101st Grey Cup Broadcast Facts and Figures

5.4 million – Average number of viewers who watched the 100th GREY CUP on TSN last year – the most-watched CFL championship ever recorded on Canadian English-language television

33,528 – Metres of cable (camera, audio, and video) needed for TSN’s broadcast of the 101st GREY CUP (equal to 333 CFL football fields)

2,656 – Number of kilometres traveled by the CFL ON TSN panel desk on its journey from TSN’s Toronto studio to Mosaic Stadium in Regina

FACT: TSN’s producer and director team of Jon Hynes and Paul Hemming have worked together to broadcast thousands of marquee sporting events. In addition to numerous Grey Cups, they both worked on the men’s hockey gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

1,500 – Estimated number of split-second decisions that will be made by TSN’s production team during the 101st GREY CUP broadcast

1,117 – Total combined height in centimetres of the CFL on TSN panel

250 – Estimated number of watermelon helmets TSN will show on air during its two-day Grey Cup coverage

FACT: TSN’s Brian Williams has interviewed a total of 10 different CFL commissioners on Grey Cup Sundays

195 – Total number of TSN staff (technical, production, support and on-air) working Grey Cup weekend

155 – Number of microphones used by TSN on GREY CUP SUNDAY

150 – Number of broadcast monitors in one TSN broadcast truck

55 – Number of Darren Dutchyshen’s “extended” family from Porcupine Plain, Sask. joining him at the game

FACT: TSN uses two different production crews for the 101st GREY CUP: one for the game and one for the pre-game show and SiriusXM Grey Cup Half-Time Show

37 – Number of cameras TSN will use during TSN’s broadcast of the 101st GREY CUP including a helicopter cam to capture aerial views of the city

21 – Number of JUNO nominations garnered by multi-platinum pop group Hedley, who will perform at the SiriusXM Grey Cup Half-Time Show at the 101st GREY CUP

15 – Number of Grey Cup games called by TSN’s Chris Cuthbert. He is joined by CFL ON TSN analyst Glen Suitor in the broadcast booth for the 101st GREY CUP

FACT: Hedley singer Jacob Hoggard finished in third place on the second season of CTV’s Canadian Idol

1 – Ranking of the 1989 Grey Cup (Riders vs. Ti-Cats) on the SPORTSCENTRE Top 10 list of the greatest CFL championship games of all time

101st Grey Cup on TSN and RDS

The biggest annual sporting event in Canada is here once again. The 101st edition of the CFL Grey Cup will be played this Sunday at Mosaic Stadium in Regina as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders. TSN television and radio networks will have full English-language coverage, with RDS handling the French side of things from 5pm ET. 

Saturday, Nov. 23

GREY CUP SATURDAY – 12 noon ET live on TSN

TSN delivers comprehensive coverage of the CFL championship on GREY CUP SATURDAY, with SPORTSCENTRE hosts Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchyshen live from the Nissan Family Zone in Regina. Throughout the day, the CFL ON TSN panel checks in from Mosaic Stadium with Grey Cup news and analysis.

Additional GREY CUP SATURDAY highlights include:

  • GIBSON’S FINEST CFL PLAYER AWARDS at 12:30 p.m. ET, honouring the CFL’s top players from the 2013 season
  • SPORTSCENTRE TOP 25 CFL PLAYS OF 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET, counting down the 25 best plays from the 2013 CFL season
  • A special CABBIE PRESENTS from Regina with host  Cabral ‘Cabbie’ Richards
  • 100th GREY CUP at 7 p.m. ET. In anticipation of this year’s championship game, TSN delivers an encore presentation of the historic 100th GREY CUP that saw the Toronto Argonauts defeat the Calgary Stampeders in front of a home crowd.

Sunday, Nov. 24


TSN’s pre-game coverage airs live from Mosaic Stadium, kicking off with SPORTSCENTRE hosts Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchyshen.

At 3 p.m. ET, hosts Dave Randorf and Brian Williams take over at Mosaic Stadium for the game, alongside the CFL ON TSN panel featuring Grey Cup champion Chris Schultz, two-time Grey Cup champion and Canadian Football Hall of Famer Matt Dunigan, Jock Climie, Canadian Football Hall of Famer Milt Stegall, and former CFL head coach Paul LaPolice.

The GREY CUP SUNDAY PRE-GAME SHOW also checks in with Cabbie as he hosts the Sun Life Grey Cup Fan March from Victoria Park to Mosaic Stadium, and delivers another special edition of CABBIE PRESENTS from Regina.

Includes four pieces presented by TSN’s Brian Williams, these features explore the fascinating tales behind some of the CFL’s greatest stories, achievements, and venues:

  • The History of Taylor Field
    As the Saskatchewan Roughriders plan the construction of their new stadium, Brian Williams celebrates the storied history of Taylor Field, which has been home to Rider Nation for over a century. Williams’ piece is a look back at this hallowed football ground, which has played host to Roughriders football as far back as 1910.
  • The Ottawa RedBlacks
    The city of Ottawa revives its CFL dreams next season with the inception of the Ottawa RedBlacks. Presented by Brian Williams, this piece is an update on the CFL’s return to the nation’s capital, including a tour of the newly-renovated Lansdowne Park and an interview with RedBlacks president Jeff Hunt.
  • Journey to the Grey Cup
    In two separate features, TSN follows the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats on their drive towards the CFL’s championship game. Seen through the eyes of players and coaches, and featuring in-game mic commentary from star players including Darian Durant and Jamall Johnson, fans can relive the highs and lows of the Riders and Ti-Cats’ respective seasons.
  • Saskatchewan, by Michael Farber
    As a tribute to the host province of the 101st GREY CUP, Sports Illustrated journalist and TSN contributor Michael Farber has penned a video essay about the psyche of Saskatchewan. It illustrates the history of the province, the geographic hardships faced by its settlers, and the significance of football to those who make their home in the Land of Living Skies.

