It seems like a very real possibility that the Ottawa Senators could play the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2013 NHL playoffs. All Ottawa has to do is beat Boston tonight. That would vault them up to 7th, and the Canadiens to 2nd. At first this seems like the elusive, dream all-Canadian matchup CBC is also looking for come April. But then again, maybe it’s not. TSN studio host James Duthie suggested he thinks CBC will select the Leafs’ and Canucks’ series on Sunday evening, regardless of if the Senators play the Canadiens or not. At first I was very skeptical, but after thinking about it and seeing how the Western Conference seedings, I’m beginning to agree with James.
The main goal for both the CBC and TSN is to attract ratings and advertising dollars. Ratings and length of series are both important. The Canucks are a proven playoff ratings earners for the CBC. The Senators, are not. The Canadiens will always result in part of their fanbase watching in French on RDS. Ottawa-Montreal averaged 870, 000 viewers on TSN in March. Also in March Vancouver-San Jose averaged 505, 000 viewers for a game only available in British Columbia on Sportsnet Pacific. While I can’t find any ratings from this year, the Canucks consistently averaged over 800, 000 viewers for games on TSN against US-based teams late last season (799, 000 vs. ANA; 824, 000 vs. LA; 856, 000 vs. DAL). Undoubtedly the Canucks can get the same type of ratings on their own that the Senators and Canadiens can muster together in English-Canada.
So, now that I’ve proven the ratings are close enough that CBC could reasonably take the Canucks over a Ottawa-Montreal series, that leads me to my second point. If CBC takes both TOR-BOS and OTT-MTL, that means they will probably end up with DET-ANA and LA-STL in the West. This is a scheduling nightmare. Of a possible 28 games, 21 take place in the Eastern or Central Timezones. Games in Detroit and St. Louis would have to air online for most of the country. CBC could only show 7 doubleheaders. Any of those that go head-to-head with the Canucks will get beaten. They might win the early timeslot every night, but they won’t post many wins at 10:00pm ET. And fans will be worse off if games in St. Louis and Detroit are only available on 1-2 regional stations in Ontario and online.
But, if CBC takes TOR-BOS and SJ-VAN, they could have an anchor for their doubleheader each night and avoid these problems. CBC would probably still take ANA-DET with the fourth pick and then either NYI-PIT or NYR-WSH later on. This would mean 17 games in the Eastern Time Zone and 11 in the Pacific Time Zone. And far less conflict, especially when Canadian teams are playing. CBC would win the late timeslot every night they have a game in it, even if going head-to-head with STL-LA on TSN. And they’d still win every early timeslot with the Leafs and probably have an afternoon game from their eastern-based US series, further reducing conflicts.
And, lastly, even going head-to-head with OTT-MTL on TSN, I think NYI-PIT or NYR-WSH will get better ratings than STL-LA. Easily. And I think CBC’s ratings as a whole would be higher. Of course criticism will come from CBC picking SJ-VAN over an all-Canadian series, but will that really matter? I think TSN had MTL-OTT around three times this season, so why not a few more? For those who have cable, it will probably mean more games on TV without needing CHEX or CBC Windsor.