Bob Cole Will Return to HNIC Next Season

As was first reported by Damien Cox last Friday, Bob Cole has not called his last game for Hockey Night in Canada. HNIC host Ron MacLean confirmed the news just before game 7 of Kings vs. Blackhawks last night. Many fans thought Rogers might not retain Cole, who was the primary voice of HNIC through 2008 before taking a secondary role. Cole turns 81 later this month. Terms of the deal were not revealed, and Rogers has not made it official. In fact Rogers has yet to confirm any play-by-play announcers or colour commentators for their NHL coverage, which begins in the fall. They likely will not release these details until after the Stanley Cup Final, which begins Wednesday night in Los Angeles. However, I do expect Rogers might release this before July 1. However, some more details of Rogers’ NHL coverage, including the start time and details of Hometown Hockey, will likely be revealed at City’s upfront presentation in Toronto tomorrow afternoon, June 3.

EDIT: Steve Lepore is reporting that Dave Randorf is leaving TSN to join Sportsnet as a NHL play-by-play announcer. I’m not surprised Randorf is leaving TSN considering James Duthie will assume his role of CFL on TSN host, which was part of the new contract he signed with TSN last December. Randorf’s other main gig at TSN is calling regional NHL and IIHF games. Next season TSN’s main hockey commentators, Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert, will be available to call those games. Stay tuned for updates.

MLB Canadian TV Schedule: April 21-27

Here is this week’s MLB schedule for TSN and Sportsnet.

Monday April 21
11:00am, Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox – Sportsnet
7:00pm, Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers – Sportsnet
7:00pm, Cincinnati Reds @ Pittsburgh Pirates – TSN2
10:00pm, Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics – SN West/Pacific

Tuesday April 22
10:00pm, Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics – SN West/Pacific

Wednesday April 23
3:30pm, Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics – SN1
7:00pm, New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox – TSN2

Thursday April 24
1:00pm, Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers – SN1

Friday April 25
10:00pm, Texas Rangers @ Seattle Mariners – SN West/Pacific

Saturday April 26
7:00pm, Cincinnati Reds @ Atlanta Braves – Sportsnet

Sunday April 27
8:00pm, Anaheim Angels @ New York Yankees – TSN2

MLB Canadian TV Schedule: April 14-20

Here is this week’s MLB schedule for TSN and Sportsnet.

Monday April 14
7:00pm, Atlanta Braves @ Philadelphia Phillies – TSN2
7:00pm, Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles – SN1
10:00pm, Oakland Athletics @ Anaheim Angels – TSN2

Wednesday April 16
12:30pm, Tampa Bay Rays @ Baltimore Orioles – Sportsnet

Thursday April 17
7:00pm, New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays – SN360
8:00pm, Boston Red Sox @ Chicago White Sox – SN1

Sunday April 20
7:00pm, Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox – TSN2

2014 NHL Divisional Semifinals Schedule and Announcers

The new NHL playoff format debuts Wednesday night with the start of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The new divisional-based format has resulted in one laughable “rivalry” (Montreal-Tampa Bay), but otherwise the first round features quite a few true rivalry matchups. In the East the Detroit Red Wings will play the Boston Bruins in the playoffs for the first time since the Original Six era; they last met in 1957. Meanwhile the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers re-new their longtime playoff rivalry. The Western Conference features three great rivalry series. The Colorado Avalanche face the Minnesota Wild. These two have played in the same division since the Wild joined the NHL in 2000. The St. Louis Blues encounter the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. In the Pacific Division, California rivals San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings face off.

Here is the complete schedule for each series, including commentator information.

