Tag Archives: Montreal Alouettes

TSN 690 picks up rights to Alouettes games for 3-4 years

To the surprise of absolutely no one, TSN 690 announced Friday morning that it has acquired the rights to Alouettes games from now sister station CJAD, completing the trifecta of Montreal major sports rights.

The deal is for three years, starting this one, with an option for a fourth, Bell Media tells me. It includes the two preseason games, all regular season games and all postseason games, including the Grey Cup. TSN said it would also air special events like the CFL draft, training camp and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductions.

Rick Moffat and Dave Mudge will be the broadcast team, as they were at CJAD.

The station also announced that it is moving The Als This Week to Mondays at 7pm, and that Alouettes general manager Jim Popp will be a guest every week on the show.

The Alouettes’ first game is June 14.

The regular-season schedules of the Alouettes and Impact this season includes three conflicts where both teams are playing simultaneously: July 19, Aug. 16 and Oct. 18, all Saturdays. In those cases, expect Impact games to move to CJAD.

We’ll see what happens when the Alouettes conflict with fall Canadiens games. TSN has said it plans to broadcast all games from both teams.

Financial terms of the deal were not discussed on air and are usually not disclosed.

As silly as it is for TSN 690 to wrestle rights away from a station it now shares not only an office but a program director with, this deal more importantly represents a renewal of the broadcasting rights, which expired after last season.  It ensures that Alouettes games will continue to be carried on English radio through the end of 2016, and likely 2017 as well.

Alouettes broadcasts return to CKAC

For the second consecutive year, the Alouettes have prematurely ended their deal with their official French-language radio broadcaster and switched to its major competitor.

It was announced on Tuesday that the Alouettes will be returning to Cogeco’s CKAC Sports for the 2011 season. CKAC will broadcast 20 games (the regular season has 19 18, so this covers all of those and the two preseason games), plus all playoff games.

Pierre Martineau, a spokesperson for Cogeco Diffusion, says the deal is for this coming season only, and some games will also air on Cogeco’s regional FM stations.

Having CKAC Sports broadcast the games seems like such a no-brainer, and indeed they broadcast the games for many years, signing a five-year deal in 2007. But that deal was mutually dissolved so that the Alouettes could strike a deal with Astral Media’s NRJ for broadcast rights in 2010. That deal was supposed to last until 2013.

The switch to NRJ wasn’t perfectly smooth. NRJ is a music station (like CHOM, which also broadcasts some Alouettes games), and license limits meant they couldn’t broadcast five games last season, according to La Presse.

Fans also weren’t crazy that NRJ used the RDS play-by-play audio instead of their own staff, though CKAC did the same thing.

A representative of the Alouettes did not immediately respond to voice mail messages requesting comment.

The Alouettes’ English radio rights are held by Astral, with games airing on CJAD and CHOM until 2013. It’s unclear if the move away from Astral on the French side will have any impact on the English rights. No doubt the Team 990 would be more than happy to pick up rights to Alouettes games, much like they would love to take rights to Canadiens games away from CJAD someday.

Last month, CKAC announced an agreement to air Canadiens games for two more seasons, ending in 2013-14.

The Alouettes parade and the two solitudes

A TV camera setup for live coverage of the Grey Cup parade and party in 2009.

Last year, when the Alouettes won the Grey Cup with a spectacular last-second field goal against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (though TSN’s placement of it as the #1 wacky CFL moment of all-time was a bit over-the-top), I went down to Ste. Catherine St. and the new Place des Festivals and joined in the party, taking a few photos of the assembled media. It was fun being in such a large crowd celebrating a pro sports championship.

This year, the Grey Cup wasn’t as exciting. (I barely noticed it was over, looking up from my copy editing station.) And with the same parade-and-party planned, and the weather not looking too hot, I reluctantly stayed home to watch the coverage on TV.

Thankfully, there wasn’t a lack of live parade coverage on television, but where it was covered and where it wasn’t made it clear to me how geographically biased Canada’s English and French-language networks are.

On the English side, both CFCF (CTV) and CKMI (Global) aired live parade specials, as they had last year. Some kudos are due to Global here, which has awfully few resources and doesn’t even produce its own newscast. I’ve criticized the station for barely meeting CRTC minimums on local programming (and even then by airing repeats of their newscasts at 6am and 6:30am), for outsourcing their production and using a fake, misleading green-screen set, and even having a weatherman who’s based in Toronto (but pretends he’s in Montreal). So to be able to put together a two-hour live special, with Mike Le Couteur in studio, Richard Dagenais at the Place des Festivals and Domenic Fazioli along the parade route, must have been quite the feat for this tiny group. CFCF’s special may have been technically better, but was half an hour shorter and replaced their noon newscast.

