This Hour Has 22 Minutes picked up 2024 CSA awards for Best Writing, Variety or Sketch Comedy. Photo: George Pimentel Photography

Over the weekend, CBC opted not to cover two close, deciding games in the third round of the 2024 NHL Stanley Cup. Their priorities instead: the annual Canadian Screen Awards Friday and the final two hours of the reality competition series Canada’s Ultimate Challenge.

The results are in and they are about as punishing as a slapshot to the groin:

FRIDAY: The fifth game in the semi-final series between the only Canadian team left in the playoffs — the Edmonton Oilers — and the Dallas Stars drew 1,667,000 estimated, overnight viewers on Sportsnet National.

On CBC, instead of a hockey simulcast as is the norm at playoff time, the one hour broadcast of the final night of the Canadian Screen Awards was watched by an overnight, estimated total of 141,000 viewers. In the 18-49-year-old demo — the one advertisers covet — the estimate was 14,000. That is less than the number of fans who saw the Oilers game at the rink.

SATURDAY: CBC did simulcast the sixth and final NHL round 3 playoff game between two non-Canadian teams — the New York Rangers and the victorious Florida Panthers. CBC’s share of that audience was estimated at 685,000 viewers. A further 723,000 watched the same game on Sportsnet National, with the combined viewer estimate topping 1.4 million in overnights.

SUNDAY: With CBC again opting out, an extra million or so hockey fans found the sixth and final game between the Oilers and the Stars over on Sportsnet National. The overnight tally there was estimated at 2,347,000. The Oilers are off to their first Stanley Cup final in 18 years and CBC will stick with every minute of those games.


That same night, CBC viewers did not line up at the finish line for two hours of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge. Hour one got an estimated 172,000 viewers across Canada, with 158,000 sticking around for the second hour.

My two cents: CBC should not be in the reality race-a-thon business. There already is an Amazing Race Canada, and it has been a CTV summer ratings magnet for a decade. If CBC’s directive is to deliver the shows nobody else will make in Canada, read the room on this one.

On all three nights, the competition was relatively soft on the other broadcast channels in Canada. CTV scored early Sunday with a new episode of Sullivan’s Crossing (728,000 in overnights). Much of the other fare on CTV, Global and Citytv were reruns and summer schedule fillers. In other words, if you weren’t into hockey, or even pseudo sports (and didn’t have a streaming subscription), there was little to stop you from watching Canada’s annual salute to its best TV dramas, comedies and movies.

Clearly the CBC and the Academy lowered expectations by slipping a one-hour awards final gala into the witness protection program of broadcast network scheduling — Friday nights. Think of it, however: the salute to Canada’s best in TV and film did worse than a pre-season CFL game in overnights on TSN. A simulcast of something called Lingo on CTV drew twice the estimated viewers on CTV.

Now, surely some viewers watched the CSA Awards on CBC Gem and other digital platforms. Some viewers may still have the hour waiting for them in the PVRs. You can double nothing, however, and still get nothing.

Is the problem, as I’ve suggested for decades, that handing out eleventy billion-million awards over four nights (three previous ceremonies last week were not televised) the reason these awards are not taken seriously by Canadian viewers? Might it not be a good idea to televise the fan favourite winner (Son of a Critch) as part of the closing gala, thus saluting a show Canadian viewers know and embrace — ESPECIALLY IF IT IS ALSO ON YOUR NETWORK??

The people who work hard to produce many hours of wonderful Canadian television deserve to take a bow at the end of a season and be rewarded with CSA awards. There were many deserving performances and other production credits singled out and kudos to all of the recepients. (See the full list of winners here.) Making films and television is damn tricky and Canadians do it on a dime like no other nation.

As long as the heavily-sponsored and big-ticket awards are designed as an industry fundraiser first and a TV show second, however, it will continue to flounder as a TV show — and remain the true title holder as Canada’s Ultimate Challenge.

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