Friday, April 28, 2006


This is the season for network shows being pre-empted by playoff sporting events on TV.

We have this situation in Canada all the time. Hockey Night in Canada is on every weeknight these days, so the fans of The National (and there are many of them out there) are loud and vocal and livid about how The National is being bumped to make room for hockey, and how the CBC shouldn't be showing hockey and ought to get rid of sports to make room for the real "important" high-minded news and public affairs programs. And so on. These rants have gone on for years and it finally led to the CBC reducing its playoff coverage somewhat, sending the American NHL playoff games to TSN. But the CBC still shows the Canadian teams and that means The National is being bumped a lot these days, with so many Canadian teams playing in the opening round.

The NBA playoffs are in full swing and a full-scale controversy has erupted in New York City. WWOR Channel 9 is the UPN affiliate there, and they carry quality UPN network shows like Veronica Mars. They are also heavily into sports programming, carrying Friday Night Yankees baseball games and New Jersey Nets basketball games.

Well, it is the NBA playoffs, and the New Jersey Nets have played havoc with the schedule of shows. Channel 9 has shown Nets basketball for the last two weeks in a row on Tuesday, and in the process have bumped off airings of Veronica Mars. It looks like they will play again next Tuesday, against the Indiana Pacers, and bump off Veronica again. The problem is that it's nearing the end of the TV season and there are two episodes left, and the Nets coverage could very well wipe out both remaining episodes if they get past the first round. Veronica Mars fans are livid. The Random Observations blog has been ranting about the preemptions for weeks, and the boards over at Television Without Pity are also ranting and raving about the preemptions and screaming mad at UPN 9 for showing the Nets.

There are two theories for why the pre-emptions are happening:

(1) The New Jersey Nets have more fans than Veronica Mars does, so you're better off as a station showing the high-quality local programming involving the Nets. Veronica Mars has a rabid group of fans, but they are famously small in number, and the ratings for this show are just terrible.

(2) This is obviously an act of sabotage by Channel 9 to help destroy Veronica Mars and the coming CW network. WWOR has lost their UPN affiliation effective this fall. UPN is being merged with the WB to create the CW Network, and the CW is going to air on Tribune-owned WPIX Channel 11, a station which is seen in much of Canada on cable TV. If Veronica Mars returns for season number 3 it will be shown on "The CW 11", not Channel 9! So why the heck should channel 9 promote a program or a network that isn't going to be on their station?! Why help make Veronica Mars a hit, it might come back to haunt you!

WWOR is joining the My Network this fall, an offshoot of the Fox Network that sounds like it will show a lot of English-language versions of the "telenovelas" popular on Spanish-language TV. Channel 9 has already dropped the name "UPN" from its promotional material and from its logos and now refers to itself as "My 9", even though the My Network will not be airing until the fall. And I think they realize at WWOR that the My Network programming is going to be no good, so they're banking on showing lots of local sporting events like the Nets games.

Some will also ask why they don't air the Nets games on the YES Network like they do during the regular season? The easy answer is the YES Network doesn't go into as many homes and are busy showing Yankees baseball games at the moment. So the Nets games have to be seen somewhere and Channel 9 is where they go. But the Veronica Mars fans are all upset and writing letters, and ranting on these fan sites. They can't wait for next year when the new CW comes along. Assuming that Veronica Mars gets another season with its disasterous ratings. And if they get cancelled, you can bet there will be riots among Veronica Mars fans. There are already riots in New York City over a few pre-emptions.

In the meantime the Veronica Mars fans are at home cheering on the Pacers and hoping they get rid of Vince Carter and the Nets before the TV season ends.

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