also agree that Barney Williams was shouting too much and was very repetitive. It is unfortunate that CTV did not have Marnie McBean take his place for rowing commentary.

  9. I think CBC’s commentary team are far better , mostly becasue they are involved in commentating the amateur sports throughout the four years between the Olympiads. CTV’s commentary team(other than moorcroft and smith who are amazing at what they do) lack the experience to be able to explain certain events correctly and in a proper manner.
    btw- CBC’s intro music is way more iconic than CTV’s. It feels like home :p

  10. CTV’s coverage of these games is better than their coverage of the Vancouver games is better for two reasons: First, the Olympic morning show shows live sports as opposed to Vancouver, which was Canada AM with an Olympic twist to it. Second, the Etalk hosts, Ben Mulroney, Tania Kim, etc, are nowhere to be found. In Vancouver, it seemed they were on 24/7.

    • But in Vancouver there were no sports taking place in the morning. I’m sure CBC would have done similar (or even shown kids shows). I saw nothing wrong with showing Canada AM during the Games. I didn’t watch it once after day 2 though.

  11. Overall I have been impressed with the coverage from Canadian Olympic Broadcast Consortium and if CBC is smart, the need to partner up with both TSN and Sportsnet for 2014 & 2016 olympics as the consortium has set the bar high for coverage in Olympic Coverage in Canada and I fear if CBC doesn’t partner up, they overall coverage won’t be great in Sochi and Rio although they are experience in broadcasting Olympic Games in the past.

    The Good

    The Best Play by Commentators for the consortium are Gord Miller, Rod Smith and Rob Faulds. They have a done a solid job. Miller will never replace late Don Wittman commentating Athletics , but he has done a better job then CBC’s Mark Lee as play by play and having Micheal Smith and Dave Moorcroft as Analysts compliment’s Miller.

    Rod Smith had done an great job play by play at Swimming. As he suprised me in Vancouver in Long Track Speed Skating, he excelled in London in Swimming. However, Joanne Malar was clearly the wrong choice as analyst from Swimming for the consortium. The 3 time Olympiad I found was more of whinny chearleader who was about to have an orgasm on the air. CBC should have lend Byron MacDonald to compliment Smith in Swimming. As for Diving, Blythe Hartley has done a solid job anlayzing the action.

    Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds has also has done a solid job in Rowing. He may have been a little overboard on some the calls, but he and Barney Williams has brought viewers into the living room. I thought the Men’s 8 call was perhaps Faulds best in his career exceeding the Mark Tewksberry gold medal 100m backstroke race in 1992 for CTV.

    If the mothercorp does partner with both TSN and Sportsnet, they would be wise to bring on Miller, Smith and Faulds as part of their coverage.

    I was also impressed with veteran freelance and former TSN sportscasters Jim Van Horne and Paul Romaniuk. I could see them back for CBC in 2016.

    The Bad & Ugly

    Rod Black….enough said!

    Joanne Malar – Joanne Malar was clearly the wrong choice as analyst from Swimming for the consortium. The 3 time Olympiad I found was more of whinny chearleader who was about to have an orgasm on the air.

    Bell Social Scene – I know social media now has a big role but I feel it has taken away from the overall coverage of the games.

    The one thing I do applaud CTV is that Ben Mulroney, Tanya Kim and Lainey Lui is not part of the coverage. I really don’t give 2 shits about the pop culture aspect surrounding the games and there is no place for this in the overall Olympic Coverage.

    • Completely forgot about the Social Scene. Another thing I change the channel everytime it comes on.

      The one thing I recently thought of. If CBC is trying to save money on amateur sports, it makes sense they may have to cut some on-air personalities. That would make more room for freelancers (or someone from TSN or Sportsnet) in 2014/16.

