Toronto Blue Jays baseball was the rock upon which TSN was built in the 1980s. The Stieb/Bell/Barfield Jays provided the fledgling network with its entrée into the hearts and cable fees of Canadians. But for the modern TSN, the Blue Jays are, like, so yesterday. So TSN and Rogers Sportsnet have put the final touches on a plan that will see Sportsnet take over TSN's current inventory of 25 Blue Jays 2010 games, and all games in the future.
Technically, the Blue Jays bought back the games from TSN, allowing its Rogers sister company Sportsnet to spread the entire 162-game Blue Jays broadcast inventory over its four regional channels and its new Sportsnet Extra channel - which was licensed by the CRTC in January and could start broadcasting this summer. TSN now gets the weekly Sunday Night major league game of the week as part of the shuffle.
While the Blue Jays have drawn something less than teeming crowds to the Rogers Centre this year, TV viewership of the team remains strong. In fact, it is the Blue Jays' programming value, not wins and losses by the team, that keeps Rogers' suits content to maintain baseball in Toronto. (Heaven forbid Rogers' bean counters decide it makes more financial sense to buy the programming from new owners …)
For TSN, which is already facing challenges squeezing its current portfolio of NHL hockey, NBA basketball, golf, tennis and auto racing into its TSN and TSN2 channels, the loss of its Jays schedule will be negligible - especially if the team flounders in the standings. As well, it hardly made sense to show games of the team owned by your principal competitor. And yet … somewhere Fergie Olver is probably shedding a tear and saying, "How about those Blue Jays?"
Power To Choose
How much is the Montreal Canadiens' win over Pittsburgh worth? CBC sports vice-president Scott Moore told a business gathering Thursday that, as of Friday, ad rates for the next round of CBC's coverage have gone up by 25 per cent.
No wonder. These NHL playoffs have been a Slap Chop of upsets, flameouts by top teams and TV announcers eating filet of crow. In his book, The Book Of Basketball, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons has a suggestion to give playoff top seeds a greater advantage: Let the teams choose their opponent each round. As Montreal has shown, it's style of play, not talent, that often dictates the outcome of a series. Washington or San Jose might have preferred a better first-round matchup than trap-happy teams with a hot goalie playing with nothing to lose. Just sayin'… you play seven months, there has to be some payoff.
Finally, the Montreal Canadiens' Drive For 25 must be some metaphor for the country. The rest of Canada having to watch Quebec revel in self celebration. Montreal has no right to be gettin' all wassup about a team that entered the playoffs in reverse gear. But just watch Annakin Slayd's video in either langue (www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEvNuUKAK4U&NR=1) and admit you are not worthy. Halifax radio jock Andrew Krystal is doing exactly that after losing a bet on the Penguins-Habs series. Under the banner of "Why tip your hat when you can drop your pants," the News 95.7 host is walking down Spring Garden Road at 1 p.m. today in just a Habs sweater and a smile.