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October 23, 2009, 3:23pm Report to Moderator
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A new wave of sports for channel surfers



Chris Zelkovich

October 23rd, 2009

If you're suffering from repetitive strain injury caused by scrolling through the hundreds of channels on your TV set, you might want to consider getting professional help.

The reason is that the number of sports channels in this country is about to expand again.

After the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, more affectionately known as the CRTC, relaxed its rules on sports channels last year some predicted a flood of new entries into the sports broadcasting game.

It's pretty much been more of a trickle so far, but the potential new players are starting to move faster.

Earlier this month, the CBC applied for a new licence for its SportsPlus channel. Rogers Sportsnet is looking for a new licence, basically to change from one regional network to four national ones.

Just yesterday, Rogers launched a new Big Ten Network, which will give viewers about 35 football games as well as 160 men's and women's basketball games.

Meanwhile, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is turning from condos to drawing up plans for a general sports channel, though they're not giving away any secrets on just what this may contain.

Their plans are the most intriguing of the lot, as they raise all kinds of possibilities. How about an MLSE channel that combines the Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies?

That would kill their existing hockey and basketball channels, but would also present an easier route to profit. Of course, MLSE will first have to decide if it can afford to take on any more Leafs games and pass on the $700,000 a game it gets now from Sportsnet.

There could be more. While TSN says it isn't thinking about a TSN3 yet, that's almost surely going to happen in the next few years.

As for the Canadian Olympic Committee plans for an Olympic channel, they appear to be slumbering at this point. But this won't be the end of the list.

"There could be as many as 20 applications," says CBC Sports head Scott Moore, who expects SportsPlus to be operating next fall. "How many actually get on the air is another matter."

Flood or trickle, it all means there will be more choice for sports fans. SportsPlus, for example, will show a lot of the amateur and international sports that CBC doesn't have room for right now.

If CBC gets the licence, and with the relaxation in rules that's almost a slam-dunk, it will be able to mix in a lot more pro sports than the channel had originally planned to show.

"The CRTC has levelled the playing field," says Moore. "Of course, the 25 and 10-year head starts that TSN and Sportsnet have had might keep that field from being too level."

The rules changes will mean more opportunities to spend your money, too. After all, the cable and satellite companies always lived by the creed: Bring it and they will spend.

TSN president Phil King says he expects a few more players but doesn't anticipate a flood of new channels.

"There's not enough product to support a lot of new channels," he says. "Almost everything of value is already on the air."

A quick look at existing program lineups would support that theory, meaning what we're sure to get is a lot more poker and billiards.

MEDIA NOTES: Fox has added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to its studio and post-game shows. If he's half as lively on the air as he is in the dugout, it could be fun. ... The ALCS did well for Fox, with ratings up 19 per cent over last season . ... CBC has added hockey writer Tim Wharnsby to its website and Sirius radio channel cast.


czelkovich@thestar.ca

http://www.thestar.com/sports/article/714694--a-new-wave-of-sports-for-channel-surfers

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