  12. I think CTV and the consortium’s coverage has been okay. I agree with many of the comments already made specific to the announcers. I find one thing lacking is respect given to the many viewers who are avid watchers and know how to use their remote. There is far too much repeated over the networks.
    When the women’s 8’s won their silver medal, I probably had watched the race 3 or 4 times before the day was over. The only time an event should be replayed is during the CTV prime time show recapping the day. It shouldn’t be played on TSN or Sportsnet in the evening, that should be set aside to show an event that wasn’t covered earlier in the day. It also doesn’t make sense to show a swimming race an hour later on TSN after it was shown on CTV. There is way to many other events that can be covered live that aren’t. Example track and field. Some events I didn’t even know were underway until I saw the montage at the end of the night. What happened to the ticker at the bottom that appeared every hour to broadcast all the results? I understand the need to have features on the atheletes to give the viewer some background on whom they are watching, but do I really need to see the Blue Jays play the table tennis team a dozen times? Less repetition, more events!

    • I agree, but the problem is many aren’t avid viewers. At least it isn’t as bad as in Vancouver when everything was on multiple times.

      As for events being repeated on TSN and Sportsnet in Primetime. I’m perfectly okay with that. For those at work all day (like I was last week), it was great to catch rebroadcasts of events CTV didn’t have time to show. In fact, I was disappointed rowing wasn’t rebroadcast most nights.

      Some of the features are great (Difference Makers and Superbodies), some are terrible (the one you’re referring to).

  13. CTV is doing an okay job covering the Olympics so far. I am not particularly liking the morning hosts James and Jen. Good thing Brian Williams is hosting the prime time slot. Can’t wait for CBC to take over the coverage in 2014 & 2016.

  14. I know this was talked about in the previous blogs but having commentators call events from a monitor back in Canada is amateurish. Some here said that was a cost saving measure but still not a good decision. Did the CBC have their announcers call events off a monitor in Canada since the Atlanta games? I am surprised that Darren Dutchysen did not have Rosie MacLennan and her family on the set so he could bring a round of drinks to celebrate Canada’s 1st gold medal. Rod Smith is awesome and is similar to Steve Armitage with the booming voice in the final lap of a swimming race.

  15. I think that the CTV coverage is very poor.If you’re not interested in swimming or cycling what have you got,no weightlifting no archery,no shooting,no polevault,not enough of track and died,no synchro swimming,etc etc.

    • Every weightlifting session has been on TSN or Sportsnet. I think 1-2 were on CTV. Archery and shooting were never on CBC either. There’s lots of track and field. Synchro swimming just started and was on TSN today.

  16. Love the Olympics, however CTV’s coverage is the worst I have ever seen.

  17. CTV decided today to pre-empt 2 hours of athletics coverage so they could show the canada vs. usa soccer game that they were already showing on TSN at the same time. Genius.

    • I understand showing the soccer on CTV (likely to be the highest rated non-World Cup/Euro game in Canadian history, maybe even better), but they should have switched the athletics to TSN at halftime and alerted viewers to switch to CTV for soccer.

      • Or just keep telling people the game was on TSN (which is what they were doing for the first hour or so). But yeah even if they’d done what you said it would have been *something*.

  18. Gord Miller outstanding?? This guy is as horrible as it gets. U want to listen to how an athletic race is supposed to be called, go search for the videos of Don Whitman, it dont get any better than that.

    CTV commentators, every one of them are amateurs.

    • I beg to disagree. Mark Lee is about as horrible as it gets. Of course Wittman was the best, but Miller isn’t bad.

      CTV’s commentators certainly aren’t amateurs. Many of them have been nominated (or won) Geminis. Williams, Duthie, Smith, Miller etc.

  19. I’m tired of all the interruptions with the ctv coverage- it’s hard to concentrate on any one sport.

  20. The following comments pertain only to the main CTV channels since I do not subscribe to any pay specialty channels.

    Overall the CTV coverage is very amateurish and poor. Here are just a few examples to back up my opinion – there are many many more which I could fill many many pages with.

    CTV rarely displays a time schedule of upcoming events. Brian Williams always introduces his evening prime time show by showing highlights. At the end of the introduction, rather than giving a time, he staes that the events will be coming up “a little later in the program”. A little later in the program” for medal winning Canadians meant sitting through 2 hours of mostly foreign performances. This happened night after night. The men’s 4×100 relay held true to this poor coverage.

    We were unable to watch the live 4×100 so we tuned in to “prime time” coverage. Once again it was two hours before this important event was covered even though Williams announced it would be on “a little later in the program”. I have heard others complain about this kind of second rate coverage. Doesn’t CTV staff realize we have a life outside of the olympics and that we cannot sit there for hours on end until they decide to carry the event we want to see. A simple time schedule displayed for only a few seconds every ten minutes or so would solve this. I am surprised that the CTV network has not figured this out by now. How amateurish!!

