And the Face of Hockey on TV for the Next 12 Years is… George Stroumboulopoulos?

TSN’s Bob McKenzie, proving that he is still the top insider in the game, reported Sunday evening that CBC talk-show host, and former Much VJ, George Stroumboulopoulos is expected to become the new host of Rogers’ Hockey Night in Canada this fall. McKenzie also reports that Don Cherry will continue to offer analysis in the Coach’s Corner, at least for two seasons. Ron MacLean will also still have a job, albeit it in a reduced role. It also looks like Sportsnet has passed on current NHL host Darren Millard, who was on-hand when Sportsnet announced the new contract in November.

Stroumboulopoulos is an interesting choice by Sportsnet, but his hiring does follow a pattern. Since acquiring the package in November, Sportsnet’s President of Hockey Scott Moore has consistently talked about telling the stories of players, at the expense of the analysis and business talk that dominates CBC and TSN’s national broadcasts. When Moore hired Gord Cutler as the Senior VP of Hockey a month ago, Cutler re-iterated Sportsnet’s plan of storytelling. MacLean has a history of taking a harsh stand on some NHL business issues, including officiating. So, it makes sense that Sportsnet does not want to give him the most air time. On the other hand, Stroumboulopoulos has spent most of his time hosting pop culture shows on Much and CBC. Telling the life story of the people he interviews is a big part of his show.

He is also an interesting choice because Sportsnet wants their broadcasts to appeal to all Canadians, including new immigrants. Moore has also often repeated this point over the past few months. Stroumboulopoulos is a second generation Canadian, with a Greek father from Egypt and Ukrainian mother. If he doesn’t appeal to first and second generation Canadians, then who will? Considering Canada’s aging population, getting new Canadians to buy into hockey, instead of soccer or basketball, will become more and more important over Sportsnet’s 12 year contract.

This is the first change of the face of Hockey Night in Canada since Ron MacLean replaced Dave Hodge following the infamous flip of the pen in 1987. I’m not a big fan of the choice of Stroumboulopoulos. I would have preferred a hockey guy such as Elliotte Friedman. Sportsnet will likely confirm the appointment later this week, so stay tuned for updates.

beIN Sport Now Available… Fans of La Liga and Serie A have went a season and a half without access to their favourite teams on Canadian TV. Now beIN Sport is finally available. It is on free preview on Bell and Rogers until April, when it will cost $15 a month. Coincidentally Bell and Rogers are also the two Canadian providers that have dropped, or will soon drop, Speed. However, Speed is still available on Shaw Direct, among other regional cable providers, for those who absolutely need their motorsports fix.

19 thoughts on “And the Face of Hockey on TV for the Next 12 Years is… George Stroumboulopoulos?

  1. I don’t know if we should giving all the credit to Bobby Mac since he’s really just confirming the rumours that have been out there for at least a week: for example at TSM( http://torontosportsmedia.com/sports-and-toronto/is-change-in-the-air-with-toronto-sports-media/18914).

    I don’t like the move if it does end up being true. Not because Strombo isn’t a “hockey guy”, there will be more than enough of those on the set to handle a host who’s not, but because I think he’s just not that good and won’t accomplish what Rogers’ goals appear to be. If they are aiming to reach a wide audience with more “personal stories”, I think we have ample evidence that George isn’t a draw at all. TV execs are absolutely in love with him for some reason but TV audiences? Not so much, maybe in a niche group of aging Gen Yers but nothing outside that. I don’t think I saw his face once during Sochi, which tells you a bit of what the CBC thought of his ability to translate to sports yet he’s getting the keys to the #1 sports franchise in the country? Other than Paul Godfry is there a Canadian that’s better at failing upwards?

    • Other than Paul Godfry is there a Canadian that’s better at failing upwards?

      awesome comment Mike V.

      I’m with you — Strombo’s appeal is limited and I doubt serious hockey fans will like him. Sportsnet’s main homegrown NHL success story is Kypreos, but they have a legion of failure to go along with that: Shannon, Millard, MacLean to name a few. Maybe they can make Strombo credible as an NHL talking head, but I’m sceptical. I suspect he’ll top out as a Jeff Marek type.

  2. More than anything it seems to be a hire geared towards what they want to do on Sundays.

    “Rogers also announced plans for Hometown Hockey, a City program that’s hosted from different community rinks across the country on Sunday nights. The series will include NHL player profiles, as well as content that focuses on the local community.”

