Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Way To Go Scotty

First TSN nicked Chris Cuthbert when the CBC balked at renewing his contract. Big mistake. Cuthbert is the best play-by-play man in the hockey business.

Nonetheless, Hockey Night In Canada survived with the aging Bob Cole and Harry Neale at the helm and a lightweight in Greg Millen.

Then TSN outbid CBC for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. A major blow but Hockey Night In Canada remained relatively unaffected.

The next chink in the armour came when TSN was granted a license to broadcast up to 70 NHL games next season which includes a slate of nationally televised Toronto Maple Leaf games, once the sole domain of HNIC.

Yet HNIC vowed to move on.

Now CTV, which owns TSN and the French language RDS has silently snatched the iconic HNIC theme song which has been a staple of the Saturday night show for 40 years. They plan to use it on all their hockey broadcasts, including the Leaf games and the hockey portion of the Vancouver Olympics.

What's left for TSN to plunder from the once proud public institution?

Maybe HNIC itself.

As it stands now, the CBC has a six year contract (five years left) to broadcast NHL games on Saturday nights and during the playoffs. Who's to say that the CBC doesn't decide to part ways with the league and become more like their American counterpart PBS at that time? They may not have Don Cherry by then and even Ron Maclean could be sitting beside Bob Mackenzie and Pierre McGuire knocking out his trademark puns with a few more grey hairs speckling his head.

The optics look bad here for the CBC. They tried to use a court case against them by the owner of the song as leverage in their negotiations and got burned. Now they actually have to go ahead and have some kind of public competition for a new song. You just know that this new jingle is going to go over like a lead balloon to the legions of HNIC traditionalists. Why has HNIC debased itself to the point that they now have to hold a nerdy version of Canadian Idol (a program owned by CTV by the way) just to replace the song they let CTV walk away with?

The irony is thick, like the head of CBC sports Scott Moore.

Way to go Scotty. You must be proud.


Peter said...

TSN is a sports network. They get to benefit from having cheap programming to fill time slots, like bowling and women's golf during low points of the day. During high points, they re-run the same Sportscentre segments over and over, again saving money. These savings compound, as do the premium fees for being a cable network, so TSN (or CTV) ends up having the money to make higher bids on sporting events or superfluous theme songs than a public network.

CBC, on the other hand, has priorities outside of simply CBC Sports. Independent programming, Canadian culture outside of sports, and a host of varied content means that CBC more responsibility to cover the gamut of programming types, and less money for sports.

I'd like it if CBC had everything they needed. I want more pundits, and I hate Eric Duhatschek, Greg Millen, Bob Cole, Narry Neale, and the most of the rest of them. But I'd rather have a random song and some decent hockey coverage to complement programming on the CBC like The National, The Hour, balanced election coverage, The Nature of Things, and other good programming. Even if they try too hard with crap like Sophie or MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives.

Jeremy Milks said...

Agree with all your points Peter.

What rankles me is that they are consistently devaluing their biggest money maker at a time when government funding is being reduced. If the Conservative Party had their way, they'd completely cut off funding to a public utility that they feel is opposed to them ideologically.

HNIC remains the CBC's cash cow but short-sighted decisions have not only hurt the show, but the CBC as a whole. Cultural programs take the hit and have less a chance of surviving when HNIC is devalued. Losing the Olympics and the extroardinary amount of advertising revenue they bring in is another blow.

My post was not to infer that HNIC is the most important show on the CBC (culturally speaking), but to point out shoddy management from Scott Moore and his predecessors.