101st GREY CUP – 6 p.m. ET live on TSN, TSN Radio, and TEAM Radio

TSN’s acclaimed broadcast team of Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor are in the broadcast booth at Mosaic Stadium, providing play-by-play commentary and game analysis during the 101st GREY CUP on TSN. Veteran broadcaster Cuthbert has called the action in 15 previous CFL championship games, while Suitor – a Grey Cup champion with the Saskatchewan Roughriders – makes his sixth appearance in the booth for the big game. Reporting from the sidelines are TSN’s Sara Orlesky and Farhan Lalji.

Prior to kick-off, TSN will feature a performance by Saskatchewan natives The Sheepdogs as part of the CFL’s special Kick-Off Show, which also features player introductions and the national anthem performed by Serena Ryder. At halftime, TSN has live coverage of the SiriusXM Grey Cup Half-Time Show featuring Canadian multi-platinum pop group Hedley. Continue reading

New CFL/TSN Contract is Fair for Both Sides

So I finally got around to writing a bit about the new CFL on TSN television contract. I didn’t want to focus too much on the money spent because I figured many were wondering about how it would affect CFL television coverage in Canada. I thought the mainstream media did a reasonable job of covering the positive effects it will have on the well-being of the league. That was until I read Toronto Sports Media’s column on the new deal. TSM thinks that there is “NO way” TSN can make money off a deal where they are paying between 350, 000 and 400, 000 per game. He doesn’t really give any reasons why he thinks this, other than he doesn’t like the CFL. Now I have no idea how much revenue TSN makes off a given CFL game and considering his lack of evidence, I doubt he does either.

Most mainstream media sources cite the new CFL on TSN deal as being worth between $30 (The Star) and $40 million per year (Vancouver Sun). Either way that’s significantly more than the $15 million per season the CFL has received since going exclusive with TSN in 2008. The value of the league has more than doubled in five years. And that’s despite the fact that TSN signed the deal at the last-minute of their exclusive negotiating window. Not that any other networks were going to challenge TSN. Sportsnet is happy with the Blue Jays during the summer. CBC is facing budget cuts and will focus on keeping Hockey Night in Canada. Shaw shelved their proposed sports channel because they knew they couldn’t compete with Bell and Rogers.

Like I said, I have no idea how much revenue TSN gets from any individual CFL broadcast. So the only real comparison on how good the CFL’s new deal is another sports broadcast on TSN. The NHL gets around $33 million a season (or $200 million over six seasons) from TSN for 70 regular season TSN-produced broadcasts featuring Canadian teams and some playoff games. Depending on how many Canadian teams make the playoffs, some seasons TSN gets to show a Canadian team in the first round. Others they don’t. The past couple seasons have shown that it isn’t a guarantee.

TSN averaged 714, 000 viewers for NHL regular season games in 2009-10, with numbers in 2010-11 slightly higher. I don’t think TSN released season averages for last season. CFL on TSN regular season ratings have leveled off, averaging 637, 000 and 674, 000 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This after the shockingly high average of 807, 000 in 2010. Those ratings aren’t that far below what TSN gets for the NHL. CFL is the second most consistent performer on Canadian TV, after NHL.

TSN pays around $475, 000 per regular season NHL game. Under the new contract, which sees the CFL regular season schedule increase from 72 to 81 regular season games when Ottawa joins the league next season. Using the median of the dollar values for the new CFL contract reported by the media, $35 million, TSN will pay just over $430, 000 per regular season game. Of course it is worth remembering TSN is paying for playoffs too, and TSN produces more NHL playoff games than the CFL has. TSN signed the NHL contract five years ago. NHL ratings have also jumped for TSN in that time. The NHL will certainly get more money for its next cable contract than it does now.

So, based on that, I think TSN is paying market value for CFL broadcasts. I think Toronto Sports Media is blinded by his dislike of the league, which isn’t unusual. A lot of people seem to deny how well Canadian football does for TSN for whatever reason. Even if TSN could pay less for the league, the two businesses have a great partnership. I don’t think either party wanted to rip-off the other, and I certainly don’t think TSN is “desperate for content” or that the CFL “stole 30 million dollars” (so are CFL rights worth nothing in that case?).

And even if TSN did pay more than the broadcasts are worth, surely the deal can also be considered as an investment for when TSN likely signs a new contract with the CFL in five more years. The CFL isn’t like the Olympics, or even the NHL. Putting money into the league makes a real difference. Every team should make money now. The new Ottawa franchise is entering a much more stable league than the Renegades did twelve years before. New stadiums are coming, the salary cap might go up, the CFL can put more into marketing and getting fans to the gate (personally I gained a greater appreciation after I saw a game live). That should translate into more fan interest, higher ratings and more adverting revenue for TSN over the next five seasons.

Details of New CFL on TSN Deal

Was so busy last week I barely even had time to look at the press release for TSN’s new CFL deal. So, here are some of the details. And while you read, here is music history from Saturday night. Blur’s Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon played their song “Tender” with Noel Gallagher of Oasis, officially ending of of music’s biggest rivalries, I guess. It was either great, or worse than sipping champagne at 10 Downing, depending on who you are.

  • It’s a 8-year deal that runs through the end of the 2018 season and includes every regular season and playoff game for TSN, RDS (Alouettes and playoffs) and RDS2.
  • Also includes radio rights for the Grey Cup for TSN Radio and TEAM radio stations.
  • Otherwise it seems everything is basically the same as before. The schedule will expand to 81 games next season when Ottawa rejoins the league, an increase from 73 this season.
  • The CFL’s exclusive negotiating window with TSN ended at the end of January. The CFL wanted an exclusive deal with Bell.
  • The guarantee of Canadian markets facing Canadian markets in every game was important for TSN.
  • Cohon thinks it gives the CFL the dollar guarantee that allows it to invest in new infrastructural and ideas.
  • TSN’s Stewart Johnston on the prospect of moving the Grey Cup to CTV, “Well we love our parent network at CTV, but I can tell you honestly, it wasn’t once discussed. We love what the Grey Cup has done for the TSN brand in the past five years.” It’s not a problem for the CFL, as I’ve mentioned before.
  • You can listen to Johnston and Cohon on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor from last week here. I wish I had more to say about it, but it’s really more of the same.

