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Dowbiggin: Rogers and Bell wage nasty battle for sports broadcasting supremacy

So you're the Rogers media mammoth and you've spent lots of TedBucks telling everyone that you're the baseball network of record in Canada. Blue Jays and all that. World Series or bust.

Then why is your competitor at Bell (which has almost zero baseball) offering a free preview of MLB Extra Innings on opening day Monday while the Rogers' cable system is refusing to give baseball-starved fans an early taste of the non-Toronto MLB games?

It's like this, see... "Rogers plans on offering MLB Extra Innings in free preview for customers in the future," a Rogers spokesman told us Monday. "However the timing is yet to be determined. At this time, baseball fans can check out all 162 regular season live Blue Jays games via Sportsnet on the device of their choice via..." Insert promo here.

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Except we're not going to do that.

Rogers vs. Bell

Why's this important on Opening Day of the Blue Jays season? Well, some say the biggest sports rivalry might be Boston and Montreal. Or Chicago and Detroit. Maybe Toronto versus the known universe.

But the nastiest sports rivalry today is the battle between Canada's TV sports networks owned by Rogers (Sportsnet) and Bell (TSN). They co-own the Maple Leafs and Raptors and Toronto FC. But as Bob Cole would say, They. Do. Not Like. Each. Other.

When TSN fumbled the Jarome Iginla trade last week, some Sportsnet people gloated on air. When Sportsnet failed to go live with the late-night Jay Feaster presser TSN reminded everyone that they had broken into live programming with the dramatic scene.

And so on.

One sure sign of the hostility is how one network will ignore the other's exclusive property. In the world of exclusive properties, promoting a league or team is now synonymous with promoting its TV partner.

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So last fall there was Sportsnet's tepid coverage of the CFL, which is an exclusive property of TSN. Sportsnet reporters did nominal service to the story while TSN lavished attention on its business partner. (One Sportsnet regional reporter told us he filed just six times the entire CFL regular season on the team in his beat– and was not criticized.)

This spring it's TSN versus the Blue Jays media momentum. TSN has assigned a permanent reporter, Scott MacArthur, as sort of an ambassador to the court of the Rogers-owned squad. MacArthur's job is to make sure TSN has its ear to the ground at the Rogers Centre on any intelligence. He will be virtually a one-man content provider compared to the army of Sportsnet luminaries dedicated to the team.

In Dunedin, MacArthur looked a little like the Maytag repair man, a lonely figure waiting for his camera in the midst of Rogers' full-court press. If MacArthur sends up the signal that the Jays are making a run for the pennant, TSN can recalibrate its coverage.

But till then don't look for them to haul water for Sportsnet's pet baseball team unless it has to. (Our fave is when TSN takes the out-of-town announcer's audio on its Blue Jays highlights).

Common ground

The one place their interests collide is hockey. Specifically the battle for scoops on NHL Trade Deadline Day. While they might blow off their rival's pet projects, when it comes to the NHL there's no room for second place in the duel to announce trades.

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It's BlackBerrys at ten paces. In the blue corner, the Golden Greek, Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet. In the red corner, the tag-team duo of TSN's Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger. Publicists at the two network will have stop watches primed to claim pelts for scoops announced and first interviews obtained.

The last several years of Trade Deadline Days have produced an early lull after the 8 A.M. ET start time, with innumerable panels consuming oxygen like it was Tim Bits. Followed by a fast finish as trades flood in after the 3 P.M. deadline. Last year's buzzer beater was Vancouver's flip of Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian. As you will be reminded Wednesday, this could go till supper.

Or not. In fact, the final two hours might be the best programming of the year.

What's your number?

The dean of the thumb virtuoso is McKenzie of TSN. We asked him just how much time he spends on his trusty phone each year. "It's probably far less than it used to be before text and email became so popular," he emailed us. "Talking on the phone is so 1990s. Haha. But it's still probably the best way to actually communicate, though, as I said, I probably do it less now than ever."

Tweet nothings

Love is a many splendored thing. Unless it isn't. Just ask Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers who took to Twitter to mark what appear to be the end of his alimony payments to his ex-wife. Think Revolutionary Road.

‏Hartsy19 Lets welcome @lisarenkeykey to the REAL WORLD. #paymentsover #powerballwinner #longhairdontcare

Ouch. Hockey being a team game, Hartnell's ex-teammate in Philly Mike Richards decided to be third man in on the fight with his old buddy.

@MRichie @Hartsy19 @lisarenkeykey Welcome, real world 101. 1)get a job 2) pay for your own things 3) stop taking money from people....good luck."

Think that went well, don't you?

The house always wins

Why Vegas will never go broke: 47 of 8.15 million ESPN March Madness brackets got final four correct. / @dowbboy

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