Sportsnet unveils new home

Rogers Sportsnet no longer has to be neighbourly with its chief rival. Meanwhile, The Score is also making the transition to HD.

Eight years after the specialty channel was acquired by Rogers Media, Sportsnet has finally moved from the lot in suburban Toronto it shared with CTVglobemedia brands, including competitor TSN.

‘We desperately wanted to get [Sportsnet] out of enemy territory,’ explains Rogers Media president/CEO Tony Viner at last week’s unveiling of the new facility at Rogers headquarters in downtown Toronto. CTV was forced to sell its stake in Sportsnet when it acquired TSN in 2000. Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth adds that the channel can now have its own identity. ‘We were sharing [the lot] with so many other brands, making it hard to stand out.’

Sportsnet’s new home boasts the largest indoor projection screen in Canada, at 80 feet long and 10 feet high. The facility also has three high-definition studios, of which the biggest operates in theatre-in-the-round style, with cameras that can shoot from 360 degrees.

‘It’s entirely HD, and in today’s world that’s the standard everyone’s come to expect, especially in the sports business,’ says Beeforth. ‘This will enable us to be more competitive.’

Sportsnet’s Scarborough facility had been ‘jerry-rigged’ to carry out some newsroom functions in HD, according to Beeforth, who adds that in light of the move, the company didn’t want to rebuild in HD at its former location.

Canada’s third-largest cable sports channel, The Score, is also making the transition to high definition by revamping its facility at the Holiday Inn hotel in Toronto’s entertainment district. Its small studio on the third floor of the hotel is also being rebuilt as a larger, street-level studio. ‘It’s an evolution of our HD build-out,’ says Score EVP David Errington. ‘As a sports specialty service, we identified HD programming as a priority, and had to rebuild our entire infrastructure to accommodate that.’

While Score offers the bulk of its live event programming, such as Raptors basketball and wrestling, in HD, its in-house shows – including news program Score Tonight – are still being produced in standard definition. The cabler’s new HD studio will be up and running by September, according to Errington, who says Score will then convert all of its editing suites to the format. ‘It’s our estimate that 90% of our programming next year will be in HD.’

From Playback Daily