    This sounds so like what Strombo would be best fit to do.

    Hosting a 2 hour hockey central pre-game and then an additional 6 hours on top of that while the saturday double headers are going on seems to be out of place for him.

    Either way though, Millard needed to be replaced in some way. He certainly isnt good enough to be the face of hockey on TV in canada. He just can’t be.

    And i am more concerned with who the play by play/broadcast booth guys will be. While it seems Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson are locks, i am concerned the next broadcast teams will be made up of current SN talent, which is at best poor. Also, we could see them pull something out of a hat like have a former player do play by play, trying to mimic the tandem of Buck Martinez/Pat Tabler on the baseball side.

  3. Nothing against those who want to watch the soccer now on beIN, but Rogers and Bell have greatly screwed up in their handling of the Speed Channel situation.

    Just as an example for those of you who don’t pay attention to racing and mistakenly think no one watches, last year a crowd of 50,000 showed up at Mosport to watch the Nascar Truck Series race — more than the approximately 40,000 who showed up at Rogers Centre the last two years for the once-a-year NFL game in Toronto, one of them featuring the Seattle Seahawks.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/new-cars/auto-news/dirty-driving-pays-off-at-first-nascar-truck-race-in-canada/article14083266/

    The Truck Series isn’t even the top level of Nascar; it’s third behind Sprint Cup and Nationwide.
    Speed Channel is the only TV venue in Canada for that Nascar Truck Series, other Nascar related programming such as Sprint Cup qualifying, and other motorsports like Moto GP, Supercross, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and United SportsCar Championship (merger of the former Grand-Am and ALMS), which also has a race at Mosport with raceday crowd estimated to be about 30,000.

    The March 2013 announcement that the Speed Channel in the US would be transformed by Fox into a general sports channel not allowed into Canada left Rogers with a year to do something, like apply to the CRTC to replace Speed with a similar non-Canadian channel showing most of the same programming, such as the Speed Channel that continues in Australia or Motors TV from Europe. But Rogers did nothing. They added a barely noticeable sentence or two to the bottom of customers bills in January to provide the mandatory one-month notice, which few read now with many receiving only an e-mail of the amount owed and only a link to see the entire bill. Most viewers learned of Speed Channel’s disappearance by seeing it already gone on March 1st.

    The explanations from Rogers and now Bell made the situation worse by condescendingly (or perhaps ignorantly, depending on your point of view) implying that the only racing coverage that should matter to anyone is already on their own channels (TSN and Sportsnet), and Rogers refers to “Formula and IZOD”, not even knowing the name of the one racing series they do carry on Sportsnet.

    It may not get the millions of viewers TSN can for its biggest events, but presumably (as with something comparable like the Golf Channel) there are enough ardent motorsports viewers in Canada who would be willing to pay for a racing oriented channel, and Rogers and Bell have p.o.’d all of them.

    • So you’re saying, that because 50,000 people show up to watch a race (the first time said race has been in Ontario in 14 years), that all those people must also watch said race series on Speed, and that is enough to justify Bell and Rogers keeping a channel that shows probably ~10% of live programming in a given week?

      You give Speed Australia as an example of a replacement, but why would any cable company pay for a channel (presumably more than it’s paying now) that would have 90% of its programming blacked out?

      • Usually there is a lot more people who watch something on television than show up in person.
        What is now left of the temporary Speed Channel sent to us from the US certainly has only a small quantity of useful programming left, but as I said, the Canadian carriers had a year or more of warning to arrange a replacement. I started asking them to look into doing so about three years ago, when Fox had already removed much of Speedvision/Speed Channel’s previous racing coverage and replaced it with pointless reality and game shows, and long before Fox had confirmed their intention to transform Speed Channel into something else, although it was already thought to be a distinct possibility.

        The Speed Channel from Australia would certainly not be blacked out 90% of the time. Where did you come up with that ridiculous idea? IndyCar races and some of the Nascar races that air live on TSN are the only things I see on their schedule that would be blacked out — or more likely replaced with other programming for the Canadian feed. I see nothing else in their long list of programming that airs on any Canadian channel.

        http://www.foxsports.com.au/motor-sport/whats-on

        What Canadian channel airs Moto GP, Supercross, 24 Hours of Le Mans, World Endurance Championship, United SportsCar Championship, DTM, World Touring Car Championship, Superbike World Championship, Isle of Man TT, GP2, GP3, European Formula 3, World Rally Championship, Australian V8 Supercars, British Touring Car Championship, and all the rest of the things listed there?