March Madness… TSN’s March Madness coverage continues to have both bright spots and some real annoyances for viewers. The features on Canadian players are great. Dan Shulman and Sam Mitchell are great on the studio panel. Host Kate Beirness is really growing into the job. And best of all TSN barely showed any of the games that were on CBS over the weekend. Not only that, but Beirness and the bottomline directed viewers to watch CBS. Meanwhile TSN and TSN2 focused on games that were broadcast on cable channels TBS, TNT and TruTV in the States. The only thing I found poor about TSN’s coverage was the constant flipping of games from TSN to TSN2. It got confusing. And while the bottomline said which game was on CBS, it never mentioned what games were broadcast on the other network. At the opening of each broadcast it was never really revealed which games TSN would show and which ones would air mainly on TSN or TSN2. A little more consistency in leaving one game on the same network would be nice, instead of constantly switching at halftime.

Soccer… 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying continues tomorrow. Before getting to what’s on tomorrow, GolTV deserves credit for using the RTE Irish domestic commentary of the Sweden v. Ireland game on Friday evening. Despite audio troubles in the first five minutes, it was a lot better than their usual annoying American commentators calling the match off a screen from Florida.

But on to the more interesting matter. England travels to Podgoric to face Group H leaders Montenegro in a key qualifying match tomorrow night. International broadcasts of the match, originally marketed for by Kentaro, have taken an interesting turn. GolTV shows Kentaro matches in North America. This game was one of the biggest in the package of qualifiers that GolTV purchased from Kentaro last year. However, the Montenegro FA recently pulled out of their contract with Kentaro. With that GolTV lost rights to the match and it will now air on Sportsnet.

A similar situation occurred in England where ITV nearly lost rights to the match after paying Kentaro an upfront fee for it. Kentaro still claims (or at least claimed as of last week) to hold international rights to Montenegro home matches internationally. GolTV in the US included it on their broadcast schedule as recently as the weekend. GolTV in Canada still does. The Guardian has an interesting article on the situation. It also explains why Brazil’s World Tour matches have disappeared from GolTV this season, as Kentaro has lost rights to those as well. No word yet on how this affects GolTV’s coverage of Ireland v. Austria tomorrow evening. The match was originally scheduled for tape-delay at 6pm ET; however, with this development it could air live at 4:45pm ET. In other action tomorrow evening France and Spain battle for the top spot in Group I on Sportsnet ONE.

MLB… The 2013 Jays broadcast schedule is out. 20 games will air exclusively on Sportsnet ONE. Most of those are due to NFL or Memorial Cup conflicts. Because of regional hockey conflicts another ten games in April will air on different combinations of the Sportsnet channels (six of those are also on ONE). The other 132 games will air on all four regional channels. I also have Sportsnet’s MLB schedule (I’ll post it later this weekend when I get the chance). Sportsnet ONE has close to 90 other MLB games, while the regional channels will combine for around 175 games. TSN2 has Sunday Night Baseball again. By my count there are over 450 games on Canadian TV this season, not including American networks like FOX or WGN.

100th CFL Grey Cup on TSN

The Toronto Argonauts will play against the Calgary Stampeders from the Rogers Centre in Toronto, in the 100th edition of the CFL Grey Cup tonight at 6:30pm on TSN.

TSN will have nearly ten hours of television coverage today including:
1 p.m. ET — Grey Cup Pre-game
6 p.m. ET — Countdown to Kickoff
6:30 p.m. ET — The 100th CFL Grey Cup
10 p.m. ET — Grey Cup Post-game

Coverage of the big game can be heard across the country on TSN’s radio network beginning at 4 p.m. ET, live on tsn.ca, and seen on TSN Mobile TV. French coverage will begin on RDS at 5 p.m. ET.

Chris Cuthbert and Glen Suitor will be calling the action for those watching on TV; Dave Randorf and Brian Williams along with the CFL on TSN panel will be hosting the many hours of pre-game; on TSN Radio Toronto, Mike Hogan and Sandy Annunziata will have the call, with Rod Black and Duane Ford handling the duties on TSN stations in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Winnipeg.

Pre-game entertainment will feature a performance from Johnny Reid, and the national anthem by Burton Cummings. The half-time show will feature the vocal stylings of  Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Marianas Trench, and Gordon Lightfoot. 

New this year, “Field Access” will be available online at tsn.ca/fieldaccess where viewers can watch alternate angles and coverage of pre-game warm-ups, as well as the main event. It will also feature a live chat beginning during pre-game and continuing throughout the match.

CFL by the numbers, following the jump…
Continue reading

CFL Divisional Playoff Ratings

Here are the ratings for yesterday’s games.

Edmonton @ Toronto: 1.1 million
Saskatchewan @ Calgary: 1.6 million

The East Semifinal is down 500, 000 viewers from the combined TSN/RDS audience for Tiger Cats-Alouettes last year. The discrepancy is probably slightly smaller when the RDS number, which isn’t available yet,  for this year’s game. However, the West Semifinal is up 350, 000 viewers over the TSN audience for Stampeders-Eskimos last season. I think its safe to assume somewhere between 100, 000 and 200, 000 watched the East Semi on RDS, so the numbers are more or less on par with last season’s Divisional Semifinals.

Weekend Sports Ratings Update: July 16, 2012

A little treat for everyone this evening. I have the ratings for all 4 CFL games and all 3 Jays games over the weekend. It looks like the CFL has rebounded after a bit of a slow start. The four games on the weekend averaged just over 700, 000 viewers on TSN and RDS. That is a rebound from last week when only two games cracked 700, 000 viewers. And one game (CGY-TOR) was below 500, 000. This week three of the four games hit the 700, 000 mark, with the other nearing 600, 000.

