Deck the Screens: Examining the Complexity of Holiday Programming on ESPN and TSN


Starting in the middle of December as the holidays approach, audiences in the United States and Canada are provided with a plethora of college football bowl games and the World Junior Hockey Championship on ESPN and TSN respectively. ESPN effectively controls college football at this time of year; Of the 42 bowl games, including the national championship playoffs, ESPN owns the broadcast rights to 39 of these games. This provides ESPN with a steady supply of programming at a time of year when it needs programming. And bowl games attract significant audiences, even if the matchups and actual attendance are lackluster. This ready supply of programming incentivizes ESPN to maintain the status quo rather than push for an expansion of college football’s playoff. Since acquiring the rights to the World Junior Hockey Championship in 1991, TSN has treated this event as one of its key properties. This tournament earns enormous ratings during the holiday season and following Team Canada has become a source of national pride. Revenues from this tournament have enriched Hockey Canada - perhaps leading at least indirectly to a huge scandal that involved the organization settling sexual assault lawsuits using a secret slush fund. Also surprising is the fact that this scandal was uncovered by a TSN reporter. This paper compares how ESPN and TSN approach their holiday programming to serve their own agendas oftentimes at the expense of their broadcast partners.


James Killingsworth
Lecturer, Media Studies, University of Guelph-Humber, Ontario, Canada


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Media Marketing and Identity


ESPN, TSN, College football, World Junior Hockey Championship, Hockey Canada

Digital Media


Deck the Screens (pptx)