TSN2 still chasing Bell, Rogers

The new digichannel has been attempting to sign major carriers ahead of its launch this Friday.

TSN president Phil King is counting on brand recognition and the promotional muscle of CTVgm to cut through the already saturated sports market when TSN2 launches this Friday, Aug 29.

‘Yes, there are a lot of sports channels in Canada,’ King concedes. But he contends that TSN has an advantage over other sports specialties – The Score, Rogers Sportsnet, ESPN Classic, NHL Network and Raptors TV, to name a few – thanks to a ‘second to none’ promotion by CTVglobemedia.

The channel has yet to sign with some of the country’s biggest carriers, however, which could make its promotion somewhat moot. As of press time, Bell TV (formerly ExpressVu) and Rogers Cable, among others, had not agreed to carry TSN2, although it has been picked up by cablecos including Cogeco in Montreal and SaskTel.

King says negotiations are ongoing. Representatives for Bell and Rogers declined to comment on their progress.

‘Can I tell you there will be a 100% penetration on Aug. 29? I can’t tell you that,’ says King. ‘The expectation and plan for us is to be in millions of Canadian homes in our first year, and we’re well on target for that.’ Cogeco reaches 1.4 million homes in Canada.

TSN applied for a licence to launch TSN2 back in 2000 – the same year then-parent NetStar Communications was acquired by CTV. The initial licence prevented it from airing any live sporting events, although TSN had it amended about four years ago.

The new service will air 800 hours of live coverage of NHL, NBA, tennis and NASCAR events – available in both standard and high definition – starting with the US Open tennis tournament from New York on Aug. 29.

King says TSN2 takes care of a lot of programming conflicts. ‘CBC has affiliates across the country, and can put a [Flames] game on in Calgary and a [Canucks] game in Vancouver if there’s a conflict, while [Rogers] Sportsnet has four different regional feeds seen nationally across Canada,’ he says, adding that it has been ‘frustrating’ to juggle getting events airtime on the sportscaster.

A temporary solution for TSN was an alternate channel, launched in 2006 and available free of charge to viewers, whereby cable and satellite companies would open up a temporary channel to air a live sporting event. But, says King, ‘It wasn’t a full-time channel, so we couldn’t market it properly.’ He adds that some BDUs ‘would do it for a football game but not a car race.’

He insists that TSN2 is meant to complement the main channel, currently in nine million Canuck households, and says there is no intention of ‘watering down TSN.’

Meanwhile, the sports television landscape is about to get even more crowded. CBC is currently awaiting CRTC approval to launch its own television sports channel, CBC SportsPlus, which it says will be dedicated to amateur sports. A decision is expected this month.

From Playback Daily