The Jays, meanwhile, averaged 663, 000 viewers for their three game series with Cleveland. These are also up slightly from last weekend’s series against Chicago. The Jays hit a high of 758, 000 viewers on Sunday afternoon, when there wasn’t much else on for sports.

What has impressed me most overall this season is how sports ratings in general are up this summer. People (a lot of people) watched Euro 2012 on hot summer afternoon. Jays ratings are well up from last season. CFL ratings are also, at the very least, holding consistent when compared to the first few weeks of last season. That may or may not be good news for the CFL as it enters into negotiations for a new television deal. Holding steady is always good; however, last year’s ratings were down overall from 2010. While the CFL’s ratings still put it in the top-tier of Canadian sports, I’m sure a slight bump wouldn’t hurt the league’s finances a bit.

Here are all the CFL and Jays ratings for this past weekend.

CGY-MTL, July 12, TSN/RDS: 799, 000
WPG-EDM, July 13, TSN: 596, 000
BC-SSK, July 14, TSN: 707, 000
TOR-HAM, July 14, TSN: 751, 000

CLE-TOR, July 13, SN: 645, 000
CLE-TOR, July 14, SN: 586, 000
CLE-TOR, July 15, SN: 758, 000

2012 CFL Season Kicks of Tonight on TSN

Same old graphics and a few new features. That sums up the first 90 minutes of TSN’s first CFL broadcast in 2012. Here is their press release with all the details of their coverage this season.

From Canada Day weekend to the 100th Grey Cup, it’s a season like no other and TSN is there every step of the way delivering end-to-end coverage of the 2012 CFL season with its CFL ON TSN broadcast campaign.

TSN’s complete 77-game package is part of the network’s exclusive multi-year deal with the CFL, and includes the playoffs and this season’s historic event: the 100th GREY CUP from Toronto. All games are available live on TSN Mobile TV and on-demand at TSN.ca.

Regular season coverage gets underway on RONA Canada Day Kickoff weekend – June 29-July 1 – with four games.

On Friday, June 29, WENDY’S FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL features opening night doubleheader action. In the first game, the Saskatchewan Roughriders travel to Ivor Wynne Stadium to take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 7 p.m. ET, marking the first time that Ticats receiver Andy Fantuz faces off against his former team. Immediately following the match-up, the CFL ON TSN heads to B.C. Place for a rematch of last year’s GREY CUP final, as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers take on the B.C. Lions at 10 p.m. ET.

This year marks the 15th season that TSN brings the WENDY’S FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL brand to fans on an evening that has become destination viewing for the CFL with at least one game throughout the regular season. Making its debut this season is a new WENDY’S FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL opening animation and theme song performed by Brockville, ON native Janey Brown.

On Saturday, June 30, the Toronto Argonauts take on the Edmonton Eskimos at 7 p.m. ET, as Argos quarterback Ricky Ray makes his first appearance at Commonwealth Stadium since being traded to Toronto in the off season.

Finally, on Canada Day (July 1), fireworks are expected on the field when Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes travel to McMahon Stadium to battle the Calgary Stampeders – led by quarterback Drew Tate – at 7 p.m. ET.

Also premiering on the CFL ON TSN on Canada Day is a new CFL-produced video, “It Reflects Us All,” underlining the league’s theme for this season. The video is narrated by Kiefer Sutherland.

The CFL ON TSN studio panel starts the season in Hamilton with host Dave Randorf alongside analysts Chris Schultz, Matt Dunigan and Jock Climie on location at Ivor Wynne Stadium. CFL ON TSN analyst Milt Stegall is at B.C. Place in Vancouver as Lions slotback Geroy Simon looks to break the all-time CFL receiving record, which is currently held by Stegall.

Along with every game, TSN brings fans closer to the CFL with all-encompassing coverage on all of its key platforms and properties including TSN Radio and TSN.ca. Key properties such as SPORTSCENTRE has coverage of the CFL all season long, with Canada’s #1 sports news program featuring news, highlights and interviews, plus the CFL ON TSN panel breaking down games and handing out game balls to the league’s standout players each week.

A 3 Downs quiz segment makes its debut this season featuring the CFL ON TSN panel delivering definitive opinions on a variety of topics and issues surrounding the league – all through a fun and interactive multiple-choice quiz format.

The CFL ON TSN also has its finger on the pulse of everything going on socially with the CFL, as this year’s broadcasts feature a new segment called Social CFL with social media correspondent Kate McKenna. Throughout the season, fans can join the conversation on TSN’s Fan Page for Facebook and on Twitter by following the CFL ON TSN on-air personalities and using the hashtags #TSN and #CFL.

Also new this season is the network’s highly-anticipated documentary series, ENGRAVED ON A NATION: STORIES OF THE GREY CUP, THE CFL AND CANADA. Premiering in the fall and commissioned by Bell Media, ENGRAVED ON A NATION salutes the 100th GREY CUP with eight original documentaries that celebrate Canada’s game and the trophy’s place in Canadian history.

The CFL ON TSN is proving to be one of the most sought-after properties for advertisers in Canada. Major sponsors of the 2012 CFL ON TSN broadcast campaign include General Motors, Mr. Lube, Nissan, Purolator, Safeway, Scotiabank, Rona and Wendy’s.

TSN has been televising CFL games since 1986.

Broadcast Schedule

TSN is the official broadcaster of the CFL with every regular season game (72), along with the four divisional playoff match-ups and the GREY CUP (see attached PDF or visit TSN.ca for complete broadcast schedule). Live coverage of all Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions games – along with pre- and post-game shows – is also available on TSN Radio in Toronto (AM 1050) and Team 1410 in Vancouver.