Atlantic Division
(1) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Detroit Red Wings – TSN (Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro)
Game 1, Friday April 18, 7:30pm
Game 2, Sunday April 20, 3:00pm* (Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, Pierre McGuire)
Game 3, Tuesday April 22, 7:30pm
Game 4, Thursday April 24, 8:00pm
Game 5, Saturday April 26, 3:00pm* (NBC)
Game 6, Monday April 28
Game 7, Wednesday April 30

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (3) Montreal Canadiens – CBC (Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy)
Game 1, Wednesday April 16, 7:00pm
Game 2, Friday April 18, 7:00pm
Game 3, Sunday April 20, 7:00pm
Game 4, Tuesday April 22, 7:00pm
Game 5, Thursday April 24, 7:00pm
Game 6, Sunday April 27
Game 7, Tuesday April 29

Metropolitan Division
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets – CBC (Bob Cole, Garry Galley)
Game 1, Wednesday April 16, 7:30pm – CHEX
Game 2, Saturday April 19, 7:00pm
Game 3, Monday April 21, 7:00pm
Game 4, Wednesday April 23, 7:00pm
Game 5, Saturday April 26
Game 6, Monday April 28
Game 7, Wednesday April 30

(2) New York Rangers vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers – TSN (Gord Miller, Ray Ferraro)
Game 1, Thursday April 17, 7:00pm
Game 2, Sunday April 20, 12:00pm* (Kenny Albert, Joe Micheletti)
Game 3, Tuesday April 22, 8:00pm – TSN2*
Game 4, Friday April 25, 7:00pm
Game 5, Sunday April 27, 12:00pm (NBC)
Game 6, Tuesday April 29
Game 7, Wednesday April 30

Central Division
(1) Colorado Avalanche vs. (WC1) Minnesota Wild – TSN (Chris Cuthbert, Mike Johnson)
Game 1, Thursday April 17, 9:30pm* (John Forslund, Tripp Tracy)
Game 2, Saturday April 19, 9:30pm
Game 3, Monday April 21, 7:00pm
Game 4, Thursday April 24, 9:30pm – TSN2*
Game 5, Saturday April 26
Game 6, Monday April 28
Game 7, Wednesday April 30

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (3) Chicago Blackhawks – CBC (Dean Brown, Greg Millen)
Game 1, Thursday April 17, 8:00pm
Game 2, Saturday April 20, 3:00pm
Game 3, Monday April 23, 8:30pm – CHEX
Game 4, Wednesday April 23, 9:30pm
Game 5, Friday April 25, 9:00pm
Game 6, Sunday April 27, 3:00pm
Game 7, Tuesday April 29

Pacific Division
(1) Anaheim Ducks vs. (WC2) Dallas Stars – TSN (Chris Cuthbert, Mike Johnson)
Game 1, Wednesday April 16, 10:00pm
Game 2, Friday April 18, 10:00pm
Game 3, Monday April 21, 9:30pm
Game 4, Wednesday April 23, 8:00pm
Game 5, Friday April 25, 10:30pm
Game 6, Sunday April 27
Game 7, Tuesday April 29

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (3) Los Angeles Kings – CBC (Mark Lee, Kelly Hrudey)
Game 1, Thursday April 17, 10:30pm
Game 2, Sunday April 20, 10:00pm
Game 3, Tuesday April 22, 10:00pm
Game 4, Thursday April 24, 10:30pm
Game 5, Saturday April 26
Game 6, Monday April 28
Game 7, Wednesday April 30

CBC’s Decision To Stop Showing Unprofitable Sports is Unfortunate

The big news revealed on Thursday by CBC President Hubert Lacroix was that the public broadcaster will no longer compete for the broadcast rights of professional sports leagues. However, I think this was a largely symbolic move by Lacroix. In reality CBC hasn’t been competitive for professional sports rights for years and has slowly dropped every pro sports they once broadcast. The Blue Jays first disappeared in 2003, before a few games returned to the CBC in 2007 and 2008. CBC also picked up Raptors broadcasts in 2007, but only kept them for two seasons. The CFL ended its 52 year run on the CBC in 2007. And while curling isn’t a fully professional sport (yet, at least), it has ratings most sports in Canada could only wish for. Curling’s signature events, branded the Season of Champions, left CBC for TSN in 2008. This summer the CBC will mark the last of the CBC showing the FIFA World Cup, which is headed to CTV in 2018. So, again, in reality the CBC has not truly competed for professional sports rights for a few years now. The exception was Hockey Night in Canada. Last November it became clear CBC would no longer compete for that either.

