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The Globe and Mail

Canadian sports entertainment: no place for amateurs

This year has seen a seismic shift in the sports-entertainment game in Canada, with more players, vying for bigger stakes, than ever before. The Big Kahunas include Bell Media CTV, Rogers, CBC Sports, and newcomer Shaw (owner of Global TV). Each is hell-bent on committing manpower and money to acquiring premium sports rights - and premium ad dollars. Their play-by-play strategies include poaching from each other's executive offices and wooing away on-air talent. Down the road, they'll also be bidding on such must-see showdowns as the 2012 Olympics and Hockey Night in Canada. Here's a look at who controls what, and what the big guns are dying to get their hands on.


Last summer, veteran CTV executive Keith Pelley shocked the sports world by jumping ship for Rogers. But his CTV job was quickly filled by Phil King (until then, president of TSN), who has made it known he's committed to spending big dollars to compete with Rogers.

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Their first real showdown - CTV's TSN and Rogers Sportsnet - came not on TV, but on radio. Directly targeting the FAN station owned by Rogers in Toronto, TSN Radio has now launched in that city. Also on the radio front, TSN lured Mike Richards from Rogers's Calgary FAN station.

Meanwhile, TSN Mobile TV, which puts live events on hand-held devices, has secured long-term broadcast agreements with Major League Soccer, as well as a 10-year deal with Skate Canada, and added international events such as soccer's Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, and the Tour de France.

Up next are the coveted rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games, which could see TSN and Sportsnet set rivalry aside to make a joint CTV-Rogers bid as the Olympic broadcast consortium. Forget nice-nice when it comes to Hockey Night in Canada, though: All the major players are expected to fight tooth and nail for a piece of that action come 2014.


Some might point to Keith Pelley for upping the stakes in the sports-media game. After leaving CTV for Rogers, he upset the apple cart again by wooing CBC Sports boss Scott Moore to run Rogers broadcasting. The new team's mandate includes hiring talent to go after TSN. Among the most high-profile gets: Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox.

Sportsnet is Canada's second-largest sports property, with five regional franchises and a recently launched national sports channel. It is also building a brand across various platforms, and has rechristened FAN stations as Sportsnet Radio. And, like Bell, it has beefed up its digital prowess, putting in place a new team that has aggressively acquired a bevy of digital rights for Canadian hockey franchises. It came out the winner as the official Canadian broadcaster of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, too.

Still, Sportsnet's muscle lies in its regional thrust. Moore's strategy is to tap passionate local fans. Among other things, the broadcaster airs 253 regional NHL telecasts. Yes, including games with the Canucks.

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CBC Sports has long been home to Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday - and the Stanley Cup Finals. It also broadcasts the FIFA World Cup; airs amateur Canadian sports not otherwise available to a national audience; and hosts large-scale national public events such as Hockey Day in Canada, Kraft Hockeyville and Soccer Day in Canada.

The big challenge in the wake of sports boss Scott Moore's departure to Rogers: hanging on to its flagship Hockey Night when it comes up for renewal. Among its digital offerings, the CBC has introduced online coverage of Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi.


Global, formerly owned by CanWest, had never been much of a player in the sports-broadcast arena, airing the middle of the Masters Golf Tournament (TSN owns the rights to broadcast the first and last two days) as well as some of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. But the Shaw family has deep pockets, and Global's new owner gave notice that it was ramping up its sports division in January when it hired its first vice-president of sports, CTV-Rogers Olympic consortium executive Christos Nikitopoulos.

Speculation now is that Shaw could team up with the CBC to bid on the 2014 and 2016 Olympic games - giving a potential CTV/Rogers team-up a run for its money. There have also been rumours that Shaw could vie for all-sports specialty channel The Score. And Shaw Media has applied to get a new licence for a 24-hour sports station with live events to compete with TSN and Sportsnet.

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