CBMT (CBC Montreal) didn’t air a parade special. I can’t remember the last time this once-great station aired a live local special event. A CBC camera was on site with local sports reporter Sonali Karnick, but it was only used to give some live hits for CBC News Network. Online, they had a webcast of the parade and party without any commentary or interviews.

I went over to the all-news and all-sports networks: CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet. I figured they all had good reason to cover this parade. It’s not like anything else breaking was going on at noon on a Wednesday.

You know what I found? Nothing.

CBC and CTV’s news channels were going through the motions, recapping the latest headlines. TSN was recapping the previous night’s Maple Leafs game, followed by a broadcast of competitive darts.


TSN, which two days earlier had been crowing about how it had 4.94 million viewers for the Grey Cup game (a further 1.1 million was watching on RDS), just short of the previous year’s record, apparently thought that showing SportsCentre and darts was more interesting than a Grey Cup victory parade.

What annoys me most was how little effort would have been required to give this a national audience. Nothing important would have to have been pre-empted. And because CTV owns CFCF, CTVNC and TSN, they could have simply had the national news and sports channels take the CFCF feed for an hour and a half and shown the parade nationally as Montreal viewers were watching it. There are anglophone Montreal expats across the country, not to mention simple fans of the Canadian Football League (surely that 4.94 million wasn’t all Roughriders fans, considering Saskatchewan’s total population is just over 1 million).

CBC would have needed more effort, but even then it already had plenty of resources in place. RDI was covering the parade live, and Sonali Karnick was in place with a CBC camera and live feed. Would it have really been that much more difficult to just air the common parade feed and provide some colour commentary?

Montréal = français, Toronto = English

On the French side, it was the opposite problem: The cable channels had parade specials, but the local channels didn’t air them. LCN, RDI and RDS all had specials lasting more than two hours. Radio-Canada and TVA stuck with regular programming, which at noon means newscasts. Brief stories about the parade, but no live special. V and Télé-Québec, well, they don’t have news departments so I didn’t exactly expect much from them.

Part of me wants to see the Toronto Argonauts win the next Grey Cup so I can contrast the coverage plans. Does anyone seriously believe that CTVNC, CBCNN, TSN, CP24, Sportsnet and the rest wouldn’t give this wall-to-wall coverage if it was in Toronto? And, conversely, that LCN, RDI and RDS would all ignore it completely if it was anywhere other than Montreal (or maybe Quebec City)?

LCN, RDS and CTV are privately-owned networks, so they can do whatever they want. If they want to be homers for the cities their broadcast studios are located in, if they have little interest in covering any event that’s not happening within 50 kilometres of their offices, if they want to be de facto regional news networks, that’s up to them.

But CBC is publicly-financed, and their geographical bias really annoys me, particularly with RDI, which can often be mistaken for an all-Montreal-news channel. I realize that a large part of its market lives within the greater Montreal area, but as a national French-language news channel it has a mandate to cover the entire country, not just wherever they can get to on a tank of gas from the Maison Radio-Canada.

CBC should have been there. And if the Roughriders had won, RDI should have been in Regina.

You might think this is a silly discussion to have over something as trivial as a Grey Cup victory parade, but it’s a symptom of a larger problem. We see the same decisions being made during municipal and provincial elections, or provincial budgets, or just about any other prescheduled major local news events. During the last municipal election in 2009, the local anglo stations couldn’t be bothered to cut into their American programming, so updates were limited to their websites, the 11pm newscasts and the occasional news break during commercials. The last provincial election was better, but there was more national interest in that vote. That press conference of Alouettes president Larry Smith announcing his resignation? Live on RDI and LCN, but all but ignored by CTV News Channel and CBC News Network.

As local stations get gutted of their resources and national networks continue to figure out ways of centralizing the basic functions of broadcasting, the ability to do special event programming is severely reduced. And as those same network bigwigs continue to put competitive interests above their duties to serve national populations, these geographical biases from our national news and sports networks will only get worse.

You can re-watch the parade specials (or parts thereof) online from CFCF, CKMI, RDS (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10) and RDI

Non-stop music, except during football

I'm pretty sure this was the original idea behind this photo of NRJ people with Alouettes' Larry Smith

I’m kind of a stickler for format purity, in that a broadcaster that specializes in one thing shouldn’t try to be something else just because that something else gets ratings.

So I’m not crazy about live-action movies airing on Teletoon, or funny pet video compilations airing on the Discovery channel. Unfortunately, I’ve seen both in the past week.

When it comes to radio, the genres aren’t so specific, at least for over-the-air broadcasting. They really come down to two camps: music and talk. The latter can have news, sports, comedy, documentary, or whatever else they can think of. The music stations (at least commercial ones) just play music, perhaps with the occasional goofball listener contest thrown in.

