Aylward: A Plea to TSN and Sportsnet

Mike Aylward offers some thoughts from the middle of nowhere on the broadcasting and webcasting situation for CIS, some answers from CIS on the shift from The Score to TSN, and a plea for both networks showing the men's basketball and hockey championships this month.

Those of us who follow Canadian university sports know that there is still a hill to climb for CIS in terms of national television exposure.

When CIS announced its deal with TSN last fall, I personally was of two minds. First I thought it was too bad that The Score wasn't doing hoops and the football bowl games as they did a fantastic job. However, I realized TSN has the biggest broadcast footprint and that having them doing the championships would probably mean bigger viewer numbers. Also, The Score was committed to NCAA March Madness this year so they were out for the men's hoops nationals.

I had asked Peter Metuzals, director of marketing for CIS, some questions on the new deal back in October but held this final piece on CIS broadcasting until now so as to see what the TSN broadcasting would look like. My questions are below:

  1. Why did you choose TSN for this deal? Because of bigger footprint; did they offer more money; better financial ad deal?
  2. Was The Score still bidding for the rights to any of these sports for these two years?
  3. If The Score was in the mix, did awarding the rights to TSN adversely affect possible future broadcasting on The Score?
  4. Was Rogers Sportsnet showing any interest?

Here are Peter's answers, from October:

Actually all the networks were bidding for the rights to host our Championships, although it is not as appealing as it might suggest. We needed a broadcaster for Men's Basketball which The Score was not able to do, due to their obligation to the NCAA Tournament. TSN was interested in Basketball as well as the football properties.
  1. "The partnership with TSN is in the best interests of the CIS over the long term. Why? Simply because TSN is able to attract more viewers, has access to more viewers, and will therefore allow CIS to generate more revenue. The potential to reach a larger audience, even the potential of a larger audience, will have a financial impact on the CIS. Think of Grey Cup, well that is where we intend to take the Vanier Cup."

  2. "The Score was certainly in our discussions, but since it was impossible for them to broadcast the 2010 Men's Championship we had very little choice but to move to TSN. Once you look closely at the long term, and you look closely at who your partners are, what other events they broadcast and what they are able to bring to the table, you would then need to feel comfortable in the direction we are headed."

  3. "I have said all along, one of the key components of success is more television visibility. Regular games on a consistent and regular time slot. Once we have that, we need some more. Understand that the CIS does not have jurisdiction over regular season play. Should we pay to broadcast regular season games? Maybe, but then we need to ensure we show the best games, at the best broadcast times in the best venues. National coverage will help all member schools enhanced their level of visibility, it will further promote who we are and what Canadian schools can do."

  4. "As well, think of this, what we are also doing is creating increased value for our properties and our brand. Every move we make, we must consider the value of the CIS brand and how we can improve it and and how we get information out. I will suggest we have a taken an other big step forward."
Peter's answers and the CIS reasoning on making the deal with TSN made sense but now we have to grade the results so far.

With football, there were some technical glitches but the bowl games, all in all, were done fairly well. I do think with women's basketball more games could have been shown by TSN and that the final game could have been on TSN and not TSN2.

As for the men's basketball championships beginning Friday in Ottawa, the news is positive today: SSN's ability to webcast all championship-side games live in French, with English audio available, will allow those without TSN2 the chance to watch this year's tourney.

How about taking a chance and moving the semis or at least Sunday's final to the TSN main network? I believe the viewers will be there. (For those of you interested in looking at CIS TV and webcast viewing numbers over the past few years, go check out the CIS AGM Report [pdf], starting around page 17.)

Regardless, one thing the CIS must do with whomever it makes TV contracts with is to ensure that all games are vidcast live as well, whether by the broadcaster or by a vidcaster like SSN, in Canada as well an internationally. Alumni are all over the world and no website national restrictions should be imposed by the broadcaster.

Finally, my plea to TSN (for men's hoops) and Rogers Sportsnet (for men's hockey) is the following:

Cover these games as if these leagues are real leagues; don't be apologists for the fact that these players aren't in the NCAA or in pro hockey. This is one thing The Score was great at and TSN and Rogers can learn from. For example, during last year's hockey nationals the announcers did a good job. However, they were constantly referring to the major junior teams the players had played for, and to make matters worse, Rogers would show fourth- or fifth-year players' CHL stats on the screen and not their much more relevant CIS stats!

Here's hoping for two great tournaments and a lot of excellent broadcasts and hopefully a lot more national broadcasts next year on the big sports networks and regional cable networks.
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  1. So I get from the CIS answers that, basically, the SCORE told them that they didn't have room for the CIS men's basketball championships in 2010 and that they (the SCORE) were moving to only showing the NCAA tournament.

    So despite whatever coverage TSN gives, we should get down on our knees and thank them as they are a much better long term option anyway.

  2. The Score wanted to broadcast both Football and Basketball championships but the final 8 is at the same time of March Madness which is a better property for The Score. The CIS sold both football and basketball championships as a package deal you had to by both which ruled out The Score.

  3. The Score was told by the CIS that it was men's basketball or bust. That's coming from the horse's mouth.

    The Score has never paid a penny for NCAA rights after the management company that sells the rights in Canada was tired of seeing Sportsnet butcher the property.

    Therefore, the Score made a wise business decision - something that cost nothing but they can sell.

    As for the CIS, the better network is the Score - TSN is too big for amateur sport except the Olympics. What the CIS should have done was worked with the Score to develop a television schedule by saying men's basketball will be one week before the NCAA tournament. That means starting the seasons one weekend earlier. Gee, how hard would that have been?

    And if that had have happened, you end up with men's and women's volleyball and women's hockey also televised by the Score... At least that's what they did in the past.

  4. the reality is the CIS should have looked at its dates and shifted to not go head-to-head with March Madness. the crowds are pretty telling and the TV numbers will be too...

  5. The CIS front office is a joke on all fronts including their marketing strategy! I feel for the dedicated players/students that have to suffer through no fault of their own. CIS probably thought ... "what? we're not second class to the NCAA, we'll show them". Isn't that the Canadian way of thinking?

  6. Only idiots schedule the Vanier Cup on Grey Cup weekend, thus ensuring many people who want to attend / watch the Vanier are unable to. (And only idiots complain about shoddy TSN Vanier coverage on Grey Cup weekend.)

  7. That was an interesting read; congrats on an informative article. However, you are letting TSN off the hook when it came to their coverage of the Vanier Cup. I, personally, wouldn’t rip them too much for the broadcast glitches but their pre and half-time shows were brutal. The lack of CIS content and discussion during the studio shows clearly demonstrated TSN’s half-hearted effort and that type of disinterest is frustrating.

    The overwhelming majority of the studio shows was Grey Cup build-up and filler. The fact that TSN chose to cover the university championship like that isn't really surprising but it was still disappointing. There is virtually no way that an unbiased observer, and fan of the Canadian university game, can give "Canada's sports leader" a pass on last year’s Vanier coverage. Despite the potential of an exponentially greater viewing audience, their performance on Vanier Saturday was substandard and it failed to live up to even their own level of competency.

    From my perspective, TSN receives a dismal fail for their Vanier performance. For those who are interested in my perspective of TSN’s coverage of last year’s Vanier Cup feel free to visit my blog; prepare to have your blood angered.

    Super fun

    PS. Go Stangs Go