Chasing hockey audience

While the nhl dispute has not been as painful for cbc tv and its two main advertisers as many thought it would be, the network, Ford Motor Company of Canada and Molson Breweries still would like to see teams on the...

While the nhl dispute has not been as painful for cbc tv and its two main advertisers as many thought it would be, the network, Ford Motor Company of Canada and Molson Breweries still would like to see teams on the ice and viewers in front of their sets.

Bruce Grondin, senior vice-president and national media director at Young & Rubicam in Toronto, Ford’s ad agency, says he is buying as much suitable replacement programming from the cbc as he can, but leaves little doubt he wants the National Hockey League back.

Grondin says hockey is the No. 1 viewing sport in Canada, adding that although expensive, it is highly efficient.

Plenty of talk

Freda Colbourne, director of communications for Molson Breweries, says that since there was plenty of off-season talk about an nhl dispute between owners and players, Molson prepared itself for Saturdays without hockey.

‘We had ourselves covered,’ says Colbourne, who points out the brewery bought time on such properties as Northern Exposure, NYPD Blue and Seinfeld.

While these programs individually draw higher numbers than Molson Hockey Night in Canada, their audiences comprise a lower percentage of potential Molson customers than do hockey audiences, a group Colbourne makes clear she would like to see back in front of the tv.

Double-headers

This was the year the cbc meant to introduce Saturday night hockey double-headers, featuring one Canadian team from the East and one from the West.

Molson and Ford had both planned extensive buys on Molson Hockey Night in Canada this year.

Molson wanted nine 30-second spots spread over the double-header; Ford wanted three 30-second spots for the first game, three for the second, and opening and closing billboards.

Both Molson and Ford signed new five-year hockey advertising deals this year.

Glenn Wert, director of marketing for cbc tv, says the network is trying to satisfy advertisers with big budget American movies filling the hockey game time-slot and provisionally scheduled to run until Dec. 31.

Should the strike continue into the New Year, Wert says the network will have to formulate a recovery plan.

He says it can ill afford to lose the entire season, adding the loss of the playoffs would be particularly painful.

The cbc Stanley Cup playoff coverage plans for the 1994-95 season comprise broadcasts every day from mid-April to the end of May, and every other day after that until the final.

Wert says he has no idea how the recovery plan might take shape, but notes the cbc has classic Stanley Cup games from previous seasons in its archives and owns the rights to the 1972 Canada Cup broadcasts.

Grondin says Ford is looking closely at sports programming and other shows to deal with the nhl situation.

Significant presence

He says the automaker is already a significant presence in figure skating – a viewer favorite – and adds the curling season will soon start.

Ford buying football seems unlikely.

Grondin points out Canadian Football League play concludes mid-November, and the National Football League wraps up the third week of January.

He also says National Basketball Association games do not draw large enough mass audiences to warrant serious consideration.

Other choices could be sponsored movies or programming Ford could produce in conjunction with broadcasters.

Grondin notes the automaker has, in the past, underwritten a tv movie on Star Trek and produced a safe driving program with ctv.

Colbourne says if the nhl work stoppage continues past January, Molson will have to exercise its other advertising options.

She says the brewery is just now starting on contingency plans for that eventuality.

She says one programming possibility is skiing, although she adds the tv rights might not be available.

Colbourne says the hockey lockout has not derailed any Molson plans for Christmas promotions set to begin later this month.