Saturday, February 01, 2014

CBC is back in Olympic spotlight


CBC and other channels - Beginning Feb. 7

Going For Gold

After Almost Six Years On The Sidelines, 
CBC Jumps Back Into The Olympic Spotlight

By Eric Kohanik

It's been close to six years since CBC was the official Canadian broadcaster for the Olympics. And, for CBC Sports Weekend host Scott Russell, sitting on the sidelines for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games in London wasn't easy to stomach.

“It was, personally, tough to be out for two Olympics,” Russell admits. “Although I went to Vancouver and to London, it was in a much different role. We're so happy to be back in the Olympic broadcasting business at CBC. We couldn't be more excited.”

CBC once had a lengthy run of Olympic coverage. Before the CTV/Rogers Olympic Consortium scooped up rights to Winter 2010 and Summer 2012, CBC had billed itself as “Canada's Olympic Network” since 1996, broadcasting the Winter Games in Nagano (1998), Salt Lake City (2002) and Turin (2006) as well as the Summer Games in Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).

CBC unveiled its broadcast team for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi at the network's headquarters in Toronto back on Oct. 30 as it kicked off a 100-day countdown to the opening ceremonies on Feb. 7. Chief news anchor Peter Mansbridge and Hockey Night in Canada veteran Ron MacLean will cohost coverage of the ceremonies from Sochi's Fisht Olympic Stadium. CBC's English-language Olympic telecasts will then be split into four major dayparts.

Diana Swain and David Amber will co-host Olympic Morning each day, while Russell will man the anchor desk for Olympic Daytime. MacLean will take on evening hosting duties on Olympic Primetime, while Andi Petrillo and Andrew Change will co-host Olympic Overnight.

Time-zone differences will be a major factor. Many live events will air during the mornings and afternoons in Canada. And that will actually put Russell and his Olympic Daytime telecasts into a “prime” spotlight.

“There's a lot going on in that time slot and that's perfect,” Russell says. “We'll be moving around from venue to venue in order to capture as many things as we can that are going on, live.”

CBC's mainline TV coverage will be supplemented by TSN, TSN2 and Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet One as well as CBC News Network. Radio coverage will be divvied up between CBC Radio and TSN Radio, while French-language TV coverage will be split between Radio-Canada and RDS.

Meanwhile, online coverage at will also offer a wide variety of video content. Most notable among that will be live online streaming of Olympic competitions.

There have been a lot of technological and social-media innovations since the last time CBC was Canada's official Olympic broadcaster. And Russell admits that will mean new challenges.

“I mean, the last time we covered the Olympics, in Beijing, I'm pretty sure that the iPad didn't exist,” Russell jokes. “I'm also positive that Twitter was not a factor, right? So, this immediacy is a challenge. And the multi-platform situation is also a challenge.

“But I think it's something we've concentrated on at CBC. The way we approach Sports Weekend is now very much a multi-platform strategy. And that's the way Canadians want to consume the Olympics. They need the information as it happens.”

CBC has high ratings hopes for its coverage in Sochi. No wonder. Canadians have always had a fondness for the Winter Games.

“We have this feeling of being a winter nation,” Russell muses. “We are able to race down the mountains, to play on frozen ponds. So, yeah, these are Games that we are comfortable with. And we are comfortable being at the head of the class in the Winter Games.

“I think that's the way the country is built. We are a country of extremes. Our geography lends itself to playing outside in the winter, and to hockey and skiing and curling and all of these things that are about us as Canadians. And so I think it's only natural that, when it comes to the Winter Games, we sit up and take notice.”

2014 Winter Olympics – CBC and other channels – beginning Feb. 7

(First published in Channel Guide Magazine - February 2014.)