Sportsnet today announced it has reached a six-year agreement with Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the national governing body of university sport in Canada, for the multiplatform rights to an all-encompassing portfolio of sports across television, online, and mobile.More details are to come, for example if there will be any regular-season games in football or basketball, two practices that should be continued and should start happening, respectively. Another suggestion is to show some of the preseason exhibitions between CIS men's basketball programs and NCAA Division 1 teams; there were 32 of those to choose from last year.
The agreement, which begins this season and runs through the 2018/19 school year, features expanded coverage of men’s and women’s CIS sports, headlined by the Vanier Cup and including the following marquee events: Football (Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl), Men’s and Women’s Hockey Championships; Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, and more to be announced at a later date.
Over at Eh Game, our Andrew Bucholtz has more on what this means on the football side. I agree with much of what he says. One of the reasons the Vanier-Grey pairing, however, worked so well in 2011 is the mere fact that the Vanier Cup was an outstanding game. The rematch, which McMaster lost by 23 points, probably didn't do much for the many CFL fans in attendance, not to mention the Toronto-based media who either didn't travel to Vancouver for the previous year's game or went to bed before it ended. The negative effect of decoupling the two football championships may be overstated, or at least not as directly related to ratings and perception as much as the quality of the competition itself and of the surrounding broadcast. It's certainly better having TSN in one city and Sportsnet in the other than trying to split TSN people between two events, at any rate.
A key next step for Sportsnet, now that they basically have all the rights to all the events, is to give those broadcasts to people who have an idea about the league. Without naming names, I'll say if this is supposed to be a next step in CIS coverage, it's probably time to stop acting like basketball players outside of Ontario don't exist, to stop being surprised to learn how strong and talented a player of the year is, to learn how to pronounce names, to know which questions are grossly inappropriate to ask, and to treat the games in a non-superficial way — all, at one time or another, fouls committed by TSN or The Score. I also believe there was a time when Sportsnet's CIS hockey broadcasts only showed CHL stats for the players, and it would be nice for things like that to get the "dustbin of history" treatment.
Having said that: this is excellent news. We have criticized the various networks for their aggressively disinterested coverage of CIS championships, and by various networks I mean TSN (see here, and here), and I'm sure I speak for more than a few CIS followers when I say we're looking forward to Sportsnet's treatment of the events. We are by no means the only authority on CIS around here — aw, heck, we're hardly an authority — but as far as I know, only one network has gone to the effort to ask us for help in gathering background info for a tournament, and it was indeed Sportsnet. That's a good sign that they'll take this seriously.
(We at The CIS Blog also welcome Sportsnet to the very short list of media outlets who in recent years have sent reporters to all five championship tournaments in football and men's and women's basketball and hockey.)