Weekend Roundup: Future of Sports SimSub, World Cup of Hockey, eSports, Ratings

• Just days before the Super Bowl last weekend, the CRTC, overseer of Canadian television, announced that beginning with the 2017 Super Bowl, CTV would no longer be allowed to use simultaneous substitution on the US feed to insert their own commercials. This is a practice Canadian networks use numerous times every day of the year on sports and prime-time programming bringing in an estimated $250 million in revenue yearly. In the final four years of the current contract CTV has with the NFL, it is said they will lose $20 million each year that they won’t be able to show Canadian commercials to those who elect to watch the big game on a US network and the wildly popular commercials that come with it. This is a big hit and one that will affect Canadian programming, says Bell Media, though if you look at CTV’s prime-time Monday to Friday lineup, you’ll be hard pressed to find a show that isn’t American.

Could the Super Bowl end up not being shown on a Canadian network? Not a chance. The Super Bowl is part of the whole NFL package that CTV and TSN has and not an individual event that is bid on. Could the Super Bowl end up on TSN in 2017 or later? It’s possible. It is estimated only 1–2% of Canadians would miss out on watching the Super Bowl if it went to TSN — those without cable and those who aren’t close enough to the border to pickup a US signal. Could US networks be blacked out on cable systems forcing some Canadians to watch CTV or go buy an antenna? In theory, I think so, but I can’t imagine Bell Media would be willing to face the massive public backlash that would ensue from such a move.

The CRTC says they hear complaints every year that Canadians don’t get to watch the famous US commercials. These people apparently have never heard of the internet, where the commercials are uploaded seconds after they air. For now, this ruling only applies to the Super Bowl and specialty channels, meaning TSN and Sportsnet can no longer simsub to viewers either, but the CRTC did announce that as far as simsubbing for other sporting events and programming, there will be penalties for networks who screw-up the process of going to commercial or coming back from one, which is basically every network during any live event or program, be it NFL or SNL.

• The World Cup of Hockey, a glorified exhibition tournament run by the NHL, featuring only NHL players, and including two faux teams, will be held in Toronto in 2016 and according to a report from David Shoalts, Rogers has won the rights to it and Bell is pissed. Bell expected a blind auction with the highest bidder taking the rights. TSN suits were sure they would win after betting between $28 million and $32 million, but were told Rogers had won and wonder if Rogers were able to match the offer despite the blind bidding process. Even though the tournament would lose TSN up to $10 million, they still wanted a piece of that NHL pie they have been missing for six months now. It is somewhat unusual that the NHL would offer it to Rogers, presuming that’s what happened, and not want TSN to broadcast the tournament. All the other major leagues in North America are smart enough to distribute their games among numerous networks for more money — NBA: ESPN/ABC, TNT; MLB: TBS, Fox, ESPN; MLS: Fox/ESPN; and the NFL on basically every big network.

That said, per TSN’s Rick Westhead, ESPN has won the rights to the US broadcast of the “World Cup”, a network that hasn’t broadcast an NHL game since 2004 and is universally-known for not covering hockey on SportsCentre and not on their website to the extent other major sports are covered. Current solo rights holder NBC and Fox (who hold a ton of regional rights) were the other bidders. It will be interesting how ESPN covers the tournament and how many games they actually show – September is already jam-packed on their numerous networks with NFL, MLB, college football, and US Open tennis so why would ESPN spend so much money on a sport they don’t care about to only show some of the tournament or bury games on ESPN News or ESPNU? It is no secret that the popularity of hockey south of our border isn’t great. The Winter Classic had its lowest rating ever and EPL games are getting higher ratings than NBC’s national games. Maybe the NHL is hoping by going with America’s biggest sporting network, they can increase NHL viewership, but that hasn’t worked out well for two similar tournaments: the World Baseball Classic and basketball’s FIBA World Cup, both of which are on ESPN.

• The Score mobile app is one of the most popular sports apps in the world. Now, they are branching out into the world of… eSports? For those of you unfamiliar with eSports, including this blogger, it appears to be a “sport” involving watching people playing video games — there’s apparently players, owners, managers, agents, etc. The app will cover stats and news for League of Legends (Korean, North American, European and Chinese leagues) and news coverage of Dota 2, Counter-Strike: GO, Call of Duty, StarCraft II and Hearthstone. 30 employees, including 14 full-time staff, will keep the app up to date on the latest from the video game world. The app is currently available on the Google Play store with an iOS version coming soon. I guess there is more money to be made in something like this than having writers producing feature articles about real sports.

• TSN got some decent numbers with their Australian Open during the past two weeks, with Genie Bouchard’s quaterfinal loss to Maria Sharapova attracting just over one millions Canadians. With 720,000 of those viewers on TSN (304k on RDS), the match was the third most-watching sporting event in an NHL- and NFL-less week — only beat by the all-star game and skills competition (1.8m and 1.5m). Of course, it helped the match was in prime time on a Monday night without any other sport on. TSN drew around 200,000 viewers each night in the prime time slot during the third and fourth round, though in the latter stages of the tournament, including the men’s and women’s final, which were on in the early hours of the morning, those numbers dropped significantly.

2 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Future of Sports SimSub, World Cup of Hockey, eSports, Ratings

  1. Here’s an idea for the Canadian commercials. Why don’t they put the Canadian commercials on the Internet and let the U.S. Commercials appear on TV.

  2. IIRC, is it the cable and satellite oroviders that activate the simsubs and not the networks, like CTV for NFL games and the Oscars, which could be next. How much does a 30-second spot for the Oscars go for compared to the Super Bowl?

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