        • MotoGP is on motogp.com (with a subscription)
          World Endurance is free on fiawec.com (except Le Mans)
          United SportsCar is free on imsa.com (24-hour delay)
          DTM is free on YouTube (DTMinternational channel)
          World Touring Car Championship is free on fiawtcc.com
          Superbike World Championship is on beIN Sport
          V8 Supercars is on v8supercars.com.au (with a subscription)

        • I’m not entirely sure what the difference between Speed that we get now and Speed from Australia would be. They mostly air the same series. Surely Speed Canada can pick up Speed programming from Australia. So I don’t see the point of Speed Australia when we already have a Speed channel in Canada.

          Not to mention there is no precedent from getting a sports channel licensed from any part of the world other than the US. Sure it can be done, I suppose, but there’s probably a reason it hasn’t.

          • No, they are very different. They have little in common except the name and logo. The Australian one has always been much better since it launched in 2010 — I would say probably better than the US channel ever was. Now it’s exponentially better than what’s left on the shell of a channel we get in Canada from the US.

            The Speed Channel in the US essentially has not existed since August. Fox bought it years ago for the sole purpose to use it to get carriage for the new general sports channel they finally launched in August after years of planning. Over that time they had gotten rid of most of the racing programming that had formerly made up much of its schedule, keeping only a bare minimum of it, most importantly for them the Nascar programming they intended to keep on the new general sports channel. The Speed Channel we’ve been getting in Canada since August has only that bare minimal amount racing coverage on weekends from Fox Sports 1 or 2, with filler reruns, old reality and game shows the rest of the time. The breaks are only incredibly repetitive promos because they’re not allowed to sell ads directed just at Canada. It is only a temporary arrangement until its contracts with the Canadian carriers expire.

            The Speed Channel in Australia is all motorsports. They list about 75 things they carry in that link above, compared to the maybe seven of them left on what gets sent to Canada. Most of the racing they carry comes from the US and Europe.
            Since the Fox empire was divided into News Corp and 21st Century Fox, there is no corporate connection between the Speed Channel in Australia and what had been the US one.

            What makes you think only US channels are allowed into Canada? The approved list has channels from many countries. New ones get added regularly.
            http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/satlist.htm

            • I never said only US channels are allowed, just that I’m not aware of any foreign sports channels that operate in Canada that aren’t American.

              If there is no corporate connection between Speed US and Speed Australia, that causes another problem. Speed US owns exclusive Canadian rights to many of the series they air. So, Speed Australia couldn’t show any of those here, on top of what TSN and Sportsnet has.

              Based on what I was told by Fox last summer, and Fox purchasing Canadian rights to Formula E (http://www.fiaformulae.com/news/fox-confirms-international-multi-media-deal) I don’t think Speed plans on exiting the Canadian market. They tried to sign a new contract with Rogers, at the same price as their previous one apparently, but Rogers declined. I suppose that Bell and Rogers dropping the channel may change their decision though.

              • A direct quote from the notes at the bottom of that CRTC list:
                “Providers of these foreign services must not hold, nor try to obtain, nor exercise, preferential or exclusive programming rights in relation to the distribution of programming in Canada.”

              • setanta was here before Rogers took it over

  4. On another topic, what are Rogers plans for Blue Jays baseball on both the radio and television side? I quite enjoyed Buck Martinez and Jerry Howarth simulcasting the game last Saturday. I think that’s the way to go, they worked quite well together.

    Peter

  5. You can go to fifa.com and see Stroumboulopoulos at CBC during FIFA world cup trophy tour,I didn’t know he cares about sports.

    So does this mean Sportsnet will spend less money for soccer? TSN is going to show more MLS this season. They got the right to all Vancouver whitecaps games, Sportsnet had it last year.

    Fox extended UEFA Champions league for another 3 years. Any news for Canada yet?

    • Nothing for Canada yet I don’t think. I’d guess Sportsnet would like to keep it, but TSN has spent money like crazy since losing NHL.

      Strombo is a big Raptors and Habs fan I think. But then again, so are lots of people who aren’t suited to hosting hockey broadcasts.

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