The big news for Hockey Night in Canada's lockout-shortened 2013 season is a double dose of Don Cherry every Saturday. The voluble former NHL coach is getting a second helping between periods of the second game of doubleheaders as well as his usual Coach's Corner perch in Game 1.
Anyone neutral on The Don in this country? No one? Judge yourself accordingly.
Getting maximum mileage from the controversial Cherry is part of CBC's plan to carry HNIC to its next NHL rights negotiations later this year or early next.
With less money than its private-side competitors (TSN, Sportsnet), CBC's splashy presentation Thursday emphasized its 60-year legacy and good citizenship medals.
We'll see whether Cherry is Polite Don, who lauded Gary Bettman's lockout performance, or Cherry Blaster, who kicked off HNIC's 2011-12 season by calling former NHL enforcers "pukes."
Owning the long-term future of hockey broadcasting lies not with a weekly blast of Cherry (who turns 79 on Feb. 5), but in getting the new generation of fan who doesn't wait till a Saturday intermission for its scoops. The coming challenge for HNIC is winning the race to control the news cycle on social media in the week before showtime.
As the lockout showed, authority now comes from tweeting a story instantly. TSN has owned this fast-breaking segment with Bob McKenzie (475,500 Twitter followers), Darren Dreger (375,000) and Pierre LeBrun (219,300).
Sportsnet has responded with Nick Kypreos (130,200).
HNIC is promoting Andi Petrillo to its iDesk to monitor such things during games. But when Cherry leaves, HNIC will likely need to sell its story-breaking chops via Elliotte Friedman (84,778 followers).
"It can't just be about Saturday any more," Friedman told Daily Grind Thursday. "You have to be a presence on Twitter and digital. Sports fans want to know everything in real time, they want to be entertained. That's a 24/7 job now. Don can do his thing once a week, but he's unique. For other stuff, it helps how visible I am in social media. That's the future."
That doesn't diminish HNIC's brand, Friedman says. "The show still has power, it still has great influence in the business. Having said that, we can't be beat on stuff, we have to write it when we've got it. Last season I was able to keep a few things for Saturday, but another story blew up in my face."
Friedman is working on exclusive material for Saturday's opener.
"I'm like the guys at the other networks," he adds. "I never like to get beaten on anything. No one has to tell me to go looking for stories. I'm wired for it." Good, because CBC is counting on Friedman to feed the beast.
What's The Score?
Rogers has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to allow it more live sports content and fewer news segments per hour on The Score, its new acquisition. Rogers suggests it wants to use the channel for a winter-games format and other sports content from its stable of properties. Rogers also plans to use the network as a highlight news source. Rogers' problem with The Score is that this is not just another regional or specialty service. The Score has 6.6 million subscribers nationally and brings in approximately $45-million a year. It has a premium spot on a lot of carrier's channel lists. This is not a place to dump content that doesn't fit on its other five channels, or to endlessly replay canned highlight programming from the night previous. Having jettisoned The Score's audience, Rogers will have to build a new one to keep these numbers.
The Score could also be a source for NHL or Toronto Blue Jays postgame content. TSN and maybe CBC may complain to the CRTC about this request as a defensive measure, trying to handcuff Rogers' plans for its asset. But the real challenge lies with Rogers to make this work.
Apparently NBC is a little rusty. The NHL's rights holder in the U.S. used footage from the great Pittsburgh/ Philadelphia playoff series last spring in its season promo. Nothing wrong with that. Then they got the winner of the series wrong. Clean-up in Aisle 3 …
Fascinating TV ad from Nike showing Tiger Woods, its standard bearer till now, and Rory McIlroy, its new $250-million acquisition, in an anything-you-can-do spot. A cool commercial made cooler knowing that the two men were never together during filming. And an interesting commercial, because McIlroy was under contract to Nike nemeses Titleist and Oakley as he made it. Hello, litigation.