As Bell Media tries to figure out how it will deal with losing NHL hockey to rival Rogers, the company has already started solidifying its deals for other sports programming. On Monday, it announced that it has extended and expanded its deal with the National Football League, and will, starting next season, be presenting football games at 4pm on Sundays on CTV and CTV Two in addition to the 1pm games it currently airs.
NFL games normally go three hours, and sometimes longer, so basic math suggests that airing games at 4pm on Sundays means those games will still be going at 6pm. But Bell Media couldn’t say right away what would happen to 6pm local newscasts on Sundays.
“The specific programming plan is evolving, but we have every intention of meeting our local news obligations in eastern Canada,” was the response from Bell Media when I asked about the Sunday newscasts.
CTV stations in large markets like Montreal and Toronto are required to air 14 hours of local programming a week. Currently, they air about 16 hours a week of local news, so they could cancel Sunday newscasts and still meet their CRTC obligations. Because the CRTC requirement doesn’t distinguish between original programs and repeats, they could also cheat by repeating an evening newscast the next day at 6am. (Global Montreal did this every weekday before the launch of Morning News. CTV also does this in some markets.)
Not having Sunday evening news wouldn’t be the end of the world. They could do like CBC and just have a late-night newscast on Sundays. City Toronto, which airs NFL football at 4pm on Sundays, cancels the evening newscast when it airs those games.
Moving the news to another time would be tricky, though. They can’t make it earlier without bringing it all the way back to noon. Pushing it an hour later might work, but ask any fan of 60 Minutes how often the 4pm football game ends before 7pm. CTV also airs primetime shows at 7pm. Right now that’s when it airs ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
Making this even more complicated is that the NFL season is only 17 weeks long, running from September to early January. So they might have one schedule for the fall and another for the rest of the year.
They have a few months to figure it out. The change takes effect with the 2014-15 season which starts in September.