TSN’s Multi-Sheet Coverage of 2015 Tim Hortons Brier

TSN’s multiple feeds will be used for multiple curling draws for the first time with the upcoming Tim Hortons Brier that begins this weekend. TSN will broadcast two different draws during the preliminary round’s afternoon and prime-time coverage which gives viewers over 100 hours of Brier action, double the amount from last year.

Four-time Brier champion and three-time world champion David Nedohin will deliver analysis along with Bryan Mudryk on play-by-play and Cathy Gauthier. Vic Rauter and analyst Russ Howard, a two-time Brier champion and 2006 Olympic gold medallist, call afternoon and evening feature draws alongside guest analyst and Olympic silver medallist Cheryl Bernard.

Broadcast schedule is below. Draws will air live across TSN. Feature draw matches and channel listings will be updated daily, visit tsn.ca/curling for the most up-to-date schedule. Continue reading

Two Weekends of Provincial Championship Curling on Sportsnet

There are two big weekends of curling coming up with the women’s provincial curling championships this weekend and the men’s championship in two weeks. Sportsnet will cover both weekends for the third straight year with 27 hours of coverage from four provinces across the country.

Broadcast team details:

Women’s Provincial Curling Championships (January 24–25)
Studio Host: Carly Agro and Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games silver medallist Richard Hart

• 2015 Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties (Lacombe, AB)
Play-by-Play: Don Landry and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games silver medallist Cheryl Bernard
2015 Scotties BC Women’s Curling Championship presented by Best Western (Maple Ridge, BC)
Play-by-Play: Rogers Millions and 1991 Canadian women’s champion Melissa Soligo
2015 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts presented by Monsanto (Winkler, MB)
Play-by-Play: Rob Faulds and Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games gold medallist Joan McCusker
2015 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Penetanguishene, ON)
Play-by-Play: Mark Lee and Danielle Inglis

Men’s Provincial Curling Championships (February 7-8, 2015)
Studio Host: Daren Millard and Hart

2015 Canadian Direct Insurance BC Men’s Curling Championship (Vernon, BC)
Play-by-Play: Millions and two-time world champion Pat Ryan
2015 Boston Pizza Cup (Wainwright, AB)
Play-by-Play: Landry and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games gold medallist Kevin Martin
• 2015 Safeway Championship (Brandon, MB)
Play-by-Play: Faulds, Ray Turnbull, and Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games gold medallist Jennifer Jones
2015 Recharge with Milk Tankard (Ingersoll, ON)
Play-by-Play: Lee and Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games silver medallist Mike Harris

Full schedule is below. All times are ET.

Continue reading

Brier Playdowns are This Weekend

For the first time Sportsnet will broadcast Brier playdows from Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba to viewers across the country. In all, this weekend teams from eight provinces will try to join James Grattan (NB), Jamie Koe (NWT), Jean-Michel Menard (QB), and Brock Virtue (SSK) in the Brier in March.

Alberta’s Boston Pizza Cup is usually one of the most exciting provincial tournaments. The field is very deep, including top of the top five teams in Canada with Kevin Koe and Kevin Martin. Jamie King’s team (ranked 21st) features former World Champions Blake McDonald (third) and Scott Pfeiffer (second). Brandon Bottcher, the 2012 World Junior champion, has the 21st best team in Canada.

Manitoba’s Safeway Championship features the second and third best teams in Canada with Jeff Stoughton and Mike McEwan. Defending provincial champion Rob Fowler (ranked 17th) is back as well. William Lyburn’s rink (ranked 16) is also a contender.

Glenn Howard is the favourite to win Ontario’s Dominion Tankard, as he has the past seven years. There are teams in Ontario that could challenge Howard, however. They include John Epping (ranked 7th), Bryan Cochrane (ranked 13th), Joe Frans (ranked 15th), Jake Higgs (ranked 20th) and Rob Rumfeldt (ranked 22nd).

Also this weekend TSN has coverage of the men’s and women’s finals at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships. To say the least it is a huge weekend for curling fans.

Here is the complete schedule. All times are Eastern.