    Coverage of the men’s decathlon:

    In simple terms very very poor. On day one there was NO live coverage of the last two events even though Canada (Damian Warner) was in contention for a medal. I realize that there are a lot of events happening at the same time and that it is impossible to give live coverage to all the events that Canadians are doing well in. However when someone like Warner is setting all kinds of personal bests there is NO excuse to not show these live for the few moments it would take.

    Updates of Canadians performances:

    We are left in the dark regarding most of Canada’s update performances. Why not have a ticker tape constantly running at the bottom of the tv screen giving us ALL of the latest news on Canadian athletes performances? If CTV had a professional olympics team they should have figured that one out too. This kind of live update has been used for many many years on financial channels. Again I am surprised CTV does not use it – once again very amateurish! They cannot seem to come up with an original idea for additional coverage that would make it easier and more enjoyable for viewers to watch the olympics. It seems as though they will only “copy” the American networks.

    Speaking of copying the Americans:

    Use of the phrase “out of”

    We were watching a track event. The CTV announcer was naming the participants and what lane they were “running out of” rather than the proper term of what lane they were “running in”. “Out of” is a term first used by American professional sportscasters to express what university a US professional athlete came “out of” – it means the athlete is no longer in school but that he is “OUT of there”!!

    Later in one of the races a CTV commentator announced that someone was disqualified for running “out of their lane”!! How confusing. Can you imagine the same term being used to describe two completely different scenarios!! This is professionalism? Someone in grade school would know better

    CTV commercials:

    The constant repetition of the same commercials over and over is nauseous. It would not be so bad if the announcer did not try to be so melodramatic. He apes once again the American networks catchy phrase of nine eight central. He does not even pronounce CTV properly because he is so caught up in his own hype. He says CT-VAY instead of CT-VEE. I think I will puke if I hear CT-VAY one more time.

    Brian Williams:

    We have very little respect for him. For years and years he has criticized what “he” considered the “poor” performance of Canadian olympic athletes. Those athletes worked many hard hours in training and DESERVE our respect whether they win a medal or not. Williams is now trying to change his ways but as far as we are concerned he has done too much damage to get ANY respect from us. All those years he flapped his gums without putting his brain in gear and never had to sacrifice as did the athletes he bad mouthed. He should offer an apology.

    Rod Black and many other so-called CTV professional(?) commentators are poorly prepared to cover the amateur scene – they have spent too much time worshiping professional athletes – especially the overpaid spoiled jerks south of the border. It really shows. We couldn’t care less how many awards any of these sports commentators has won. Those awards have to be given to someone regardless.

    It is a field of self serving mediocrity – the awards are meaningless.They mean absolutely NOTHING”. The whole thing is ludicrous.

    Can you imaqgine that Ron Maclean received one of these rewards. Have you ever seen him on Battle of the Blades? He is constantly pointing his boney finger and mouthing stupid puns that make no sense – what an embarrassment!!

    Need I say more?

    • Way to write an essay.

      -As far as times, yes CTV could have done better, but they did show graphics saying “athletics men’s 100m, in 45 minutes”.

      -Most viewers would probably find a constant ticker annoying. I know I would. Never really seen anyone who likes one during live sports coverage. A constant ticker is an American invention BTW. ESPN uses it during almost all live sports coverage. They were the first.

      -Not sure which ads you’re referring to, but ads are ads. I don’t care what they show to be honest. I tune in for the competition.

      -Nobody respects Canadian athletes more than Brian Williams. Nobody is more disappointed about missing the podium than the athletes themselves. Williams works equally as hard at his job as the athletes do at theirs. He has nothing to apologize for. Him and Randy Starkman have done more to promote amateur sports over the past 30 years than just about all other Canadians combined.

  21. Personally, I could have used more Duthie and less Hedger. I’m not a fan of Jennifer Hedger. Everytime I see her on SportsCentre, I change the channel. That’s how much I don’t like her. Also, during one back-and-forth with James, she said “Bronze is the new gold.” Ugh.

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