Additional highlights of the CFL ON TSN broadcast schedule include:

· Traditional match-ups during Scotiabank Labour Day Weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) and four games on Thanksgiving Weekend (Oct. 5-8)

· The final regular season game played at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton on October 27 with the Tiger-Cats taking on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers

· The Canadian Football Hall of Fame Weekend in Winnipeg (Nov. 1-3) as Stegall is among the CFL players and builders being inducted in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame

TSN’s extensive lineup of live game action and programming is supported by an integrated multi-platform CFL ON TSN marketing campaign, which includes an original 30-second promotional TV spot featuring TSN’s football experts and marquee players, along with national radio spots on TSN Radio and Bell Media radio stations, promotion across TSN.ca and the Bell Media network of digital sites, and social media presence through Twitter and TSN’s Fan Page on Facebook.

Broadcast Team

The CFL ON TSN returns to the gridiron with its broadcast team delivering every pass, punt and two-point conversion to Canadian football fans each week.

Chris Cuthbert returns as the primary voice of TSN’s CFL coverage alongside long time game analyst Glen Suitor. TSN’s Rod Black and Duane Forde are also back in the broadcast booth providing fans with play-by-play commentary and game analysis.

Brian Williams and TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor bring fans in-depth features and interviews with key newsmakers on the CFL ON TSN. Naylor will also break down the hot button issues impacting the league during his regular appearances on all of TSN’s platforms throughout the season.

Back in studio is the CFL ON TSN panel, with host Randorf, alongside the always informative – and entertaining – analysts Schultz, Hall-of-Famer Dunigan, Climie, and Stegall. Also making appearances in studio this season is former Winnipeg Blue Bombers lineman Doug Brown.

2012 CFL Preseason on TSN

Personally I think football preseason (both NFL and CFL) is incredibly overrated. Can’t figure why anyone would watch it over baseball, the US Open, Euro 2012 etc, but they do. TSN and TSN2 will show four games over the next two weeks. Here is their press release.

The gridiron is heating up across the country, as Canada’s Sports Leader kicks off the 2012 CFL season with live pre-season double-header action on June 13 featuring Toronto @ Hamilton at 7 p.m. ET immediately followed by Saskatchewan @ B.C. at 10 p.m. ET on TSN.

In total, TSN and TSN2 have live coverage of four pre-season games with live coverage also available on TSN Mobile TV, TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto and Team 1410 in Vancouver. In addition, games are available on-demand online at TSN.ca (see complete CFL pre-season broadcast schedule below).

The networks’ CFL pre-season coverage features play-by-play commentators Chris Cuthbert and Rod Black in the broadcast booth alongside game analysts Glen Suitor and Duane Forde. The popular CFL ON TSN panel is back to break down all the action on – and off – the field with host Dave Randorf and analysts Chris Schultz, Matt Dunigan, Jock Climie and Milt Stegall.

Throughout the pre-season, TSN.ca gives fans a comprehensive CFL season preview package featuring an in-depth look at all the teams as they prepare for the regular season and analysis from TSN’s stable of football experts and Insiders.

Here is TSN’s schedule.

Wednesday 6/13, 7:00pm – Toronto Argonauts @ Hamilton Tiger Cats – TSN
Wednesday 6/13, 10:00pm – Saskatchewan Roughriders @ B.C. Lions – TSN
Friday 6/15, 9:00pm – Edmonton Eskimos @ Calgary Stampeders – TSN2
Wednesday 6/20, 8:00pm – Hamilton Tiger Cats @ Edmonton Eskimos – TSN2

TSN Has CFL Preseason This June

TSN has announced its 2012 CFL preseason TV schedule. Here is the press release, followed by the schedule.

The gridiron is heating up across the country, as Canada’s Sports Leader kicks off the 2012 CFL season with live pre-season double-header action on June 13 featuring Toronto @ Hamilton at 7 p.m. ET immediately followed by Saskatchewan @ B.C. at 10 p.m. ET on TSN.

In total, TSN and TSN2 have live coverage of four pre-season games with live coverage also available on TSN Mobile TV, TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto and Team 1410 in Vancouver. In addition, games are available on-demand online at TSN.ca (see complete CFL pre-season broadcast schedule below).

The networks’ CFL pre-season coverage features play-by-play commentators Chris Cuthbert and Rod Black in the broadcast booth alongside game analysts Glen Suitor and Duane Forde. The popular CFL ON TSN panel is back to break down all the action on – and off – the field with host Dave Randorf and analysts Chris Schultz, Matt Dunigan, Jock Climie and Milt Stegall.

Throughout the pre-season, TSN.ca gives fans a comprehensive CFL season preview package featuring an in-depth look at all the teams as they prepare for the regular season and analysis from TSN’s stable of football experts and Insiders.

Wednesday 6/13, 7:00pm – Toronto Argonauts @ Hamilton Tiger Cats – TSN
Wednesday 6/13, 10:00pm – Saskatchewan Roughriders @ B.C. Lions – TSN
Friday 6/15, 9:00pm – Edmonton Eskimos @ Calgary Stampeders – TSN2
Wednesday 6/20, 8:00pm – Hamilton Tiger Cats @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers – TSN2

100th Grey Cup Documentaries on TSN

Bell Media announced this morning a new documentary series entitled “Engraved on a Nation”. The new series will air on CTV, TSN and RDS in the fall. It will feature eight original documentaries celebrating the 100th Grey Cup.

Here is Bell’s press release.

Today at the Hot Docs International Film Festival, TSN unveiled the slate of films in its ambitious original documentary series, ENGRAVED ON A NATION: STORIES OF THE GREY CUP, THE CFL AND CANADA. Commissioned by Bell Media, ENGRAVED ON A NATION celebrates the 100th Grey Cup with eight original documentaries demonstrating how the Grey Cup has become such an intrinsic part of Canadian heritage.