The more troubling aspect of Lacroix’s statement, which the media has mostly ignored, is that the CBC will only consider broadcasting sports where it can break even or turn a profit. I’ve always thought that the role of the CBC in Canadian sports broadcasting was to fill a void left by the private networks. Since presumably TSN and Sportsnet also don’t broadcast many sports that fail to break even, this could leave some sports completely off the Canadian airwaves. One recent example is the IAAF Diamond League, featuring Track & Field’s signature events. CBC dropped coverage two years ago following government funding cuts. No other network has picked up coverage of the events since. It seems like the sports that the CBC will most likely drop, are also the least likely to be picked up by a private network. And that’s sad for these amateur sports that rely on some TV coverage to generate interest among the youth, Canada’s potential future Olympians.

The most puzzling thing about the CBC’s statement is what constitutes “professional”, which the CBC will not compete for anymore, and what constitutes “national interest”? Obviously the NHL is professional and the Olympics are of national interest, but what about the Rogers Cup. Tennis is a professional sport, but the event is arguably of national interest. And it also makes no mention of sub-licensing, which CBC has touted as a key component to its long-term sports-broadcasting viability. Will the CBC continue to seek sub-licensing deals, as they have with Sportsnet for the World Curling Tour and NHL.

National Post Report: CBC To Make Sports Budget Cuts Thursday

This evening the National Post reported that CBC Sports will make significant cuts as a result of the loss of Hockey Night in Canada revenue to Rogers. This isn’t a surprise, I’ve heard talk of cuts at CBC Sports since the Olympics ended over a month ago. And it doesn’t take much deduction to figure out that a loss of revenue from HNIC will result in cuts elsewhere at the public broadcaster. This round of cuts at CBC Sports comes almost two years to the day after CBC Sports cut $4 million from its annual budget in light of reduced government funding. That $4 million cut resulted in CBC ending its Sports Weekend amateur sports program during the summer months, and completely eliminated coverage of many summer sports such as athletics. In fact in 2013 CBC didn’t show the World Aquatics Championships or World Athletics Championships for the first time in years.

Will CBC’s winter sports lineup take a hit this time, with the next Winter Olympics a full 4 years away? Speed Skating, alpine skiing and figure skating are the highlights of CBC’s winter lineup. Further cuts to summer programming could include Spruce Meadows equestrian, the Calgary Stampede or the Rogers Cup. Of course the CBC would have to wait until the current broadcast contracts end before they could cut cost through those events. And tennis popularity is at an all-time high in Canada with Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard serious threats to win on home soil. So, the most immediate cuts will likely come in on and off-air talent. Senior employees such as Scott Russell, Scott Oake and Steve Armitage are probably the safest, but cuts in the sports broadcast industry are never something pleasant to write about.

Edit (April 7, 2014):

Yahoo! Finance’s Andy Raida has also published an article about the impending cuts at the CBC. Quoting Ian Morrison of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the article seems to confirm much of what I speculated about earlier in this article. Raida reports that the cuts will equal dollar value cuts of $130 to $140 million, with around 350 English-language positions cut. Morrison adds, “In terms of programming, what I’ve heard is that they’re going to really curtail anything that has to do with sports. That’s a decision that has been made. They’re going to close down sports departments — things of that nature.”