Alberta Boston Pizza Cup
Sunday 2/10, 11:30am – Semifinal – Sportsnet ONE
Sunday 2/10, 4:00pm – Championship – Sportsnet ONE & Citytv Alberta

Manitoba Safeway Championship
Saturday 2/9, 7:30pm – Semifinal #1 – Sportsnet & Citytv Winnipeg
Sunday 2/10, 10:00am – Semifinal #2 – Sportsnet West/Pacific & Citytv Winnipeg
Sunday 2/10, 2:30pm – Championship – Sportsnet West/Pacific & Citytv Winnipeg

Ontario Dominion Tankard
Sunday 2/10, 9:30am – Semifinal – Sportsnet East/Ontario
Sunday 2/10, 2:30pm – Championship – Sportsnet East/Ontario

Canadian Junior Curling Championship
Saturday 2/9, 7:00pm – Men’s Championship – TSN
Sunday 2/10, 7:00pm – Women’s Championship – TSN

New Curling Skins Game Format is Great

Curling entered into new territory last weekend when it held its first “All Star Weekend”. The four major American sports have held All Star Games for decades, with success ranging from great (MLB) to terrible (NFL). Even NASCAR has held an All Star Race for close to thirty years, not that it’s entirely different from any other NASCAR Race. In my opinion, the first Curling All Star Skins Game, held at Casino Rama, was more exciting than any of the traditional All Star Games in North American sports.

There are many reasons why an All Star format works in curling. The curlers all know each other because they play in the same tournaments some 10-15 weeks a year. In that sense it’s not unlike the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in golf, where athletes who usually compete against each other player together. It also works because there is very little chance of injury in curling, compared to any of the four major American sports, really. It also has a unique history in that the Curling Skins Game at Casino Rama was already one of the most prestigious curling events in the world before it introduced All Star format in 2013.

Money is also important. The purse at the Skins Game was $100, 000, which the same as the purse at this weekend’s Grand Slam. That makes it one of the richest curling events in the world. Glenn Howard’s All Star team, who were champions, won $51, 000. At the last Grand Slam in December, Howard’s usual team won $25, 000 as champions. The Curling All Star Game is big money for the sixteen curling who make it. They all want to win.

While the All Star format was first revealed during the 2012 Skins Game final, the idea of a draft was only introduced earlier this month. TSN adopted the idea from the NHL All Star Game draft, which is wildly popular among fans and players. It worked a lot better than a random draw would have. It was fun TV to watch. It gave viewers a glimpse at curlers off the ice. And, most importantly, it allowed the skips to choose players who they’d always wanted to play with.

The new format also saw the Skins Game get a bump in TV ratings as well, despite going against record-setting NHL games most of the weekend. An average 330, 000 watched the first semi final on Saturday afternoon, while an average of 308, 000 watched the second semi final Saturday night. The Saturday night number is particularly impressive when you consider that an average of 4.6 million others were watching the Leafs-Habs game at the same time. An average of 403, 000 watched Sunday’s final, which also went head-to-head with an NHL game on NBC. The three games averaged 347, 000 viewers, which is an 9% increase over last season.

This was the last year for the Skins Game at Casino Rama. With a new venue next year, maybe TSN will want to consider a few new ideas for the event. At some point I’d like to see it as a mixed All Star game. Just once to see how the idea works. The mixed skins at the Continental Cup is really the only thing that saves that event. I’d also like to see international curling including in the voting. While Canadians would likely win the spots, Niklas Edin’s team is one of the best in the world and they at least deserve a shot. And how about a “skills competition”  (similar to singles at the Continental Cup) on Friday night? It would give TSN another night of programming, and it would also give the new teammates a chance to play with each other before playing for more money on Saturday.

Curling Grand Slam… Similar to the way TSN built the Curling Skins Game, Sportsnet has done a great job rebuilding the Grand Slam this year. The foundation was obviously already there, and had been for a several years. However, it was in shambles after the television contract with the CBC fell apart a year ago. Last season’s The National wasn’t broadcast on Canadian television at all. A year later Sportsnet has some 22 hours of coverage of this weekend’s event. Curling fans have always said the sport has a lot of room to grow on Canadian TV, and we are seeing that this year.

Which leads me to…

Provincial Championships… Sportsnet is also showing the Scotties playdowns in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario to a national audience for the first time. They also have Brier playdowns in those provinces in a couple of weeks. It is really unheard of for a network to cover four curling events in one weekend, but Sportsnet is doing so this weekend. Rob Faulds, Mike Harris and Richard Hart are in Port Hawkesbury for The National; Don Landry and Paul Webster are in Lethbridge for the Alberta Scotties; Roger Millions and Joan McCusker are in Stonewall for the Manitoba Scotties; and Dan Dunleavy is in Kitchener for the Ontario Scotties.

