2015 Toronto Blue Jays on Sportsnet

The Toronto Blue Jays’ 2015 season begins Monday and as usual, Sportsnet will cover all 162 games. The four regional Sportsnet channels will have 131 of the games with Sportsnet One picking up the remaining 31. A majority of those 31 will occur during the NHL playoffs. 60 games will be on TVA Sports for those of the French-language and all covered by The Fan 590 on the ol’ wireless radio.

The usual heads return to call the action — on the TV side are Buck Martinez, Pat Tabler and Joe Siddall, and in the radio booth will be Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and Mike Wilner.

The full schedule as listed on the Jays website is below. The September 26 game will be on Sportsnet despite not being listed.

2015 blue jays sked

NHL On Rogers: Ratings Are Down, Rating Are Flawed

David Shoalts over at The Globe & Mail has published two fantastic pieces in the past two months on the slow start and low ratings Rogers has been getting in the first six months of their $5.2-billion, 12-year television and online deal with the NHL. Rogers promised advertisers before the season began of a 20% increase in viewers in their first season of the new deal and jacked up advertising rates to match that. That number currently sits at only 11%. Either Rogers underestimated just how much NHL Canadians want to watch, or the more likely scenario (especially if you frequent hockey discussions online) is that Rogers has ruined what was a perfectly good product in Hockey Night In Canada with flashy sets and terrible personalities.

Shoalts’ first article from December focused on the ratings numbers. The Saturday night early game was up just 9% — this is a combined rating of all 7pm games across the Rogers’ networks. The late west coast Saturday game though is down 17%, despite two games generally being shown this season compared to mostly a single CBC game last year. The Wednesday night national slot is doing better than last year with a 26% increase. Sunday night’s Hometown Hockey though.. oh, boy! Rogers say the ratings on City are better than whatever trash City was showing on a Sunday night last season, but some games have been getting well under half a million viewers, something that has rarely happened in past years when a Canadian team plays on national television.

Shoalts’ second article on the subject published last week sent everybody into pained laughter with Sportsnet president Scott Moore blaming Numeris, the company in charge of collecting television and radio ratings in Canada, on Rogers’ low NHL ratings halfway into the season. The quote came on the heels of ratings for the All-Star game drawing one-million less viewers than the last All-Star game in 2012 (1.479 millions versus 2.454 million). The Skills competition (800k less) and Fantasy Draft (600k less) were also down on 2012 numbers. The Winter Classic number was also down (1 million versus 3.6 million last year) though that can somewhat be explained by last year’s game featuring Toronto and this year’s being an all-U.S. matchup. 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

Sportsnet 590 The Fan Shuffles Lineup; Tim & Sid Moving Back to TV

We don’t really cover much radio around these parts, probably due to the fact that there are no national stations in Canada and that only a small amount of people listen to sports radio compared to watching sports television programming. That said, an announcement from Sportsnet earlier in the week has made big news (big for radio that is) in the Toronto area and in a way, has an impact on those elsewhere in the country.

Firstly, the only good news, at least in the eyes of this author. Tim and Sid, who have been hosting the dead zone afternoon shift of 1pm to 4pm since December 2011, will be moving back to national television starting July 1 hosting their own show between 5pm–7pm ET. I personally consider this good news as the duo were great when they did their Live @ The Score show and then their satellite radio show. After moving to The Fan, the show bloated out from one hour to three, which a lot of the time was filled by plucking a Sportsnet talking head from the hallway and having them come into the studio for a segment or two. Add in the over the top sound effects and such, and I soon stopped listening after six months or so.

No word yet on how their new show is going to be formatted. It could be similar to the old Live @ The Score days and be some competition for Sportscentre on TSN. It could be a format similar to other “TSN” programming it will be going up against such as Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn. It could also be a mashup of all of those or something completely different. Rogers only said the show will be airing on Sportsnet. They didn’t specify whether this means it airs on Sportsnet 360 to replace the radio simulcast of Bob McCown or whether it will run on the regional Sportsnet channels, replacing Connected and going head-to-head against McCown. The latter option seems the most unlikely.

Now the bad news. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Brady & Walker, but from what I read online, opinions of them seem to be very mixed. Who I have unfortunately listened to and heard numerous things about is Dean Blundell. Blundell will take over the morning show with Andrew Walker as cohost on March 2 (NHL Trade Deadline Day). Blundell is most-known for formerly hosting Toronto alternate station The Edge’s morning show until he was fired after numerous instances of making homophobic, offensive and insensitive comments on air. He apparently did some horrible guest hosting during the dead zone summer months on The Fan and this somehow led to Program Director Don Kollins offering him the second most prominent timeslot in radio. Greg Brady seems to be getting screwed the most in this. He moves from the highly-rated breakfast show to the afternoon graveyard.