So things do not look good for CBC’s sports department. It looks at though the private sports broadcasters could finally devour it. As I mentioned earlier, after losing hockey CBC doesn’t have many sports properties to cut. Aside for Rio 2016, the only events CBC holds rights to are the Figure Skating’s Grand Prix and World Championships (through 2016 Worlds), Alpine Skiing’s World Cup, the Rogers Cup (through 2015), Calgary Stampede (through 2015, options for 2016-17) and Spruce Meadows equestrian. I am unsure of the current contract situation for both the Queen’s Plate and the Canadian Women’s Open The CBC also sub-licenses a couple Grand Slam of Curling broadcasts a year from Sportsnet, but if Sportsnet is producing CBC’s hockey coverage, there’s no reason they couldn’t begin producing their curling as well. But I think the end-dates of these contracts makes it clear CBC could almost entirely pull out of producing sports coverage by the end of the Rio 2016.

CNN’s MH370 Coverage a Sad Statement on News Coverage in America

As anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably figured out over the past month, I have a real problem with CNN’s coverage of the missing Fight MH370. And my argument isn’t that the story doesn’t constitute news. It certainly does. In fact it probably has deserved to lead every national newscast for the past month, except for a few days after the horrific mudslides in Washington. Instead my problem is that CNN shills out hour after hour of MH370 coverage, at the expense of other very important news, for ratings. Which leads me to my second problem, that America is more fascinated with this than it is with other news items, such as Russia annexing a sovereign country or the America’s new medical insurance program, which in some way directly impacts just about every American.

And this coverage has undoubtedly paid off for CNN in terms of ratings and profit. Recently released ratings for the month of March show that CNN is ahead of competitor MSNBC for the first time since last summer. MSNBC, for their part, has tried to stay away from excessive plane coverage. This shows a general correlation that more plane coverage = higher ratings, less plane coverage = lower ratings. CNN’s weekday primetime coverage for March 2014 is up 35% in total viewers compared to March 2013. Between March 12 and March 14 Anderson Cooper’s “360” beat Bill O’Reilly’s “Factor” on Fox News three consecutive nights.

And, so, it absolutely baffles me that so many people have watched CNN repeat the same news hour after hour every day. In fact, it seems much of the news is the same each day that passes. CNN’s coverage was fantastic in the first few days after the plane’s disappearance. However, CNN’s coverage quickly turned to filling time with conspiracy theories and other inane filler that doesn’t actually result in the reporting of any news, you know, what news reporters are supposed to do. The inane on CNN has ranged from countless “aviation experts”, some of whom have very questionable credentials, to a full-time reporter at a flight simulator in Mississauga (the only time Canada is ever mentioned on CNN, I might add), to model planes and the use of “breaking news” for the smallest of items.

I’ll start with the aviation experts. Some of these experts are in fact ex-pilots or flight engineers, or at least I’d hope they are. However, CNN’s go-to man on aviation expertise is Richard Quest. A CNN regular, Quest is only moonlighting as an expert on MH370, he has a day job as a CNN business analyst. One could question why Quest even still has a job at CNN, after he was found in Central Park with crystal meth in 2008. But I’ll simply stick to questioning why he is a plane analyst (er aviation expert), and the answer is I haven’t a clue.

Another aspect of CNN’s time-filling is their use of planes, big and small, real and fake. CNN has used the simulator in Mississauga quite often to show what it is like for a plane to ascend, descend or turn left at a rapid rate. Only problem is none of us viewers can actually tell what these movements feel like, so we have to rely on the CNN reporter inside the cockpit to describe them for us. Fascinating stuff. If a life-size simulator wasn’t enough, Don Lemon appealed to the inner-child in all of us when he showed the plane’s movements using a model plane a few weeks ago. This 80 second video is great because it pretty much sums up CNN’s speculation as well. And, unbelievably, it wasn’t Don Lemon’s worst on-air moment of the past month, but more on that later.

