New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, left, and Andruw Jones, right, pose with Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones (10) after presenting Jones with a third base from Tuesday's night game before the two teams faced each other in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Jones is retiring at the end of the season. KATHY WILLENS/AP
By Brendan Kennedy June 21, 2012
Rogers Communications, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, wants to bring the MLB Network to Canada.
The cable giant is sponsoring the baseball channel’s application to the Canadian Radio-Television and Communications commission to be added to the list of non-Canadian television services authorized for distribution in this country.
The move is part of Rogers’ overall goal of increasing its offering of lucrative sports content across all platforms.
The application states that the MLB Network is “currently in discussions” with Rogers to “widely distribute” the channel in Canada.
Obviously we’re heavily involved in baseball … as such we’d like to see baseball to continue to grow its popularity in Canada,” said David Purdy, Rogers’ senior vice-president of content.
Rogers has reported increased ratings this year for Blue Jays’ games — particularly in the prized 18-35 demographic — and the team has seen a boost in ticket sales as well, which were both factors in Rogers’ decision regarding the MLB Network, Purdy said.
“We’d like to see that grow and we’d like to see overall interest in baseball grow, not just for the Jays.”
Currently, rabid baseball fans in Canada only have access to MLB Extra Innings to serve their appetite for 24-hour baseball programming.
Extra Innings, which is part of Rogers’ “Super Sports Pak” of channels, broadcasts all out-of-market Major League Baseball games.
The MLB Network, meanwhile, focuses primarily on highlights and commentary, while broadcasting only 150 regular-season games a year, or roughly one a day.
Rogers sees the potential for endless highlight reels and non-stop talking heads on all things baseball as complementary and promotional for their own Jays’-focused coverage, and not as competition.
“. . . The fact that Rogers has requested the MLB Network be added to the list only demonstrates the potential demand for additional MLB programming, and baseball programming in general, provided through the MLB Network,” the application reads.
“The fact that we are requesting the MLB Network be added to the Authorized Services List demonstrates the potential demand for this service in Canada,” writes Pam Dinsmore, Rogers’ vice-president (regulatory), in the application.
Dinsmore also points out that currently baseball fans might be inclined to sign up for “unregulated” online access to baseball broadcasts through MLB.com, which is not in the CRTC’s interests, Dinsmore argues.
“The MLB Network will give Canadians another incentive to remain within the regulated system.”
The MLB Network is currently the most widely distributed cable TV channel owned by a sports league. The channel offers similar programming to the NFL Network, which the CRTC approved in 2004.
Any member of the public can comment on the MLB Network’s application at the CRTC’s website.