Here is the complete Scotties playdowns schedule for Sportsnet and Citytv
Saturday 1/26, 9:30pm – Manitoba Semifinal #1 (Sportsnet West/Pacific; Citytv Winnipeg)
Sunday 1/27, 9:30am – Ontario Semifinal (Sportsnet National)
Sunday 1/27, 1:00pm – Manitoba Semifinal #2 (Sportsnet ONE; Citytv Winnipeg)
Sunday 1/27, 4:00pm – Ontario Championship (Sportsnet Ontario)
Sunday 1/27, 4:00pm – Alberta Championship (Sportsnet West/Pacific; Citytv Alberta)
Sunday 1/27, 6:00pm – Manitoba Championship (Sportsnet ONE)

I guess The Biggest Loser takes precedence over the Manitoba Final for Citytv Winnipeg.

Dodgers New TV Deal… The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed a new local broadcast contract to show the team’s games for two decades beginning next (2014) season. Time Warner will pay $7 billion for the rights, that’s a whole billion more than Fox Sports was willing to pay. It’s not good news for Fox’s channel Prime Ticket, which already lost local L.A. Lakers rights to Time Warner’s new sports channel last year. Steve Ladurantaye of The Globe and Mail has a comparison of the new Dodgers TV deal and the Blue Jays TV deal. The Jays are experiencing big TV ratings gains, which should increase again this year with the hype surrounding the team; however, they probably won’t cash in on their new TV deal anyway.

Sun News… As many may have noticed, Sun News Channel has asked the CRTC to place it on the basic cable section of the dial, forcing everyone to carry it. This is similar to what CBC Newsworld and CTV News Network asked for when they launched 24 and 16 years ago, respectively. Obviously many things have changed in cable and satellite broadcasting since. I thought Andrew Coyne’s take on this was great. This is a great opportunity for the CRTC to remove the must-subscribe designation from all cable services. And, of course, the other aspect of the story is that Sun said they’d never ask for basic cable carriage because it “would be tantamount to a tax on everyone with cable or satellite service.” Oh, the hypocrisy.

The Hahnenkamm… One could argue that the original extreme winter sport is the Kitzbuhel Downhill. The classic ski race was first run more than 80 years ago in 1931. CBC will broadcast the 2012 Downhill on Saturday at 4:00pm ET. And trust me, it is worth watching.  I won’t spoil the result, but Canada’s Erik Guay had a very good day. CBCSports.ca will stream Sunday’s Slalom, with the second run at 7:25am ET. Friday’s Super-G isn’t on Canadian television.

Grand Slam of Curling Kicks off This Weekend

The new season of the Grand Slam of Curling begins in Brantford, Ontario this weekend with The Masters. CBC and Sportsnet will broadcast it. Here is the Sportsnet press release.

Curling’s biggest stars are set to rock as the Grand Slam of Curling makes its first stop of the 2012-13 series in Brantford, ON for The Masters. Sportsnet’s broadcast of the much-anticipated event begins Thursday, Nov. 15 at Noon ET/9 a.m. PT, live from the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre (full broadcast details are below).

Sixty-four men’s and women’s teams in total will compete in the high-stakes, competitive bonspiel featuring a combined purse of $200,000. The Masters features the cream of the crop in curling, headlined by 2012 Brier and World Champion Glenn Howard, 2010 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin, and 2010 Brier and World Champion Kevin Koe. On the women’s side, The Masters includes 2012 Tournament of Hearts champion Heather Nedohin, 2012 World Champion Mirjam Ott and current World Curling Tour money leader Sherry Middaugh.

The Masters kicks off Sportsnet’s robust curling broadcast schedule for the 2012-13 season, and includes a team of seasoned broadcast veterans calling all of the action. Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds will handle the play-by-play alongside Mike Harris, who skipped his team to gold at the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympic Games, and Joan McCusker, 1998 Olympic gold medallist and three-time Canadian and World Champion on Sandra Schmirler’s team.

Here is the broadcast schedule

Thursday 11/15, 12:00pm – Draw 3 – Sportsnet
Thursday 11/15, 3:30pm – Draw 4 – Sportsnet
Friday 11/16, 3:30pm – Draw 8 – Sportsnet
Friday 11/16, 7:00pm – Draw 9 – Sportsnet
Saturday 11/17, 3:30pm – Quarterfinals – CBC
Saturday 11/17, 8:30pm – Quarterfinals – SN1
Sunday 11/18, 8:00am – Semifinals – Sportsnet
Sunday 11/18, 1:00pm – Championship – CBC

Sportsnet Adds Brier and Scotties Playdowns

Some relatively important curling news breaking today. Sportsnet have announced they will broadcast provincial playdowns for the Brier and Tournament of Hearts (Canada’s national curling championships) for the next ten seasons, beginning in 2013. Sportsnet will broadcast the men’s and women’s playdowns in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, which are generally seen as the three most competitive provinces, beginning this January. Sportsnet will also add the B.C. Championships in 2014.

