Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Sportsnet to End Stanley Cup Coverage If Leafs Lose
It is rumoured that Stanley Cup coverage on the main networks in Ontario is contingent on the Toronto Maple Leafs advancing in the play-offs. Network execs at the highest level met late night in a hotel following the Leafs loss to the Winnipeg Jets March 31st. The game's ratings tumbled as the Leaf's struggled alarming the network's advertisers.
Hockey Night in Canada's main coverage is dependent on the Toronto Maple Leafs doing well. The hosts and game coverage are geared to create the feeling that they are Canada's team even as they play other Canadian teams.
"You can't fault them," said an insider in the network said. "They paid a lot of money to make sure the Toronto Maple Leafs coverage gets the big ratings." At what point in the game senior executives from the network were on the phone arguing with Leaf's management about trying to get penalties and suspension for Winnipeg Jet's star Mark Schiefele over a collision with the Leaf's netminder.
The NHL is also worried about Maple Leaf's performance but have their own set of problems in that a perfect ratings scenario is Las Angeles Kings versus New York Rangers for the NBC network. However, NBC would settle for a Las Vegas Golden Knights western victor as it is a narrative they can sell. Toronto sports teams are always a major drag on American ratings as no one in the U.S. cares about Canadian teams.
The battle between Sportnet and NBC over which teams advance spells bad news for other markets. The NHL has done its resolute best to satisfy Sportsnet where the the bulk of the ratings are and NBC where the future is. NBC coverage also pushes up expansion fees which for Seattle are now $21 million per team.
If the Maple Leafs fail to advance, Stanley Cup broadcasts will drop in Ontario in favour of Toronto Blue Jays baseball which just had their home opener. Sportsnet executives says it is the only thing to do to stop a backlash against the network if Leafs are out. "There is no way we can show Winnipeg Jets games in Ontario," said an insider. "They are many in the network who feel the city should never have gotten a team in the first place. We have covering them. They are a downer for all our staff and fans, The Maple Leafs are Canada's teams. The only reason we cover the Vancouver Canucks is extend the broadcast late Saturday and talk about the Leaks more."
The situation for NBC is more dire. The loss of a few major market teams for the Stanley Cup play-offs means the network will switch to April's coverage of the Waiter and Bartender Games coming in April in Los Angeles. The games hosted by Kim Kardasian are expected to be a big ratings winner but the network is stymied on more coverage as they are obligated on hockey contracts. The only loophole is major market teams failing to qualify.
A final featuring the Winnipeg Jets would likely be pushed to a steaming service on NBC's lower tier or sold off to regional sports networks such as Buffalo and Hartford. In Canada, Sportsnet would a Jets final to Sportsnet 360 which has the lowest cable coverage in the country. "We simply have to have the Toronto Maple Leaf's in the final for the good of the country," said a network official speaking confidentially.