ENGRAVED ON A NATION will air on TSN, CTV, and in French on RDS beginning in September.

**Media Note: to view a trailer for ENGRAVED ON A NATION, click here.**

The individuals involved in ENGRAVED ON A NATION are among Canada’s most accomplished and respected documentary filmmakers. The filmmakers and the working titles of their documentaries are:
• Manfred Becker – The Photograph: 1942 RCAF Hurricanes
• Christie Callan-Jones – Mavericks: The Story of the 1971 Argos
• Paul Cowan – The Crash of Flight 810
• Barry Greenwald – Western Swagger
• Charles Officer – The Chuck Ealey Story
• Shelley Saywell – The Anthony Calvillo Story
• John Walker – Grey Cup 1969 and the FLQ Crisis
• Larry Weinstein – The 13th Man

“ENGRAVED ON A NATION is a project unlike anything we have ever tackled at TSN. As long-time partners of the CFL, we felt the 100th Grey Cup was the perfect opportunity to show Canadians how the Grey Cup has transcended sports and left an indelible mark on Canada,” said Stewart Johnston, President, TSN. “To tell great stories has always been something that we’ve taken great pride in doing. This ambitious project is an extension of our storytelling philosophy as we weave tales about family, relationships, legacies, politics and culture around the remarkable role that the Grey Cup has played in shaping our national identity.”

“By engaging the Canadian documentary film community, we’ve had the privilege of working with eight acclaimed filmmakers who, over a short period of time, have become custodians of the compelling stories that reflect our country’s history and society through sport over the years,” said Shawn Redmond, Vice-President, Programming, TSN. “Their passion and enthusiasm will make these human interest stories truly memorable – not just for football fans, but for all Canadians.”

Below are summaries of the original documentaries with working titles that will air this fall on TSN:

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TSN Has the CFL Draft on Thursday

For those who just can’t get enough of watching football drafts.

Home-grown talent takes centre stage next Thursday, as the country’s future generation of gridiron stars are introduced to football fans during the 2012 CFL CANADIAN DRAFT, live May 3 at 3 p.m. ET, exclusively on TSN.

The two-hour TSN original production, which is also available live on TSN Mobile TV and TSN.ca, features the first two rounds of the draft with CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon in the CFL ON TSN studio to announce each selection.

Following the televised broadcast of the First and Second Rounds, TSN.ca has bonus live streaming coverage of the Third to Sixth Rounds of the 2012 CFL CANADIAN DRAFT.

TSN’s Rod Black hosts the 2012 CFL CANADIAN DRAFT and is joined by a panel featuring CFL ON TSN analyst and DRAFT guru Duane Forde, who has covered the draft on seven previous occasions. Along with Black and Forde, CFL ON TSN analyst Chris Schultz and TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor are on the panel to break down the DRAFT from the perspective of all eight CFL teams and analyze the players selected over the course of the first two rounds.

Also in studio is TSN’s Farhan Lalji, who is highly involved in high school football in his home province of BC and has seen more than 40 of his players go on to play at the collegiate level during his 23 years of coaching. Joining Lalji on an additional panel of experts are University of Calgary Dinos head coach Blake Nill, Acadia Axemen head coach Jeff Cummins, and McMaster Mauraders head coach Stefan Ptaszek, who led his team to victory at the 2011 Vanier Cup.

Fans watching the 2012 CFL CANADIAN DRAFT can join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #CFLDraft and #TSN. Select fan tweets will be featured during the live broadcast along with reaction to the picks from CFL players and prospects on Twitter as the draft unfolds.

TSN’s coverage of the 2012 CFL CANADIAN DRAFT begins with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the clock with the first overall pick. The six-round draft features eligible Canadian players from the CIS and NCAA. Top prospects include: Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford from Windsor, ON; University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan from Regina; Wilfrid Laurier receiver Shamawd Chambers from Markham, ON; Virginia offensive lineman Austin Pasztor from Langton, ON; and Laval linebacker Frédéric Plesius from Laval, QC.

2012 CFL on TSN Schedule

The Canadian Football League has released its 2012 schedule. The season kicks off on June 29 with a doubleheader on TSN and RDS2. This season includes a game on Canada Day, the Monday August holiday (in many provinces), the traditional Labour Day Classics and a Thanksgiving Day doubleheader. Playoff games will take place on November 11 and November 18, with the 100th Grey Cup Game in Toronto on November 25. TSN will release more details of their 2012 TV coverage at a later day; for now, here is the complete 2012 CFL on TSN schedule.

Week 1
Friday 6/29, 7:00pm – Saskatchewan Roughriders @ Hamilton Tiger Cats
Friday 6/29, 10:00pm – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ B.C. Lions
Saturday 6/30, 7:00pm – Toronto Argonauts @ Edmonton Eskimos
Sunday 7/1, 7:00pm – Montreal Alouettes @ Calgary Stampeders

Week 2
Friday 7/6, 7:00pm – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ Montreal Alouettes
Friday 7/6, 10:00pm – Hamilton Tiger Cats @ B.C. Lions
Saturday 7/7, 3:00pm – Calgary Stampeders @ Toronto Argonauts
Sunday 7/8, 7:00pm – Edmonton Eskimos @ Saskatchewan Roughriders

Week 3
Thursday 7/12, 7:30pm – Calgary Stampeders @ Montreal Alouettes
Friday 7/13, 9:00pm – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ Edmonton Eskimos
Saturday 7/14, 3:00pm – B.C. Lions @ Saskatchewan Roughriders
Saturday 7/14, 7:00pm – Toronto Argonauts @ Hamilton Tiger Cats

Week 4
Wednesday 7/18, 7:30pm – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ Toronto Argonauts
Thursday 7/19, 9:00pm – Saskatchewan Roughriders @ Calgary Stampeders
Friday 7/20, 10:00pm – Edmonton Eskimos @ B.C. Lions
Saturday 7/21, 7:00pm – Montreal Alouettes @ Hamilton Tiger Cats

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Comparing CFL and NFL Ratings in 2011

Many Canadian football fans like to discredit either the NFL or CFL (depending on which they prefer) based on ratings. It seems it is a never-ending war between the two sets of fans (full disclosure here, I watch both). The fact is, comparing the ratings of the two is difficult. The CFL only plays four games a week, all of which are on national TV and never conflict with each other. On the other hand, the NFL plays anywhere between 12 and 16 games a week, any many of those games conflict. The numbers for Sunday Night Football are never truly accurate because BBM Canada, who keeps track of ratings for advertisers, doesn’t include people watch on NBC. Monday Night Football is comparable to CFL games, but it rarely features two top teams.

