Turmoil rules week in TV world

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

So much for those lazy, hazy days of summer. Surely, not in the broadcast world.

Not this week.

Turmoil was definitely the word in at least two hotspots, with some key personnel being handed pink slips at both Rogers Sportsnet and the CHUM media empire.

Let's start with the TV guys.

A major management shakeup at Sportsnet saw both Scott Morrison, the director of news and hockey, and supervising producer Jeff McDonald receive their walking papers on Tuesday. Rick Briggs-Jude, the VP of production, was demoted and will oversee live event coverage.

The big gainer in the power area: Former programming boss David Akande, who's now VP of Content, an expansive title that takes in all decisions related to programming, news and sportsnet.ca.

What's behind all the changes? An internal staff memo from president Doug Beeforth suggests he believes the network has strayed too far away from its younger, hipper roots.

"When we launched in 1998, we quickly became known for our fun, sometimes irreverent but always credible and complete approach," Beeforth said. "Over the years, we've gradually moved away from that mix, to the point where there's not much difference between us and our competitors.

"It's time to move back in the direction of a brand that stands for energy, fun and entertainment, aimed at making Sportsnet the first choice of young men as the source of their sports content."

What transpired at CHUM's Byward Market bunker this week doesn't run nearly as deep. Cold, hard finances were at the root of staff cuts at A-Channel, though a cynic (moi?) might suggest all of it going down the same day a mega-merger with Bell Globemedia was announced hardly qualifies as mere coincidence.

What's especially mystifying is that a good man and a good radio broadcaster -- Team 1200 SportsCall host Dave Gross -- is out of a job today. He wasn't exactly the low man on the totem pole over there, in both seniority or ability. And it's not like the show is dead: CHUM Ottawa VP/GM Chris Gordon told the Sun on Wednesday that it will resume in September with a new voice behind the mike (Fox Sports Radio programming will fill the 10 a.m.-noon timeslot for the duration of the summer).

Not exactly dollars and sense if you ask me.

Then again, maybe that's at least half right. The half, it appears, that mattered the most in this case.

LAST KICKS: The World Cup brought Sportsnet four of the top 10 audiences in network history, including the new No. 1 -- 1.18 million for the Italy-Germany semi-final. The 'Net's per-game average for 32 World Cup matches: 495,000 viewers, a 48% jump over France '98, the last time the event was held in Europe. TSN's average (524,000) was 57% better ... TSN's No. 1 game (England-Portugal, quarter-finals, 1.567 million) was the best ever for the World Cup on Canadian TV, until 2.84 million tuned into the final on CTV ... Simply put, the networks' combined coverage of the 'footy' fest from Germany was first-rate all the way through. We can hardly wait until 2010, when they'll join forces again to provide coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

PUCK DROPPINGS: No word yet on NHL television schedules for 2006-07, but expect TSN to make a strong pitch to land the Oct. 4 Senators-Maple Leafs season opener -- the matchup that was a record-setter (2.1 million viewers) for the network last October. The teams play again the next night at Scotiabank Place, a game likely to find a home on Sportsnet or A-Channel ... CBC's Hockey Day in Canada tripleheader Jan. 13: Montreal-Ottawa, Vancouver-Toronto and Edmonton-Calgary.

FOX-Y PITCH: Fox announced this week a seven-year extension of its deal with Major League Baseball that keeps the World Series and all-star game on the network through 2013. Starting next season, Fox' Game of the Week series mushrooms to as many as 26 Saturdays, with an April start date.

AROUND THE DIAL: Former TSN and Sportsnet senior producer Gord Cutler has been named executive producer of the NHL Network ... Brian Williams sits down with just-fired Hamilton Ticats coach Greg Marshall on tonight's CFL pre-game show (7 p.m.) on TSN.


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