The latest in cancellations: Sports, U.S. Upfronts and more

As businesses and bodies take measures against COVID-19, the media and entertainment industries have made significant changes.


NHL, MLB and MLS suspend operations

The other shoe – or skate – has dropped. Two of the most popular sports leagues in Canada have officially suspended play until further notice.

On March 12, following the lead of the NBA, the NHL stated that it would he halting its season in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. There are no timelines, nor are there any promises or plans on what the league plans to do with regards to the remainder of the season, the Playoffs or the transition between the two. As of press time, there is less than one month left in the regular season.

Major League Baseball, which is currently in spring training, has also suspended the pre-season games, and has delayed the season opener, originally scheduled for March 26, by at least two weeks. Major League Soccer has also suspended play for 30 days. And, the NCAA has suspended the remainder of its winter and spring championships, including the popular March Madness college basketball tournament.

Since the NBA suspended play on Wednesday, Bell Media/TSN have not responded to MiC‘s request for comment on programming contingency plans. Sportsnet acknowledged receipt of MiC‘s request for comment and posted a brief statement on Twitter that it would fill the spaces with contingency programming; however, it did not elaborate upon request about what that programming might look like. On Thursday night, programming in place of hockey included a re-played Blue Jays game on Sportsnet, and various interviews and panels across TSN.

Upfronts CollageMost major U.S. in-person Upfronts cancelled

One of the TV industry’s biggest weeks of the year will go quiet. Throughout the day on Thursday, the parent companies behind the U.S.’s four biggest conventional networks announced that they would not go forward with in-person Upfronts in May. The annual event, which is used to court advertisers as the networks showcase their incoming new shows for fall and midseason, generally attracts a great deal of Canadian buyers, as they hope to get a leg up on planning before the Canadian networks host their own events in June.

Fox will host a digital presentation on May 11. The CW has promised an “alternative plan to communicate its strategy and schedule to ad buyers and business journalists,” although it has not offered specifics. ABC parent co Disney is planning two separate streaming events to showcase the material in Disney’s extended portfolio, which includes ABC, National Geographic and SVOD services Hulu and Disney+. ViacomCBS and NBCuniversal will also stream their respective presentations.

So far, no Canadian networks have announced changes to their Upfronts schedule. However, networks north of the border are no stranger to changing plans during Upfronts season. Last year, Rogers Media chose to forego the traditional Upfront in favour of customized presentations with various media agencies. The company said it was a “fiscally responsible” decision, as Upfronts are generally a big-budget event featuring a star-studded roster of performers and entertainers. Two years ago, Corus Entertainment took an alternative approach and instead hosted a private “UsFronts.”

Coincidentally, Upfronts have received some criticism over the years because of their lavish budgets. Canadian buyers have also debated the merits of Upfront buying in MiC sister publication CARD.

CASsCanadian award shows called off

Two of the biggest nights in Canadian entertainment — the Juno Awards and the Canadian Screen Awards — have been cancelled. The Canadian Screen Awards, initially set for March 29, have been cancelled entirely; in addition to the Toronto ceremony, the CSAs have also cancelled the week of celebratory events in the week leading up to the awards. Events were to take place in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The CSAs were set to air on CBC, and Canadian Screen Week was expected to attract around 7,000 attendees in total.

The Junos have also halted plans. Its live event, scheduled to take place this coming weekend in Saskatoon, has officially been called off by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). The Junos were also scheduled to air on CBC.