Published on November 24, 2008 9:15 PM by cflwatcher.
The 96th Grey Cup coverage by TSN grew in quantity, but not necessarily quality. Broadcasting the biggest game in the CFL and Canadian sports, TSN decided to avoid criticism by producing an eight hour Grey Cup Saturday broadcast along with a three hour Countdown to Kickoff Sunday pre-game show as well as the game itself. All told TSN put in six and a half hours of coverage Sunday in addition to the eight hours on Saturday. Quantity, though, I have found is not the best barometer for judging television coverage.
TSN covered the Grey Cup sufficiently through the week, giving about ten minutes per day on the evening SportsCentre broadcast. SportsNet appeared to produce about half as much per day for their Connected broadcast. I did not have as much time to watch for other coverage during the week, but my feeling was that with the game outside of Toronto, much of the ancillary coverage the Grey Cup received last year from the CBC, Weather Network and other stations did not happen in 2008. As per tradition, ESPN Classics Canada broadcast a number of Grey Cup classics throughout the week.
My rough analysis of my RSS feeds of Canadian print media felt there was about the same number of stories published this year compared to last despite a reduction of print media at the game. Overall, I felt the pulse of the nation was tuned into this Grey Cup perhaps slightly more than average, likely due to an Eastern team playing host to the game. That certainly has an affect on the interest across the country and in Quebec as the numbers show.
TSN pulled out all the stops for their inaugural Grey Cup Saturday broadcast, easily doubling the maximum three hours of coverage CBC has produced over the past two decades. Filling that much time is a daunting task and TSN did a good job producing a show with a mix of segments that did not get old or repetitive in analysis.
Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchyshen hosted the show from the Grey Cup village in downtown Montreal. An excellent decision to use these two instead of the regular CFL on TSN panel or Brian Williams that I expected. This helped produce a little variety in the show and provide more than just analysis, pre-taped segments and interviews. Some content was repeated from earlier broadcasts during the week on SportsCentre, but the broadcast was meant to be on in the background all day or for people to tune in and out when they had time.
To fill the eight hours, TSN came up with some new segments and some oft-used ones as well. The panel broadcast from Olympic Stadium during each team’s walk-throughs, although the Alouettes did not hold a public walk through on the field. Not much was revealed in these segments except perhaps that walk-throughs are not conductive to great coverage. Taped segments were also shown on how each team got to the Grey Cup and they were both well done. Another was a half hour segment on Thursday night’s Player Awards, which showed quick clips on the nominees, announcement of the winner and player’s acceptance. It felt compacted and had no flow to it due to the limited time provided.
A Friday Night Gladiator segment replaced (thankfully!) Walby’s Warriors from CBC’s past broadcasts. Glen Suitor did a good job making this his own instead of trying to copy another format. Oddly, Cam Wake was awarded the Friday Night Gladiator award despite not winning a game title all year. It was a little unclear to me whether all games were in play for the award or just Friday night games. Perhaps Suitor can define the conditions of the season ending awards better next year. Dave Hodge’s The Reporters segment provided a real journalism segment where Eastern media look for cracks in the CFL before diverting their attention to non-CFL stories.
Other time was filled with interviews and analysis as well as promotional bumper videos including the This is Our League video, which was shown a number of times. By the end of the day, I was tired and it appeared the hosts were as well. The Saturday broadcast did its job: entertaining, informative and promotional I was as proud as ever of the CFL and anticipating Sunday’s kick-off.
A three hour pre-game show repeated the segments on how each team got to the Cup, showed a good Brian Williams segment on Montreal running back Avon Cobourne, provided some analysis segments and interviews. The required commissioner interview with Williams got a little awkward when Williams pressed Mark Cohon on the poor play of the southern Ontario teams this year. The Commissioner repeated his words from his press conference where he expressed hope the East will rise next year. This is all he can do as commissioners cannot interfere with franchises performance and personnel problems. Williams decided to use his Mike Wallace imitation like he does every year when he didn’t like Cohon’s political answer and Cohon stuck to his response. Cohon may have been better served by pointing out to Williams he has no jurisdiction over individual franchises, even if Toronto is “a mess” as Williams described. Instead he appeared to not care or be indifferent to the situation even though non-competitive franchises in the long-term are a concern, but a responsibility of the franchise owners, not the commissioner.
There was some on-field play demonstrations and TSN needs to do more of this. More work on polishing their presentation and not focusing on one team should be done in the future. I would like to have seen more of a positional breakdown and analysis of match ups instead of the more generic analysis of offence and defence. To cap the pre-game show, the coaches speeches to the players were played after player introductions, giving great insight into the attitudes and moods in each room.
The game was covered by three times as many cameras as a regular game, but I hardly noticed. The cable-cam and hand-held steady-cam were used mostly for replays going to commercial or other spots. The goalpost cam gave some good shots coming back from commercial of the Stampeders backed up in their end. Not using these special shots for plays and replays is a good thing as these different perspectives can be confusing and disorientating.
The half-time show was average, but I had to wonder why we were watching this instead of hearing some analysis. It may be time to retire the half-time show, at least for the home audience. It did go quick, so kudos to the Montreal setup people who turned it over in about 25 minutes by my rough count.
The game did not have the explosive fireworks I was expecting. It ended finishing under time, at less than three hours even with an extended half-time show. At the middle of the first quarter I was saying to myself this game is going fast. TSN provided a half hour of post-game coverage, covering the Cup presentation, the MVP presentations and interviewing some players multiple times before some post-game analysis. The broadcast ended at half past, fifteen minutes short of the time allotted by TSN. They had to return to the NFL game in progress they had pre-empted to TSN2.
TSN improved their coverage throughout the playoffs, with their Grey Cup coverage obviously being their focus. Long being a proponent of the CFL getting its due coverage, I believe they did this year. While the quantity of coverage was up substantially and quality was strong through most areas, I was left disappointed without a quality high-scoring game or last-second score to win. I wonder if the increase in the media attention, asking players the same questions through the week, leads to a much lower scoring game. Are teams’ offences over-analyzed to the point the defences have an advantage? Probably not, as the defences just seem to have the advantage in playing off adrenalin this late in the season. The week long hype, the half-time show and then four field goals in the second half? I expected more and the CFL used to deliver offensive performances when they didn’t have any of the hype or even a half-time performer. It is hard to not think about what could have been when reviewing the great Grey Cups in the past 25 years when two top offences got together underneath a dome.