The playoffs are a bit easier to compare, but there is still the issue of the NFL playing more games. While it is reasonable fans will watch two CFL playoff games in a weekend, it is a lot less likely a person would watch all four NFL playoff games in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds. Not to mention two NFL playoff games in those rounds go head-to-head with Hockey Night in Canada. Of course the CFL playoffs face competition from the NFL, while most sports (and TV series) avoid competing with the NFL playoffs. Then there is the Super Bowl vs. the Grey Cup debate. Yes, there are those who watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials, or just for the halftime performance. How many, we will never know.

Because of these factors, it is easy for a fan of one league or the other to make a case that their favourite league is the most popular. It is easy to selectively choose variables to support your opinion.

However, there are two indisputable facts. CFL ratings were down from 2010 to 2011 and NFL ratings were up over the same period. 4.6 million watched the Grey Cup in 2011, down from 6.04 million in 2010. The two CFL Divisional Championship games averaged 1.54 million in 2011. In 2010, those same games averaged 2.0 million (note: the 2010 East Final includes RDS numbers because the Alouettes played in it. The two games in 2010 averaged 1.75 million on TSN, still above the 2011 number).

Sunday’s game averaged 8.15 million on CTV and RDS. That is up almost a million viewers, from 7.3 million last year. The Conference Championship Games averaged 2.2 million in 2012, compared to 2.12 in 2010. Those numbers are a small increase, but an increase nonetheless. It is an indisputable fact that CFL ratings were down in 2011, while NFL ratings were up. More people are watching American football, while less are watching the 110 yard game. Will it continue in to 2012 and beyond, who knows? The CFL better hope not because it will sign a new broadcasting deal sometime this year.

There are really only a few postseason games that are comparable between the two leagues. The obvious is the Super Bowl and the Grey Cup. 8.15 million and 4.6 million; a difference of 3.55 million. Last year the difference was only 1.26 million. There are factors in play, such as NFL competition against the Grey Cup, the Grey Cup only airs on cable and those who only watch the Super Bowl for ads (which is a pointless argument considering nobody likes the Canadian ads anyway), but I don’t think these factors would account for more than a third of Super Bowl viewers anyway. It wasn’t that long ago that the two games were neck and neck in the ratings. This wasn’t true this year.

The NFL Conference Championship and CFL Divisional Championship games are also comparable. The network/cable and NFL competition factors are still in play for these games. The NFL games are also played two hours later (3pm ET and 6:30pm ET, compared to 1pm ET and 4:30pm ET for the CFL games), which usually results in a small increase in ratings. The CFL games averaged 1.54 million, the NFL games 2.2 million; a difference of 660, 000. Not anywhere near as big a gap as the Grey Cup and Super Bowl, but still an increase from only 120, 000 in 2010.

Finally, the CFL’s Divisional Semi Finals and the NFL’s Divisional Playoffs. The Sunday games are comparable. They were both played on Sunday afternoons at 4:30pm ET. One of the NFL Sunday games is even on TSN in Canada. One can’t use the NFL’s Saturday games in the comparison because the CFL doesn’t play on Saturday. Canadians don’t traditionally watch football on Saturday either, we watch hockey. That is why the CFL reverted to playing their playoff games against the NFL after playing them on Saturdays for just one year in 2008.  The CFL West Semi and AFC Divisional Playoff both aired on TSN at 4:30pm ET (the NFL game also aired on FOX, so advantage CFL here). The CFL game (Stampeders @ Eskimos) averaged 1.253 million; the NFL game (Giants @ Packers) averaged 1.244. Of course it is hard to believe that at least 100, 000 people didn’t watch on FOX (I did). The early games had 1.6 million watching Tiger Cats @ Alouettes on TSN/RDS and 1.12 million watching Texans @ Ravens on CTV.

TSN tends to average 400, 000 to 700, 000 viewers for Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football, depending on the matchup. CFL on TSN ratings come in slightly higher, usually in the 500, 000 to 800, 000 range. The are a number of factors, including the high number of NFL games per week and those who watch Sunday Night Football on NBC that make these hard to compare more closely.

For me, the main difference between the two leagues is the number of casual viewers. Each league has about the same amount of fans who every week, as the numbers for the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs prove. However, the NFL’s ratings take a significant jump for the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl compared to the CFL for the Divisional Championships and the Grey Cup. This was more clear than ever this season. There is probably no doubt that the NFL is the second most watched league in Canada, after the NHL. However, the CFL has nothing to be ashamed about for coming in 3rd, well ahead of baseball and curling.

The two leagues are forever linked in Canada because they are direct competitors. It is pointless to argue about which is more popular. Some people need to remember many of us are simply football fans. After hockey, football is the second most popular sport in Canada.

Editors Note: To those reading from the Saskatchewan Roughriders forum, yes these numbers are accurate (or at least as accurate as BBM can be). They are BBM 2+ AMA numbers sourced from BBM itself, CTV and TSN (who in turn originally got the numbers from BBM). I did not make them up. Some include both the English and the French broadcast, while others don’t (mostly because RDS numbers aren’t always available). However, I made every effort to make the fairest comparison possible, including using RDS numbers for any Alouettes playoff games (for the NFL, I’ve only included RDS for the Super Bowl). Anyone who uses this post to prove one league is superior in popularity is missing the point.

