It was a sad time in Canadian broadcasting last week when about 380 people at Bell Media outlets lost their jobs. These moves are devastating not just for those affected by the cuts but the overall quality of radio and television programming. While some are blaming the latest layoffs to corporate restructuring, I have another theory that is highly more accurate.
For the purpose of this forum, I’m focusing on Bell Media’s only sports property, TSN. Contrary to popular belief, the real reason the powers that be made these cuts is because of a decline in viewership. And the reason there is a decline in viewership is because there is hardly any sports on TSN. You see, there was a time when TSN (or The Sports Network) used to be the home of everything sports. And what I mean by sports is talking about the struggles of the Maple Leafs, the success of the Kansas City Royals, and whether Stephen Curry can duplicate his MVP season. Not anymore. In its place are stories about racism, violence, and lifestyle choices. They may involve athletes, coaches, and other sports figures but it has nothing to do with sports. Even on issues like drugs, gambling, and concussions, there is a sense people want to point the finger at the game rather than chalking it up to the actions of the individual. For example, if a hockey player gets knocked down with an open ice hit, the focus will be on the player being allowed to deliver that hit instead of the other player putting himself in a vulnerable position.
For the last number of years, channels like TSN and Sportsnet, and their American counterparts ESPN and FOX Sports, have shifted their focus more towards social issues rather than sports. There are a number of broadcast executives who bought into a false impression that putting on this kind of content will result in an increase in viewers. What it actually did was turn off the true sports fan and made them go elsewhere for their fix. Why do you think Off the Record is now off the air? For the amount of money subscribers are paying to get these channels, many believe it is no longer worth it and have decided to pull the plug on cable.
While Off the Record is gone, shows like The Reporters continue to avoid the axe. It has done nothing to promote sports and too much focus is on the problems going on in our society. Prime Time Sports is another show that has long passed its shelf life. That fact that there is little stuff about sports on these shows should be sufficient grounds to terminate them. You could say Don Cherry does the same on Coach’s Corner. But I would argue that Grapes brings these issues up to respond to the critics while staying true to the subject of hockey.
The decline in television viewing is everywhere whether it is news, sports, business, or entertainment. The media has become a cesspool of liberal junk. You don’t have to listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch FOX News to understand what I am talking about. If we continue to see more of this on TSN or Sportsnet, we will continue to see more people in broadcasting out of work. But as our current Prime Minister would say, it’s 2015, right?
UPDATE (April 28th, 2017):
ESPN have laid off 100 people. This time, many who have been shown the door are reporters and hosts. The announcement comes as the network was about to host the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s been almost two years since I wrote this piece but it seems it’s been only recently that people are starting to realize the real reason there has been a decline in the network’s ratings.
Here’s link to a piece where it pretty much echoes what I have said in this article:
‘SportsCenter’ anchor agrees politics is hurting ESPN.
There are some, however, who are still in denial. Here are just a couple of them:
Conservative Media Is Wrong: Cord Cutting – Not Politics – Led to the Massive Layoffs at ESPN
No, ESPN’s Layoffs Aren’t A Result Of Its ‘Politicization’ Of Sports