New Faces Give TSN’s Lockout Coverage a Boost

I was watching TSN’s NHL lockout, er “Game On”, coverage yesterday and something occurred to me. None of the three analysts TSN had in New York City breaking the negotiation news were with the network last time there was a lockout five years ago. Darren Dreger worked for the competition, Sportsnet. Aaron Ward was playing for Ingolstadt in Germany (and would return to the NHL after the lockout). And most importantly, Pierre Lebrun was working for the Canadian Press, where he won Sports Media Canada’s Outstanding Sportswriting Award for his coverage of the lockout. TSN’s host in New York, Ryan Rishaug, had just joined the network’s hockey coverage as a rinkside reporter. They all came from different places, and in the end it was those four who gave TSN’s New York coverage the edge over Sportsnet. Without Lebrun and Kypreos, as in 2005, I have to wonder what kind of coverage TSN could have offered while Bob McKenzie was busy covering the World Juniors.

TSN’s two insiders, Ward, and Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos broke most of the major lockout resolution news. However, it was the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater who first broke the news that the two sides had agreed on a new CBA. TSN’s Lebrun and Ward had previously Tweeted that sources told them a deal was close. TSN’s insiders broke many of the details of the new agreement. Lebrun probably deserves an award again for his coverage. Sportsnet’s biggest get was Kypreos breaking the news that the cap next season is 64.3 million. Sportsnet beat TSN by about twenty minutes on that one.

Other than Kypreos, Sportsnet’s coverage had few redeeming qualities. PK Subban, who was in Sportsnet’s studio covering an AHL game earlier in the day, did give Sportsnet one advantage TSN didn’t have, a current player on the panel. It could have went horribly wrong for Sportsnet, but Subban was mostly unbiased. Doug MacLean and Kypreos probably gave viewers the closest imitation of the negotiation room as they fought back and forth over owners’ and players’ views through the 113 day lockout. It was a bit fun it first, but quickly grew tiresome. I actually thought Sportsnet’s coverage was at its best before the main crew arrived, when Ian Mendes and Michael Grange were the main on-site voices.

TSN’s post-all-night SportsCentre Lockout Extravaganza (a better name than “Game On”, honestly they could have done better with 113 days of planning) began in earnest at 7:00am ET as James Duthie and Bob McKenzie made the trek into the TSN studios on what was supposed to be a day to sleep in late after the World Juniors. Darren Pang and Mike Johnson joined. While TSN’s panel was more interesting than Sportsnet’s, which I swear was almost on my TV for 24 consecutive hours (not that I was always watching), it was still hardly interesting enough to capture my attention for more than a few minutes.

Apparently there are plenty that disagree with me though. According to a TSN press release, an average of 138, 000 viewers watched TSN’s coverage from 7:00am until 12:30pm on Sunday. Coverage peaked at 322, 000 viewers. Sportsnet also issued a press release today promoting even more coverage on Tuesday, I kid you not. The most telling part of Sportsnet’s press release was what wasn’t there. Ratings. I’d suspect that TSN’s coverage dominated Sportsnet’s again, as it usually does at the trade deadline and on July 1.

Game On… Within minutes of the new deal TSN had a flashy new graphic for their newly invented coverage. They called it “Game On”. It took Sportsnet a while to get caught up, but I guess TSN didn’t copyright the phrase as Sportsnet was using too (their’s sponsored by Molson) within a few hours. If there was a sign that TSN is the primary place for hockey news in Canada, Sportsnet following their lead on branding is as sure a sign as any.

Behind the Scenes… For a behind the scenes look at all the Canadian reporters covering the lockout in New York City, see this Grantland piece. It is maybe the most surreal sports media-related column you’ll ever read.

Schedules… The 2013 schedule will probably be released later this week. TV schedules should either come with it, or follow soon after. Many schedule fixtures are up in the air, including CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada coverage. Official ceremonies are cancelled; however, that doesn’t necessarily prevent CBC from offering a scaled back version of the day long festivities. Maybe even with four live games broadcast nationally featuring Canada’s seven teams. With teams playing 48 games in 13 weeks, more Canadian teams could have to play on Wednesday nights as well. TSN has timeslot-exclusive coverage on Wednesday, so I’m interested to see how an increase in Wednesday games will affect national and regional TV schedule.