The truly weird thing about all of this is that The Fan wasn’t doing horrible in the ratings. Like, at all. They have been constantly beating TSN 1050 Toronto in the highly important demo of males aged 25–54 ever since TSN Toronto launched. Chris Zelkovich of Yahoo Sports reports that in the latest fall ratings, Brady & Walker were rating three times higher than Mike Richards on TSN and in the afternoon slot, Prime Time Sports crushed Dave Naylor with five times the ratings. Courtesy of Toronto Sports Media, here are the ratings from this past spring in males 25–54:

  • Brady & Walker: 8.5 | Richards: 4.9
  • The Jeff Blair Show: 7.4 | Macko & Cauz: 2.4
  • FAN 590 12-1pm (Hockey Central) : 7.6 | TSN 1050 12-1pm (Leafs Lunch): 2.9
  • Tim & Sid: 7.6 | TSN 1050 1-4pm (Hayes): 2.7
  • PTS: 7.9 | TSN Drive with Dave Naylor: 2.0

So, numbers don’t seem to be the reason for the change. One possibility is that the suits at Sportsnet wanted Tim & Sid on back on television to go against TSN in the early evening slot. If this was the case, maybe Kollins took the opportunity to rearrange the entire lineup to fill the afternoon void? It will be an interesting experiment to watch… from afar anyway – I’m not going near that garbage fire of a lineup.

Here is the new lineup beginning in spring – a bunch of old, white men.

5:30–9am ET – Dean Blundell & Co.
9am–12pm ET – The Jeff Blair Show
12pm–1pm ET – Hockey Central @ Noon
1–4pm ET – Greg Brady
4–7pm ET – Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown

Sportsnet Boasts Huge Numbers For NHL Opener, Though Down From CBC Last Year

nhlsportsnetDespite setting a new Sportsnet viewing record, Sportsnet’s coverage of the opening game of the 2014–15 NHL season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens was actually down 14% from last year’s CBC broadcast of the same game.

Last year, CBC recorded 2.33 million viewers for the mid-week Leafs-Habs opener, while this year’s broadcast this past Wednesday managed an average of 2.01 million viewers with 8 million English-speaking Canadian tuning in to at least part of Wednesday Night Hockey. This is a record for a hockey broadcast on Sportsnet and it was also the number one program viewed across Canada on Wednesday night according to Numeris. The previous record for Sportsnet viewership was the 2013 Blue Jays home opener which got an audience of 1.44 million.

On the French-language side, TVA Sports got 952,000 viewers for the Habs-Leafs which makes a total of 2.7 million Canadians that watched the game, down from CBC’s and RDS’s combined total of 3.31 million last season.

The Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks game that followed the early game received an average audience of 1 million – also down from CBC’s home opener late game broadcast of 1.05 million which was Oilers-Jets. The pre-game show earlier in the night averaged 377,000 viewers.

One entirely possible explanation is that 32,000-viewer difference can be attributed to over-the-air CBC being available in more homes than the cable-based Sportsnet (CBC is available in about 4 million more homes than Sportsnet). Another could be that Canadians were watching digitally. Sportsnet also recorded huge numbers for their brand new NHL GameCentre Live. 55,000 people watched the Leafs-Habs game online, with 75% watching on their desktop computer and 25% on a tablet or smartphone, and over 80,000 minutes of on-demand replays from the game was streamed by fans.

Look for a review on Sportsnet’s television coverage and GameCentre Live over the weekend.

Five More Years Of Buck and Pat On Blue Jays Games

Sportsnet Blue Jays Bingo Card

Sportsnet Blue Jays Bingo Card

In what is only good news for the guy that runs BuckBlunders.com, Sportsnet have re-signed play-by-play guy Buck Martinez and analyst Pat Tabler to call all the disappointing action of the Toronto Blue Jays for another five years. The duo have been broadcasting together for the past four years.

Sure, there are worse announcers in MLB, but there are also a tonne who don’t screw up players names, home run calls and aren’t blatantly rooting for the team they are calling. If you’ve heard Martinez as an analyst on a TBS post-season broadcast, he actually isn’t too bad in that role when not required to be constantly talking. That said, it looks like he has been dropped for the upcoming post-season.

I will concede I don’t watch Jays games regularly, so maybe I just miss any good moments from them, but I try to avoid their commentary and Sportsnet’s broadcast in general, especially with those horrible superimposed advertisements, something that no other broadcast in baseball is doing (for a reason). This is just one man’s opinion.

You can read the full press release from Sportsnet here along with the comments section that is mostly trashing the pair (beware the stupid auto-play video).

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

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

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

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

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

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