If you want to question them, please question them here. I tried to register with the Riders forum yesterday so I could discuss it with you guys, but I still don’t have posting privileges.

Should Grey Cup Ratings Concern CFL Fans?

The 99th Grey Cup game between the Blue Bombers and Lions averaged 4.6 million viewers on TSN Sunday evening, down from 4.94 million in 2010. RDS saw its rating drop by 900, 000 without the French-market Alouettes. CFL ratings have trended downwards all season. Of course TSN trumpeted out its press release on Tuesday morning spinning that everything was great. Even by comparing this year’s press release to last year’s, one can tell that things may not be so well. Here is one quote from the TSN press release that creates a bit of an allusion if not read carefully.

“It was the… most-watched sports program of the broadcast year.” – This is true, but if you leave out one word when reading it, broadcast, it can become confusing. While the calendar year is 11 months old, the broadcast year began in September. The Super Bowl and all 7 games of the Stanley Cup Final brought in more viewers than the Grey Cup in 2011. As did the final of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

One consideration in comparing the past two Grey Cups is the market size of the teams involved. The Alouettes and Roughriders are probably the two most popular CFL teams nationally. The Lions aren’t far behind; however, the Blue Bombers are in a small market. This year is the first Grey Cup contested between any teams other than Saskatchewan and Montreal since BBM introduced portable-people-meters in 2009. So, it is even hard to compare to the past. The 2008 Grey Cup on TSN only averaged 2.44 million viewers. Roughriders vs. Blue Bombers in 2007 did 3.3 million on CBC.

One can attribute a number of reasons to the decrease in CFL viewership this year. The struggles of the Roughriders, who carry a large amount of bandwagon fans from across the country, is a popular – and most likely correct – reason. Some have also pointed to a poor season for the Argonauts, but that’s nothing new. Besides, many in Ontario don’t even notice the CFL. The general consensus from that area of the country is that there are no CFL fans. A lack of interesting storylines may have also contributed. Sure there was Anthony Cavillo breaking the all-time pro football passing record, but what else – I’m sorry, “Swaggerville” is not a storyline. Everyone outside of Manitoba was sick of it by the end of July.

While the ratings prove that many CFL fans have found their way to TSN, I think the CFL needs an over-the-air presence. I suggest they sell two packages in the off-season (the next contract will kick in for 2013), one over-the-air and one cable. It will probably be a given that TSN will get CFL rights back in some form or another, while CBC will have limited funds to spend to compete for the entire package. If there is any interest from the CBC, which I believe there is, selling two packages may get the CFL top dollar.

In the end, I think the CFL will be fine. Gate revenue is as high as ever, ratings are still better than they were ten years ago and the CFL is still the second most watched league in Canada, behind the NHL (some would dispute that the NFL gets more viewers than the CFL). Except for 2009 and 2010, CFL ratings have remained fairly consistent over the past ten years.

Vanier Cup… TSN’s move to put the Vanier Cup in primetime this season paid off. The overtime thriller attracted an average of 372, 000 on TSN and 288, 000 on RDS. CIS football is more popular in Quebec than the rest of Canada, so the RDS rating isn’t surprising at all. In fact, more people watched the Vanier Cup on RDS than the Grey Cup. TSN’s numbers aren’t overly impressive – the 2010 Rose Bowl averaged 613, 000 viewers on TSN – but they are up 17% from last season.

EURO 2012… I really enjoyed TSN’s coverage of the EURO 2012 draw on Friday afternoon. Noel Butler has greatly improved as a TV analyst since making his TV debut last fall. Luke Wileman and Jason deVos are both great as well. TSN would be wise to use all three as part of the EURO 2012 studio crew. I’d also add in former Toronto FC player Rohan Ricketts. One other EURO 2012 suggestion for TSN, use ESPN’s commentary. Ian Darke is better than John Helm.

Sportsnet World… is on free preview from now until January 2nd. Great news for Canadians who want to watch all the Premier League action over Christmas and the Old Firm match on December 28.

Canada Cup… Curling returns on TSN this afternoon with the Canada Cup. Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Russ Howard return as the main commentary team. TSN will show women’s and men’s semifinals today (3pm and 8pm ET) and finals tomorrow (11am and 3:30pm).

Blacked Out… Tomorrow’s Buffalo Bills game against Tennessee is now blacked out in Buffalo’s primary and secondary markets because tickets for the game are not sold out. Viewers in southern Ontario will also be shutout as CTV isn’t allowed to show the game on its Toronto and Kitchener stations because Toronto is a secondary market. Both stations will show Jets @ Redskins.

Unprecedented move… Fox will finally get to show Tim Tebow when the Broncos visit the Vikings tomorrow afternoon. This is an unprecedented move because inter-conference games are usually broadcast on the network that is affiliated with the conference of the road team (in this case CBS/Broncos). The game was moved to Fox a couple of weeks ago when the NFL flexed Lions @ Saints (a Fox game) to Sunday Night Football in exchange for Colts @ Patriots (a CBS game). This left CBS with eight games, while Fox only had six. The NFL awarded Fox a CBS game to even things out. The last time it happened was in the early 70s.

More than a game… Many Canadians would agree that hockey is more than a game in this country, it is a cultural institution. PBS, led by affiliate WNED in Buffalo, has produced a new documentary titled “Hockey: More than a Game”. Some have seen it all before, but it looks interesting regardless. The trailer even includes Canadian sports media writer Bruce Dowbiggin; check it out. Hockey: More than a Game will air at various times on local PBS stations, so check your TV listings.

Cross-platform promotion… Sportsnet won Playback Magazine’s award for 2011 cross-platform media brand of the year. If there was an award for over-the-top, almost annoying, cross-platform media brand of the year, I’d give that to Sportsnet too.