CBC’s 10% Cuts Hit CBC Sports

Most of us figured it was only a matter of time before the government’s 10% cut in funding for CBC/Radio Canada  hit CBC Sports. After all, just about every other department at the public broadcast had already taken its share of the burden. Last week CBC’s documentaries, news, radio and original programming sectors all took cuts to reduce funding. Yesterday, CBC executive vice-president Kirstine Stewart announced CBC Sports will have to cut $4 million from its annual budget. All things considered, it could be worse. CBC News will have to cut $10 million annually.

Amateur sports will take a particularly hard hit. CBC will cut the amount of amateur sports programming on the weekend. The flagship program, CBC Sports Weekend, will only air in the winter now. Sports like alpine skiing and figure skating, which get respectable ratings and good sponsors, will likely stay. Others, especially those in the summer, are less certain. CBC has already lost rights to Skate Canada’s figure skating package and World Cup bobsleigh in the past year.

I think CBC should focus its sports broadcasting on hockey and high performance, amateur, Olympic level sports. For years CBC has televised the Rogers Cup. While it is great to give it a high-profile, it is now the only tennis event on free TV in Canada. With all four Grand Slams on cable, I don’t think it would be a major loss to put it on Sportsnet or TSN. There is no reason a private broadcaster can’t show this event. The same goes for the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows show jumping, the Canadian Women’s Open and the Queen’s Plate. CBC does Olympic sports better than anyone else. These events could air anywhere and get good TV coverage (and yes I know show jumping and golf are Olympic sports).

That would leave CBC with its winter sports, as well as Diamond League athletics. I think CBC should keep the Diamond League. Use the international commentary feed (great way to save money, by the way). Air it in a 1 or 2 hour block on Saturday or Sunday afternoon during the summer. It wouldn’t need very much production on the CBC end. There are events almost every week. It would make for great, cheap, summer sports programming.

Hockey Night in Canada is unaffected by the cuts. It is self-sufficient and actually makes money to fund other CBC programming. Having said that, there are ways it could cut its budget to create a higher surplus. I’d start by eliminating Don Cherry. They don’t have to fire him, just don’t re-new his contract. Nobody tunes into hockey for the intermission show. There’s no reason to spend so much money on a guy who is on TV for 5 minutes a week.

CBC would have to replace Don Cherry, of course. They have hired Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau and Carolina coach Kirk Muller as guest studio analysts during the playoffs. Both probably have long coaching careers ahead of them, but who knows. My choice, however, would be Bobby Holik. He speaks his mind, and as a relative unknown to broadcasting, he wouldn’t require top dollar.

I’ve always liked CBC’s sports offerings. But if these cuts have to happen to CBC Sports, I’d like to see amateur sports coverage remain intact at the expense of other events.

TSN playoff commentators… For those wondering which games TSN’s commentators will call, here it is. Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro will do all of Flyers-Penguins (there are no NBC simulcasts this year). They will also do game 3 of Panthers-Devils, games 4 and 6 of Coyotes-Blackhawks and game 5 of Sharks-Blues.

Chris Cuthbert and Mike Johnson are based on the west coast and will call games 1, 2, 3 and 5 of Blackhawks-Coyotes and games 3, 4 and 6 of Blues-Sharks.

TSN will use simulcasts for the other games. Get used to FS Florida’s Steve Goldstein and Bill Lindsay. Canadians will hear them three times in the first round. We will also get to see two of NBC’s cable broadcasts (commentators still to-be-confirmed).

NBC playoff commentators… NBC has remained tight-lipped about their playoff commentators. Neither Fang’s Bites or Puck the Media has reported anything as of this morning. Dave Strader & Brian Engblom will call the entire Predators-Red Wings series. Pierre McGuire will do all of the Penguins-Flyers series (presumably with Mike Emrick) and some (or most) of Bruins-Capitals. John Forslund and Brian Heyward will call Canucks-Kings in the US.