So Today We’re Going to Waste Energy Telling You That Damien Cox is a Moron When it Comes to TV Issues

(NOTE: This is an editorial featuring equal parts comedy and pathos, so don’t take everything in it too seriously … just the important parts. Enjoy.)

Lately, I’ve been wondering about how people get to the places they’re at and how they got there. I assume for almost all of them, it was a case of hard work, determination, and knowing the right people when it mattered. I like to think of myself as an optimist who believes that every successful person is both being rewarded for hard work with their position, and doing a strong enough job to keep it.

However, in the case of Toronto Star writer Damien Cox, I have to wonder why he remains where he is in both employment and stature. Cox, through his columns, TV appearances and numerous books, is likely the most popular Canadian sports writer of a generation, and I’m certain that he deserved to get to that level of esteem legitimately.

In the internet age, however, he seems to be finding himself increasingly confused and slowly more irrelevant. Though he keeps a blog, and has a Twitter account, he’s extremely ignorant about how he seems to feel he should interact with the rest of the world. His Twitter bio reads as the following:

Damien Cox, the Toronto Star’s hockey columnist and blogger enjoys interaction with interesting members of blogosphere. The rest? Buh-bye.

I don’t need to spell it out for you: If you disagree with Damien Cox, or maybe – gasp! – suggest that he’s not the all-intelligent being he perceives himself to be, you will be blocked from his Twitter account (No, it hasn’t happened to me as of this writing). What a petty move by a man who should be well above this sort of thing. Instead of attempting to engage a potential new generation of readers who might look to the next best thing instead of the journalism stand-bys of the past, completely ignore them, just in case their opinions don’t gel with that of yours. The ultimate in trollish behavior.

However, who am I to judge Cox, right? I’m a lowly blogger who knows a thing or two about the way the NHL’s TV deals and media rights work. I’m in no position to deem whatever he does on Twitter as right or wrong. I’m sure one or two of the people he’s blocked have legitimately harassed him and made him feel uncomfortable. It’s the dozens of others (guestimate) who annoy me. I’m sure Cox just sees them as an example of the blogosphere’s ignorance to all the things that matter so deeply to him.

Anyway, Cox made it personal when he decided to lay down the law on some issues involving the Winter Classic, as well as the NHL’s TV deal with NBC. The technique you’re about to see was of course pioneered by the amazing people at Fire Joe Morgan, and you should go read everything that those guys have ever done, and especially watch Parks and Recreation, the television show one of FJM’s writers co-created, Thursday nights at 9:30 PM ET on NBC starting January 20th. I hope that, after all that, I have the proper blessing to steal their moves. Anyway, what follows is the series of tweets Cox started posting on his account this afternoon:

Gotta laugh at how NHL celebrates only U.S. teams for Winter Classic while revenues of six Canadian teams carry entire league.

Watching NBC/NHL pretend Canada doesn’t exist over next two days makes you. . . pray for rain. . . :)

First NHL outdoor game was, of course, in Edmonton. But don’t expect to hear that on Saturday. Canadian NHL teams need not apply.

Yeah, things like revenue are interesting. Do you happen to know how the NHL’s television contract with NBC works? The term “revenue sharing” is something I’m certain you’re familiar with. Well, the NHL has a revenue sharing contract with NBC, and has for the past six years. How does it work, you might ask? Well, NBC pays no rights fee upfront, like some other networks do in the hundreds of millions for sports leagues, but they do pay the cost of distribution and for the talent. Your TSN cohort Pierre McGuire, who is NBC’s star analyst, could’ve explained this to you over coffee one day. I’m sure you were busy.

Now, how does NBC and the NHL make any money on this deal? Well, they split advertising costs. Before either entity sees any money, they make back the production/distribution costs, but after that, they split whatever is left. The key, though, is the advertising money. They come from price estimates sent out by networks to potential advertisers based on ratings and demographics. The higher the ratings NBC can promise the advertisers and the better demographics (18-49, 18-34, Men in both those age ranges) they can give the right advertisers, the more money they can make for the league and for, eventually, themselves. It is a great way of keeping a prestigious sporting event without having to overspend. This practice will likely end by the time the next TV contract comes around, but for now it is what we have.

Now, who exactly drives TV ratings for the NHL? They’re hard to figure out, sometimes, but we know this: The Penguins definitely do, with all their star power and recent prestige. The Detroit Red Wings have faded, but still pack a punch around playoff time. The Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and now the Chicago Blackhawks are also decent ratings factors.

Something the NHL has struggled to do is to get the average fan to care about the league’s rivalries ever since the fade of the Detroit-Colorado wars of the late late 90’s/early 00’s. They seem to have struck a bit of lightning with Penguins-Capitals, which is consistently among the network’s highest rated, non-Winter Classic regular season matchup.

Onto that Winter Classic. It is likely the biggest driving force in the advertising boon the NHL has seen in the new millenium. Companies that didn’t even care about the NHL (at least in America) have joined up with the league to help each other make some money. McDonald’s, Honda and Pepsico. are all behemoths that have seen the growth potential for the NHL, spurned by the success, the marketing and merchandising bonanza that the Winter Classic has been, and bought in.

Now, this goes back to my main point: Ratings help set advertising revenues. Who gets ratings? Pens-Caps. The NHL wants its’ biggest event to draw bigger ratings than the best of the Winter Classic’s (Detroit-Chicago, which drew 4.4 million viewers) so that it can set higher advertising rates for their package of games with NBC for now and in the future, and also, continue to show other TV networks that they’re a viable product worth spending money and airtime on. So, we’re all sorry if the Oilers aren’t involved in this.

