CBC sports fans not amused by While the Men Watch

News that the public broadcaster would be teaming up with the "girl talk" sports webstream show during Hockey Night in Canada has led to an online backlash from sports fans.

CBC announced Wednesday that it would be adding a woman’s touch to the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals, partnering with WhiletheMenWatch, a sports blog and web series.

Created by Canadians Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso, the series was born out of conversations the two had while their sports-fanatic husbands were glued to the TV, and sees the two friends provide play-by-play commentary about the players, rules, and which coaches are in need of makeovers.

The show will feature a live video stream during each game of the finals, with an audio-only stream available in the U.S.

“We’re always interested in growing the fanbase for Canada’s national sport: hockey,” says CBC director of studio and unscripted productions Julie Bristow.

“We thought it was a really interesting way to capture a conversation that goes on in living rooms and bars across the country when there’s a big hockey game on,” she adds.

Yet while icons of women’s hockey, including Cassie Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser have spoken out in favour of the partnership, the news has seen many sports fans, both male and female, take to Twitter to criticize the CBC’s decision.

“Hey @cbcsports, how should I explain @whilemenwatch to my 10-year-old hockey playing daughter? Should I get her to fix me dinner first?” said The Tinfoil Tuque in a tweet, echoing the opinion of many that WhiletheMenWatch reinforces archaic gender stereotypes.

“CBC’s purpose is to promote Canadian culture. Them approving @whilemenwatch lets the world know Canada is all about stereotyping women,” added Gabby MacKinnon in her own tweet.

The backlash against the partnership had the CBC on the defensive yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s sexist at all. It’s intended for the casual viewer, whether male or female,” says Bristow.

“I think it’s particularly fitting for the national public broadcaster to always find ways of engaging people in a national conversation, and there’s no time like the playoffs to do that,” she adds.

Others were critical of the fact that taxpayer dollars would be going toward the production of the web series, which will be featured on the CBC’s website, particularly in light of the recent chops to the CBC’s programming budget.

But Bristow insists that because the partnership is an experimental, in-house webstream production, the public broadcaster isn’t investing much money in it.

She adds that it’s also uncertain whether or not the partnership will see the duo offer their commentary to other CBC sports.

“We’ll have to see whether this particular program has resonance, and whether or not it engages people. If it does, then it would be great to do more,” she says.

WhiletheMenWatch’s partnership with the CBC launches on May 30 with the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals at cbc.ca/whilethemenwatch.

From Playback Daily