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