Also, you know what? I bet you someone – Doc Emrick, Bob Costas, Pierre McGuire – mentions the Edmonton game, or at worst, promotes the game in Calgary later this season. I am so steadfast in this belief that I will quit this blog if neither are mentioned. That is a promise. Would you be willing to make the same?

And the rest of the schedule this season for the NHL on NBC? Not a single Canadian team. They just pay the bills, I guess. What an insult.

You’d think NBC might want to show the league’s reigning MVP. . . .

[On which Canadian team should participate in the Winter Classic] Oh, I dunno. Maybe the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful team in the history of the freakin’ league.

Okay, you make a sort of valid point in an idiotic way. NBC hasn’t been very good about spreading the love among teams since they went to a Game of the Week format back in 2008. While they did show 22 of the 24 American teams during their first two years of coverage, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks have yet to be shown on an NBC broadcast. Why is this, though?

The reasons are all quite simple, really. Canadian viewers, as terrific and passionate as they are, do not count in American television ratings. I’m not being mean, it’s just … you know, simple fact. The Nielsen company does not count Canadian households when determining American TV numbers. Which, you know … obviously they don’t. It’d be dishonest to do so on either side of the border.

So based on that, if NBC shows a game featuring a Canadian team, they lose a local market that can help prop up ratings. You know what a local league the NHL still is. This is unfortunate, but it is how things have to be. Having two local markets that will likely draw big ratings helps NBC overall and in the long run to get big ratings numbers, so that – once again – they can set higher advertising rates and eventually make more money off the contract.

In this case, Mr. Cox, Canadian teams are actually not paying the bills, they’re keeping the NHL from paying them. An example of this? The NHL On NBC’s lowest-rated telecast to date? A Rangers-Canadiens game from 2008. The team you’d like to see featured in the NHL’s biggest ratings event. Not only would the NHL lose a local market in the US that would draw massive amounts of hardcore and casual viewers (a quarter of the houses tuned to their TV’s in Boston watched last year’s game) but it would cause disinterest to the rest of the viewers, who simply haven’t given their interest to Canadian franchises. Oh, but Montreal did have good ratings in last year’s playoffs … because they were broadcast with the Penguins and Flyers, both teams that draw local playoff ratings on a level with regular season football.

And this fool thinks we can’t watch NBC in Canada. Oh my goodness.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! It isn’t about that. We don’t care if you get the game on NBC, CBC, from your mother’s house on Prince Edward Island to your uncle’s apartment in Vancouver, it doesn’t matter. I wish there were a nicer sounding way to say this, but in Canada, your viewership on American television networks does not count. Got it? Good.

Finally …

Last few Winter Classics generated about 4 million viewers. Geez, that’s not even a Grey Cup.

Totally the same thing. An event, created only a few years ago, that features a sport most American viewers are indifferent to, that in the end is a regular season game. That’s exactly the same as the winner take all, championship showdown of Canada’s second most popular television sport. Exactly the same.

At this point, I’ve got to be wasting my time. I’ve already wasted nearly 1800 words on this. Way too much for someone who clearly doesn’t get it, and just doesn’t want to. Please, sir, quit Twitter if you’re going to continue to behave this way. Quit blogging. Go back to your throne atop a stack of newspapers, where not one person can challenge your Gospel. Hopefully, by then, not one person will care enough to even feign interest. I certainly will not.

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5 Responses to So Today We’re Going to Waste Energy Telling You That Damien Cox is a Moron When it Comes to TV Issues

  1. Kate says:

    I got so fed up with Damien Cox when he went after Tyler Dellow a little while back that I swore off reading the Star. In a way he reminds me of the Russian entrepreneur profiled in the NYT lately, the one who realized that his store gets a high search ranking from being mentioned often online–even if the links are from mistreated customers posting complaints. Maybe he’s gaming the system to get page views and attention by making the rest of the world respond to his less-than-cogent analysis.

  2. Josh says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that he’s Canada’s most popular sports writer. Stephen Brunt might give him a run for his money. And also, the Toronto Star is a local paper that isn’t much circulated outside of Ontario. He has his regular spot on TSN on Sunday mornings, but that’s not exactly the biggest sports podium in the land.

    All that said, Steve, surely you understand that it’s frustrating that the NHL caters to American TV on so many levels when right now at least, the Canadian franchises (and Canadian TV rights holders) are the tentpoles holding the whole enterprise up.

  3. Chris S says:

    I’m Canadian and I can’t stand the guy. Remember everyone, he (and Don Cherry) do not represent us!

  4. kevin says:

    Honestly, has any American ever complained about what was broadcast on Canadian TV??? This guy is a complete tool.

  5. Yea I’d say that Brunt is certainly more popular in Canada than Cox. I’d put the likes of Michael Farber (lives in Canada even though he writes for a US magazine) and others ahead of him too. Back when he was alive and writing regularly, Jim Kelley was popular too.

    My biggest rebuttal against Canadian teams playing on Sundays on NBC is that in Canada the slot that everyone wants to be playing in is Saturday night on CBC. No Canadian team cares to play at 12:30 on a Sunday on NBC. Also, Canada has the Heritage Classic and Hockey Day in Canada as showpiece events. I see no problem with letting the US have the Winter Classic. I honestly don’t care who plays in it, I’ll watch.

    If he actually knew anything about hockey broadcasting then he would complain about the lack of coverage of west coast teams like the Sharks, Kings, Avalanche, Stars and Blues and not the lack of Canadian teams.

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