Earlier this year Sportsnet also purchased the Grand Slam of Curling, so in total the network will broadcast 7 curling events this season.

Here is the press release.

In a continued commitment to growing the sport of curling in Canada, Sportsnet today announced a 10-year multiplatform agreement for exclusive Canadian coverage of the B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario Provincial Curling Championships. Under terms of the agreement, Sportsnet will partner with the four provincial governing bodies – Curl B.C, Alberta Curling Federation, CurlManitoba, and Ontario Curling Association – to deliver the men’s and women’s championship events on television, online and mobile platforms.

This marks the first time the Provincial Curling Championships will be delivered nationally across Canada.

Coverage begins in January 2013 with the Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario women’s events, followed by the men’s events in February.  Sportsnet’s deal for the B.C. Provincial Curling Championships begins in 2014.  Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

“As curling’s popularity continues to grow at an impressive rate, Sportsnet is committed to providing curling fans with increased access to high-calibre events such as the Provincial Curling Championships,” said Navaid Mansuri, Vice-President of Finance and Sports Programming, Sportsnet. “By building on the growing popularity of the sport, these agreements allow us to expand our curling coverage while elevating the profile of these events, as well as the sport of curling across Canada.”

The Provincial Curling Championships are an annual event that showcases curling’s most elite athletes from across the country. The winners move on to compete in the national championships: Tournament of Hearts (women) and Brier (men).

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Sportsnet’s recent purchase the Grand Slam of Curling. Announced in August 2012, Sportsnet now wholly owns and operates the elite series of men’s and women’s curling events which are part of the World Curling Tour.

Sportsnet Buys Grand Slam of Curling, Sub-licenses to CBC

I hinted last night about a major announcement coming from Sportsnet this morning. I honestly had no clue they were about to buy the Grand Slam of Curling. That’s right, not just the broadcast rights, but the name and events themselves. Sportsnet promises to broadcast the four annual Grand Slam events like never before. And through a sub-license, CBC returns to broadcast curling events for a 51st season.

You may remember last January that CBC quietly sub-licensed weekday coverage of the Grand Slams to Sportsnet. Before the coverage even got to air CBC terminated their contract with the Grand Slam, then owned by iSport Media. The public broadcaster had not received payments from the company for broadcasting the Grand Slam bonspiels. As a result, Sportsnet’s sub-licenese was also terminated. One Grand Slam went completely untelevised. iSport was able to arrange a deal with Global Television to show the season-ending Players Championship.

Not paying the CBC was just the first sign of financial problems for the Slam. Due to “technical problems” many teams were not initially able to claim their prize money following the Players Championship. All teams were eventually payed, but there was no doubt iSport was in serious financial trouble and the integrity of the Grand Slam was in question heading into the 2012 season.

The new deals eliminates iSport, which brings the CBC back to the table as the over-the-air rights holder; restoring curling to the channel after a short 8 month hiatus. Sportsnet will supplement CBC’s coverage as the cable broadcaster. Sportsnet will also run the tournament, following TSN’s example of having an executive role in the TSN Curling Skins Game.

It is becoming more common for Canadian networks to control the events in which they broadcast every day. Bell and Rogers buying large pieces of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment is a prime example. Rogers also owns the Toronto Blue Jays. The curling is just more guaranteed programming for Sportsnet as long as they keep the series running. As part of their pending acquisition of theScore, Rogers also gains control of theScore Fighting Series in the coming months. Both events will likely fall under the new “Sportsnet Events” department.

Scott Moore was the head of CBC Sports when they bought World Curling Tour rights in 2007. He  is now Rogers President of Broadcasting. Today Moore said, “Curling is an essential part of our Canadian sports fabric, and the Grand Slam of Curling is the cream of the crop in international curling events. We are proud to own and operate the Grand Slam of Curling, as it furthers Sportsnet’s commitment to producing world-class content, anyplace, anyhow and anywhere and allows us to integrate and engage the sports fan in innovative ways through our new events division. Sportsnet intends to grow the Grand Slam of Curling like never before.”

The World Competitive Curlers Association (curling’s version of the NHLPA) was vocally concerned about iSport’s financial troubles, including the lack of a television agreement for the Grand Slam. Their President Pierre Charette said today, “On behalf of the Grand Slam players, we are thrilled to welcome Sportsnet as the new owners of the Grand Slam of Curling. This is great news for the Canadian curling community as a whole. Sportsnet will operate events that are second-to-none, broadcast more games and take the Grand Slam of Curling to another level.”

The 2011-12 season of the Grand Slam of Curling begins November 14 with The Masters in Brantford, Ontario. I’ll post broadcast details as they become available closer to the start of the season.