NRJ, a music network based off a brand developed in France, announced that it will be carrying Alouettes games until 2013, a job formerly (and quite logically) left to CKAC, the AM sports station. The Alouettes also have a release in English and French.

So once a week, for a few hours, NRJ will stop playing music and start airing football play-by-play. Not just in Montreal, but all over Quebec.

This has already happened on the anglo side. CHOM-FM has been airing select Alouettes games, even though all of them are available on CJAD.

It’s worth pointing out, by the way, that CHOM, CJAD and NRJ are all owned by Astral Media. CKAC is owned by Corus.

As for CKAC, well, they still have the Canadiens, of course. And they carry home games of the Impact. They’re also adding a few baseball games to their schedule.

Just take it off the TV

One of the things actually being advertised in this release is that the play-by-play won’t be done by NRJ or anyone at Astral Media, but will basically just be taken off the audio feed of RDS.

CKAC tried this back in 2007, and the result wasn’t particularly favourable. The next season, they brought in Charles-André Marchand to do their own play-by-play.

We’ll see if NRJ learns the same lesson, or just decides that, even though TV play-by-play doesn’t work on radio, it’s cheap enough that they can live with the mediocrity.

Alouettes parade to get live coverage on TV

Championships in Montreal are more rare than we’d like them to be, yet this year we’ve had two – the Impact and the Alouettes. (And with the Habs being shut out at home to the Leafs, a trifecta seems unlikely.)

Wednesday sees the players and fans meet to celebrate for the victory parade down Ste. Catherine St., from Crescent to Jeanne-Mance starting at 11:40am.

Surprisingly, despite it being a local event (and one coming with little advance notice), there’s going to be actual live coverage of it by local television.

Here’s what’s been announced:

  • Global (CKMI) will have live coverage from 11:30am to 1:30pm (Mike LeCouteur with The Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky and the Q’s Ken Connors). It will also be streaming the parade live at globalmontreal.com
  • CTV (CFCF) will have live coverage from noon to 1:30pm, preempting its entire noon newscast. Sports reporters will be in the crowd, Mutsumi Takahashi and Randy Tieman at the end of the route. Lori Graham and Todd van der Heyden will be in the parade itself. It will livestream the entire parade at montreal.ctv.ca
  • CBC (CBMT) has no announced live coverage
  • Radio-Canada will not have live TV coverage on the main network, but will be livestreaming the parade at radio-canada.ca/sports
  • TVA and V have nothing announced as far as live coverage
  • RDI will have a live special from 11:30am to 1:30pm. Simon Durivage hosts with Marc André Masson, Jean St-Onge, Jacinthe Taillon, Antoine Deshaies and former Als player Bruno Heppell
  • LCN has not announced anything, but expect it to give good coverage to the parade
  • RDS will have live parade coverage from 11:30am to 2pm (it’s the only network to actually change its electronic and online schedule to reflect the coverage) with David Arsenault, Marc Labrecque, Pierre Vercheval and Denis Casavant.
  • TSN has not announced anything, but considering their current plan for noon is World Championship Darts…

So that’s four channels carrying live TV specials (CFCF, CKMI, RDI and RDS), and three sources for live online streaming, at least.

Maybe what’s surprising is that, in this local TV death spiral, I find this surprising.

(Of course, you won’t be watching the parade on TV because you’ll be on Ste. Catherine St. celebrating, right?)

UPDATE: CTV Montreal and RDS have archived footage of the parade and party afterward. The Gazette and Rue Frontenac have put together artisty videos.

Go Als Go!


OK guys. One more game. Everyone expects you to win (even Herb Zurkowsky).

Please don’t choke. Please don’t choke. Please don’t choke…

The Grey Cup (Montreal Alouettes vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary) airs on TSN and RDS at 6:30 p.m., because CTV believes it can make more money off the Amazing Race and Desperate Housewives than the championship game of the Canadian Football League. (Save local TV!)

UPDATE: I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. They choked hard. And again. And again. And they won! Next time you have an argument with someone about how the CFL is boring, make this Exhibit A.

Herbie is never happy


Fresh off his successful campaign to have Montreal Alouettes head coach Jim Popp removed, The Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky is breaking the news of his replacement, a guy named Marc Trestman, and in the same breath suggesting the new guy is as incompetent (if not moreso) as the old guy. Could another campaign be forming?

Zurkowsky is starting to live up to his mean-looking mugshot.

UPDATE (Dec. 18): The Alouettes confirm the news, and Zurkowsky adds a pessimistic post about how bad a choice it was.