Editorial: Tumultuous year hindering U SPORTS’ growth

When U SPORTS announced their rebrand back in Oct. 2016, CEO Graham Brown said it would change “the way university sports are consumed in a fast-changing digital era.”

But the digital era doesn’t appear to be embracing U SPORTS, as the broadcasting numbers on Sportsnet platforms have trended downwards over the last three years.

Since the start of the 2014-15 academic year, the total average viewership has declined, and U SPORTS will be lucky if they manage to snap that trend this year.

For every highlight, such as an average total viewership of 529,000 during the 2016 Vanier Cup, there has been a lowlight, one being the average total viewership of 9,000 during the 2016 national men’s basketball championship final.

Even attempts at growth like the “Game of the Week” during the football regular season have been met with resounding indifference from the public, as the average total viewership ranged from a low of 17,700 to a high of 48,000 across the four broadcasts.

The broadcasting deal in its current state has yet to become fruitful. When the deal was announced in 2013, it was expected as many as 27 events could be aired annually by the end of the agreement. But in 2014-15 and 2015-16, only 15 events aired. This year, only one more broadcast will air, bumping the total to 16 events.

U SPORTS’ tumultuous year has ranged everywhere from a botched rebrand, to a messy announcement of the national basketball seeding. If U SPORTS hopes to grow across the nation, it’ll take a lot more than a new name and a handful of notable broadcasts every year.