TSN loads up on Raptors

The sports cabler sends more than half of its 48 Raptors games to TSN2, putting added pressure on Rogers Cable.

TSN is beefing up its Toronto Raptors basketball coverage, announcing a 48-game schedule on Wednesday, with just over half its 2008/09 slate airing on sister channel TSN2.

The schedule marks a significant increase from the 21 games the net aired last year. TSN/TSN2 will also broadcast an additional 30 regular-season NBA games, including the NBA All Star Game and NBA Finals, and a minimum 17 playoff matchups.

TSN president Phil King says the sportscaster never had any room to do more than 20 Raptors games a season in the past. ‘With TSN2 we can fit more in, and that’s what we did,’ he says.

TSN2 is currently available in 3.2 million homes and has been picked up by all major carriers with the exception of Rogers Cable, which owns chief TSN competitor Rogers Sportsnet. The move will presumably lead basketball fans who subscribe to Rogers Cable to pressure the carrier to pick up TSN2.

‘Obviously we’re hopeful [that Rogers will pick up TSN2],’ says King, though he maintains the new channel is not just attractive because of its basketball. ‘We want it to be a sports channel that all sports fans feel they need.’

Sportsnet has no Raptors games on its schedule this year, mainly because of its obligations to hockey. ‘We want to show the most hockey… that’s what sells,’ says spokesman Dave Rashford. Sportsnet airs a leading 28 Toronto Maple Leafs and 46 Calgary Flames games on its regional channels.

TSN’s NBA coverage begins Nov. 1 with the Raptors taking on Milwaukee. Basketball commentator Jack Armstrong officially joins TSN as its Raptors game analyst, alongside play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin.

Meanwhile, The Score will air 20 Raptors games this season, including 40 NBA regular season and 25 playoff games. NBA star Jerome Williams will also make regular contributions to the caster’s coverage. The Score kicks off its coverage on Oct. 29 with Toronto at Philadelphia.

CBC Sports will air 12 Raptors games – up from eight last year – with 11 airing Sunday afternoons beginning Nov. 9. Devlin will do double duty as play-by-play announcer for CBC games alongside analyst Leo Rautins.

From Playback Daily