Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Get your CBC beefs here

I received this from a regular reader last night:
I've postponed writing you about CBC NHL coverage, and have been forced to with present CBC coverage.

Does the league care one iota about the calibre of play-by-play (They intervened with Sean Avery's pending TV career - so you think they would).

How can the CBC continue to use these pieces of merde (the huge exception is their incredibly un-CBC snagging of the best in the business - Jim Hughson). The only play-by-play CBC'er that I wouldn't turn off was Chris Cuthbert (and he's not good, simply tolerable), whom, of course they fired.

I'll watch entire games on TSN and Sportsnet that have been decided in the first period, but turn off 1-goal differential CBC games.

Are they waiting for pressure to turn Bob Coal (sic) into a diamond?

What have Calgarians done to deserve Don un-Witty-man AND Andy Murray? Did Hughson choose Montreal (I normally watch their games on Radio-Canada - the French play-by-play know how to call a game) or is the CBC being mercilessly sadistic to Calgarians?

Why can't the NHL address the crap Canadian fans have to listen to?
I wouldn't normally post such a long reader rant, but this one is pretty well thought out and, more importantly, it's timely given all of the kvetching about CBC's broadcast crews we've heard so far.

I've got two major points I want to cover here:
  1. As with a lot of things at the CBC recently, budgetary concerns often trump all else. Axeing Chris Cuthbert, a broadcaster I believe is the best hockey play-by-play man in the world, was purely a bottom-line decision. (Not to mention the fact it was done in an extremely callous, obtuse fashion.)

    The result was what we saw in the first round, where Don Wittman and Mark Lee, serviceable-to-strong broadcasters in their own areas of expertise, were thrown in to suddenly cover the biggest hockey games in nearly two years. (I'd go as far as to say it was an unfair situation to put a guy like Lee, generally known as the network's voice of the CFL, into.)

    As always, ratings decided which broadcast teams worked which series, and the Montreal-Carolina games were given the highest priority (as evidenced by the fact Don Cherry and Jim Hughson both were on the case here).

    The good news, of course, is that the CBC will be covering fewer series in the second round — as few as two, should the Calgary Flames not win Game 7 tonight — meaning one or two crews will ninja vanish.

  2. I haven't really addressed this before, but all of this business could really be a prelude to the CBC no longer broadcasting Hockey Night in Canada. It'd be hard to imagine the network giving up what has become such a cash cow, but other Canadian networks — especially TSN — are increasingly ponying up larger dollars for the 'marquee' events.

    CBC has already been pushed out of broadcasting the Olympics, as 2008 in Beijing is the last Games under its current deal, and has lost ground in terms of their NHL playoff coverage. Past agreements had always given the CBC first choice of the postseason games it would show to a Canadian audience; now, TSN gets to pick and choose which series it wants through the conference finals — as long as they don't contain Canadian teams.

    That's not a problem this year, when two or three Canadian teams have advanced to the second round, but it's not hard to imagine a scenario where all-American matchups dominate the second round. In that case, TSN would have the pick of the group.

    In short, CBC's losing ground on what had always been a near-monopolistic relationship with the NHL. To me, that's a sign of things to come.


At 7:37 a.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Rob said...

from an American perspective, as one who grew up watching HNIC every weekend through the 70s and 80s in Buffalo, this would be terribly disappointing as - at least to my knowledge - TSN cannot be picked up in the States.

I now live outside of the Buffalo area and get the Center Ice package which supplies nearly every game but for those hockey fans back in the border cities the emptiness of Saturday nights would be a shock.

At 8:11 a.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My only problem with this, is that watching more TSN would mean that we'd have to put up with more Pierre Mcguire.

At 8:22 a.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous KevinP said...

I have to agree with Rob. In Buffalo we are cursed with limited to no hockey coverage outside of the Sabres. For the CBC to lose the broadcast rights would put us in the same boat as cities like Carolina and Tampa Bay in terms of hockey choices.

(Although as a bonus it would mean being subjected to the Leafs less often.)

At 9:31 a.m., May 03, 2006, Blogger Jeff J said...

Having HNIC on the public broadcaster is something that reflects Canada's priorities. I'd like it to stay.