The craziest part of CNN’s coverage are the theories of what happened to the plane. Of course we really don’t know what happened and won’t until the black box is recovered, if it ever is. But that simple, newsworthy explanation would only take a minute to report. CNN needed something juicy that would last for days. And so, the conspiracy theories came in. The first of these was the immediate linking two Iranians with stolen passports (apparently a rather disturbingly often occurrence) to a supposed hijacking. When officials revealed the plane could be in any number of former Soviet Union countries, speculation began that the Iranians were going to use the plane for a later terrorist attack on Israel. Then investigators realized the Iranians were just normal passengers, so attention turned to the pilots, despite a complete lack of evidence that either had any motive. But no, CNN’s theories didn’t stop there at these surprisingly plausible explanations. CNN had to go a step further, quickly turning the “Zombie Plane Theory” (why not latch on to America’s most watched show, The Walking Dead?), while Lemon outdid himself questioning if the plane’s disappearance was supernatural or caused by a mini black hole.

But I think CNN’s coverage, and America’s consumption of it, shows a larger problem with society. In a reality show era of television, live 24/7 news has almost become just another form of reality TV. There are many examples before MH370. One of the defining examples was nightly primetime coverage of the Iraq War. CNN, along with Fox News and MSNBC, showed coverage of American bombings in Iraq. And the people loved it as all three cable news networks set ratings records. Fascinated viewers watched villages being bombed. Regardless of the fact that these bombings killed many innocent people, viewers didn’t care because they never actually saw this. It also deflected coverage away from talk about whether the war itself was just, ethical or any number of other things. Another example was the coverage of the search for the Boston Marathon bombers a year ago. Of course the difference was that search lasted 24 hours, not a month. And for the record, I thought it did make for fascinating television.

I think CNN could cover the plane story better by covering it less, and by focusing on other ignored aspects. For example cooperation, or a lack of, between the various Asian countries involved in the search could be investigated more. As could the poorly handled investigation by Malaysia or whether any Asian countries are considering better radar coverage. Or they could look into how outrageously easy it seems to board a plane with fake passports.

Actually I think CNN had one of the great, moving moments in news this year when it aired an interview with the previously mentioned Iranian passenger’s mother. Turns out she is living in Germany, receiving cancer treatments and awaiting refugee status. Her son wanted to visit her quickly in case her cancer became worse.  He figured a stolen passport was his best chance to get from Iran to Germany. Due to his love for his mother, he was on the plane. And now she has to live with that. The interview is absolutely heartbreaking.

The other thing that is fascinating about CNN’s coverage is the flow of events. When it came to light the plane had taken a left turn after leaving Malaysia, which I consider the turning point in this whole event, CNN has constantly clung on to one small piece of news per day, before discarding it for something else when it is proven irrelevant. They started off with the “northern and southern arcs”, and how the plane could have been flown to some remote former Soviet airstrip unnoticed. Despite that logic tells us the plane probably flew south crashing into the Indian Ocean, CNN focused on the remote possibility that it was refueling somewhere in one of the “stans” for a potential future terror attack.

When officials revealed it had in fact headed south, CNN turned their focus to the pilot’s flight simulator. They made it sound odd that a pilot who loved flying would own a simulator. They came up with theories that maybe he had practiced flying a plane into the Indian Ocean, or maybe an airstrip on a small island in the Indian Ocean, and that this was (or had once been) recorded on his simulator. When these theories had finally run their course, and investigators announced there was a new “search area” off the coast of Australia, CNN moved their coverage to an entirely new continent.

And with this new search area came over a week of day-after-day coverage with breaking news, officials had found “their best lead yet.” Of course that isn’t saying much considering every lead in this story has turned out completely wrong. And so CNN took to showing grainy satellite images of objects in the ocean, and day after day these turned out to be ocean trash. And now with the news that Chinese and Australian officials have found the much-talked about, famous “pings” of the black box maybe they will finally find the wreckage and CNN can move on to reporting actual news about the crash, which I think we are all anxious to hear, and put behind them this embarrassing reality-show style coverage.