Finding men in a schedule without HNIC
While targeting male demographics has become increasingly difficult for media planners and buyers over the years, Canadian advertisers have always had one sure bet - Hockey Night in Canada. That could all change this year with a potential NHL player strike on the horizon.
While targeting male demographics has become increasingly difficult for media planners and buyers over the years, Canadian advertisers have always had one sure bet – Hockey Night in Canada. That could all change this year with a potential NHL player strike on the horizon.
Contingency plans are underway to look for other properties to fill the void, but media execs all agree there is no real replacement for HNIC. They say it’s going to take a wide mix of sports and other programming to even come close to – but not meet – the NHL’s delivery of male viewers.
Florence Ng, VP broadcast for ZenithOptimedia Canada, says there are two ways for advertisers to invest their hockey dollars: purchase weights in other sporting events such as the CFL, NFL, golf, soccer, and the NBA; and pick up any high-rated programming that is still available, including Survivor, The Apprentice, or the CSI franchises. On the hand, Ng says some clients will prefer to hold onto their money until next year.
Hugh Dow, president of M2 Universal, says the agency has pretty much written off 2004 in terms of any hockey coverage and that even the most optimistic observers think it will not be until the first of January at the earliest that hockey would get back on air.
Depending on creative, strategic, and target audience requirements, he says advertisers trying to reach men could look at other media options such as magazines and radio, but those would be secondary choices. The top priority would be to try to find replacements on television.
‘There are certainly one-off properties and (Bell Making the Cut, for example) is an alternative, but there is nothing that provides two-and-a-half to three hours of coverage on a weekly or bi-weekly basis that the NHL does. [You could buy] anything you can find on TSN, Discovery, the Outdoor Life Network…anything in the sporting area and reality shows have a reasonable male quotient, so it’s really just assembling a variety of shows – but there is no direct replacement that can achieve anything like the viewing levels of this one program.’
Helena Shelton, VP broadcast operations for MBS/The Media Company, says trying to redistribute the hockey dollars and find male ratings points will put increased demand on other top-rated programming.
Although CBC has an alternate schedule of movies and other programming planned, Shelton says it really doesn’t offer much that will specifically attract male viewers. Beyond CBC, she says The Leaf Network and Sportsnet will also suffer if there’s a players strike and that, of the sports networks, only TSN has enough programming to fill a schedule and keep some audience numbers.
Shelton says the predictions are for a long strike, perhaps with the entire season disappearing. (The last strike was in the 1994-95 season and lasted 103 days.) The big question then would be if the viewers would return with the same commitment they’ve had in the past: ‘We think in Canada viewers will be back, but not so in the U.S. where we may even see some teams fold.’
The deadline for the NHL Players’ Association and the National Hockey League to resolve the dispute is Sept. 15.