We already hear enough politicians and lobbyists saying the CBC is redundant with the variety of private networks. To take away the HNIC numbers would only give them more ammo. Having a marquee property keeps the CBC relevant. To me, that is of extreme importance. The strong independent broadcaster keeps the private ones honest. Apologies for the political angle, but I think it ties in.

At 9:48 a.m., May 03, 2006, Blogger Matt said...

Wow, that might be the first time I've ever heard a giant business owned by the federal government described as "independent".

If the overarching goal is to protect the CBC, then yes. If the overarching goal is "I want to enjoy watching hockey games more than I do", then maybe something else.

At 11:07 a.m., May 03, 2006, Blogger Achtungbaby said...

Maybe if they didn't show Toronto games every frickin' Saturday night no matter how great the other matchups were that night, the CBC would have a little more credibility.

They even showed Toronto games when the Leafs were out of it and other teams were in the playoff race. For a station that is publicly funded, this is absurd.

And don't give me that arguement about everyone wanting to watch the Leafs. Maybe if the CBC supported other clubs a little more they would have a wider audience.

At 12:20 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Karina said...

Here's the issue I see: We're moving into the age of digital TV. These "regional blackouts" which are my biggest pet peeve, will soon become a thing of the past, as we'll finally be able to pick which game we want to watch. That said, I think at that point the priority has to be to the highest quality telecast and so, as much as I'm emotionally attached to it, I think we'd see HNIC move on.

That said, I think that having HNIC on CBC is an illustration of how deeply ingrained watching hockey is in Canadian culture. Having it broadcast on a network that is anything other than available to everyone in the country who can find the cash to buy a TV (how many people grew up with an old TV with a pair of rabbit ears where CBC English and CBC french were the only stations you could get?) can watch hockey.

So basically, I'm torn. The technology of the future could make the hockey-watching experience so much better for us (don't want to watch the Leafs game, then don't, but I out here in Vancouver would love it if I could see them more than just on Saturday nights), and the need to retain the historical availability of hockey to Canada.

At 12:56 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As bad as CBC might be with their play-by-play, they don't suck anywhere close to the level that espn did. If HNIC goes away, it will be missed.

At 2:24 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Jeff Z. said...

Wow. All I can say is this ranter is SPOILED. I grew up in Vancouver and Montreal, but for the past 6 years have lived in the States (and will for the foreseeable future).

To watch hockey now, all I have is the Center Ice package. So I've gotten a good look at the broadcast quality from most of the league's teams.

CBC blows away any coverage out there. Sure, some of the announcers suck (whoever is calling the Edmonton series is a snoozer), but they are a million times better than anyone in the States save maybe Emerick.

Plus, the crispness and camera angles CBC has are far superior to the American broadcasts. Even TSN and to a lesser degree, Sportsnet, suffer in comparison.

I was actually thinking while watching the Habs game last night that the answer to the NHL's TV problem in the States may be to import HNIC down here. You could still even call it HNIC. 10 bucks says it gets better ratings than OLN or ESPN.

At 4:09 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous alice said...

To echo what Jeff said, CBC hockey coverage rocks. There are years when I've gotten Center Ice just for the CBC games. The best of what we get in the US can't compare with the worst of CBC.

About 10 years ago I was watching a Bruins broadcast. They were in Edmonton, and the announcers apologized for the fact that they were using the CBC (HNIC?) feed, as they didn't have control of the replays. It was an absolute eye opener how much easier than usual it was to follow the action.

At 6:02 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don Wittman is the best broadcaster in Canada -- in any sport. To suggest otherwise is to downgrade the worth of a legend.

At 7:29 p.m., May 03, 2006, Anonymous Jeff Z. said...

Is Don Whitman the person calling the Edmonton series? Trust me, I don't think he's as brutal as Garrett, but he's pretty boring. But like Alice said, the worst of CBC is far better than the best of the US networks.

By the way, ever notice with Garrett that he ALWAYS says something like "You know, I think that may have been tipped" if ANYONE is between the shooter and the goalie. Every freakin time. Watch, you'll see. I call it every time and my wife thinks it's hilarious. She started doing it now

At 12:28 a.m., June 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Canadians don't really like or watch NHL hockey. During the last NHL player strike Saturday viewership actually increased. Canadians as a whole would rather watch a movie.

Why is the CBC always telling me how much I like hockey (HNIC)? Because I don't.


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