SBD/December 10, 2012/Media

NHL Lockout, Day 86: RSNs Shift Programming To Fill Gaps; Canada TV/Radio Audience Down

CSN Chicago plans to broadcast the Hockey City Classic in February
As the NHL lockout has “dragged on, sports channels that usually show NHL games have had to scramble to fill their lineups,” according to Micheline Maynard of the N.Y. TIMES. In an effort to fill the vacancies left by canceled games, FS Detroit has “shifted telecasts of the Pistons from its high-definition channel to the main FoxSports channel.” The net also is “planning to run more college hockey games, and it is talking with the Red Wings about showing games played” by the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. The RSN is “leaning on its video library of past Red Wings games and those played by the Detroit Tigers.” Comcast SportsNet Chicago “plans to show the Hockey City Classic, a four-team college tournament in February at Soldier Field.” But in Chicago, college hockey “cannot compete with the Blackhawks.” CSN Chicago VP & GM Phil Bedella “has a multitude of options in the future ... because the network carries the Bulls, the White Sox and the Cubs as well as the Blackhawks.” Bedella said one plan if the NHL cancels the season is to run “a more robust spring training schedule.” Bedella added that so far, the Blackhawks’ “major advertisers have kept with the amended schedule.” He “expects they will return when play resumes, whether this winter or next fall.” But Bedella “lost advertisers who place one-time spots throughout the season, according to their needs” and “cannot blame them for leaving.” The CBC until last weekend “ran a contest called Your Pick, in which fans voted for the classic games they wanted to view.” CBC Head of Media Relations Chuck Thompson said that “nonhockey programming would be shown until it was clear whether a settlement would be reached” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/9).

LOSING EYES & EARS: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Simon Houpt reported an audience in Canada “the size of Edmonton has stopped watching TV at home on Saturday night.” BBM Canada data shows that viewership between 7:00-10:00pm ET is down year-over-year about 7.6%, which “represents a drop of roughly 800,000, to approximately 11.6 million viewers in an average minute.” The change in viewing habits is “felt most sharply by the CBC, which last year pulled in more than two million viewers on average” for its flagship edition of "Hockey Night In Canada" in October and November, making it “the only regularly scheduled Saturday broadcast to land in the top 20 of weekly programs.” Without any NHL games, the CBC has “aired old hockey matches for the past two months, which drew only about 10 per cent of its usual Saturday night audience; it is now airing holiday-themed programming in that time slot” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the “sports-talk results for the fall Bureau of Broadcast Measurement rating period (males 25-54) have reflected the ennui of hockey fans who are fed up and can’t take more lockout talk.” CTV President of Sports & Exec VP/Programming Phil King wrote in an e-mail, “All sports radio including ours is down because of no NHL. Even those networks without NHL (play-by-play) are down because no one wants to listen to (contract) talk any more.” Dowbiggin wrote the ratings in Canadian NHL cities are “not cataclysmic.” Dowbiggin: “At least, not yet.” Making the situation “more disappointing for programmers, any declines come after a period of ratings success earlier this year for the NHL host broadcasters in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, among others.” Many had “record numbers last spring” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/8).
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