13 thoughts on “New Faces Give TSN’s Lockout Coverage a Boost

  1. Good read and great insight to Game On. Stoked about schedule and I agree, it will be interesting to see how increased games will affect TSN’s (and NBCSN’s) exclusive windows. Might see TSN2 airing some Canadian teams games during the Wednesday window on the main net.

  2. It will also be interesting to see if the CBC will flex its exclusivity muscles and show all canadian team games on Saturdays. This means televising all Saturday matinees on HNIC instead of Sportsnet airing some of those games regionally.

    I agree with Trent that TSN2 could end up showing some canadian team games. There are only three Wednesdays when TSN2 is showing NBA games and those involve the Raptors on January 23, 30, and March 27. Perhaps NHL Network Canada will help out as well as RDS and RDS2.

    One more thing, what was the post lockout slogan back in 1995? I seem to recall that it was Faceoff 2005-2006 after the 2004-2005 lockout.

    • CBC’s exclusive rights only cover after 7pm ET, as far as I know. Their contract allows them to show a certain number of each team’s games, not any on Saturdays. That number is presumably reduced with the shorter schedule.

      Won’t see any Canadian teams on NHL Network. The games would be more likely to fall to no broadcaster, or TSN could allow Sportsnet to compete with them. You won’t see RDS show anything but the Habs.

      This isn’t going to be that much different than any previous year. Teams usually play an average of 3.1 games per week. With the new deal teams will play about one more game every two week period, on average. There might be a few more minor conflicts, but I don’t anticipate anything major.

      • It is correct that the CBC’s exclusivity is after 1600h Pacific. I was thinking that for this shortened season (presumably 15 weeks), there should be a softening of certain agreements. For HNIC, all canadian teams should be on that network on Saturdays. Hopefully, TSN will soften its exclusivity on Wednesdays and permit Sportsnet to show regional games but be able to have doubleheaders every Wednesday. Over on RDS, a few games involving other canadian teams without the Habs have been on in the past.

    • “One more thing, what was the post lockout slogan back in 1995?”

      It was GAME ON.

  3. what’s your view on Shannon on TV? I don’t watch either TSN or SN, so I have no opinion, though I do find him deplorable on the radio.

    He’s often introduced in his radio hits as a CBA expert. Is that how they bill him on the TV side as well?

    • Sportsnet bills him as everything. An insider (ala McKenzie or Dreger or Lebrun), an analyst, a CBA expert etc. They do the same with Kypreos and MacLean. The only thing he really knows is broadcasting. That’s what he did for the NHL. His actual knowledge of hockey, or inside information, is questionable at best IMO. I also find him rather annoying.

  4. Do you see CBC doing some extra weeknights in the regular season? They usually have the opening Thursday night, a few weeknights around the Holidays and 1 or 2 random weeknights later in the season – just never on Wednesdays, as per TSN’s rights. I’d also think that if the regular season continues into late April or early May, with CBC’s regular programming calibrated to wrap up for the usual start of playoffs in early April, they may throw in a few weeknight games from a Canadian arena at the end of the regular season.

  5. Will you be bringing back the weekly NHL national commentator prediction game? That was pretty fun last year… although maybe not so much for you having to keep track of everyone’s points.

    Yeah it’ll be interesting to see how the reduced schedule impacts the number of games everybody gets. Since we’re only playing about 59% of a full schedule, will that mean a Canadian team that was originally scheduled to appear 10 times nationally on TSN, for example, will now only be on 6 times? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    • I do, but probably with only 5 games per week (I’ll try to choose the five hardest).

      Obviously so much has changed since 1995 that we have no real precedence for what a shortened season does to TV contracts, although I imagine it is in the contracts themselves.

      • Yay for the commentator game coming back. I have missed that game big time and asked to do it for the NFL games.

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