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PRINT EDITION
TSN going big on Raptors
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By WILLIAM HOUSTON
whouston@globeandmail.com
  
  

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008 – Page R10

Two stories are tied to an announcement, expected today, that TSN and its companion channel, TSN2, will air 48 Toronto Raptors games in 2008-09.

The first is about TSN's move to brand itself as the leading channel for NBA content.

The second involves the standoff between TSN and Rogers Cable over carriage of TSN2, a digital channel that was launched in late August.

Among the leading cable and satellite companies in English-language Canada, Rogers is alone in not picking up TSN2.

Clearly, TSN, by placing Raptors games on TSN2, is turning up the heat on Rogers.

Rogers subscribers who are Raptors fans will complain if they are unable to watch 25 games because of the cable company's refusal to carry TSN2.

As for TSN's move to basketball programming, it's extensive. Sources say the Raptors contract is perhaps as long as five years, although it may be announced as only two years.

TSN also owns the non-Raptors NBA package that Rogers Sportsnet dropped at the end of last season, as well as postseason rights that include the NBA final.

"We see a big upside with the Raptors and the NBA," TSN president Phil King said yesterday. "The team has added Jermaine O'Neal, and with Chris Bosh and the rest, we think the Raptors are going to do something.

"So, we decided to not only grow the Raptors but the sport of basketball on TSN and TSN2. We're very excited."

King would not comment on the details of agreement, but sources say TSN paid an undisclosed rights fee and will share commercial time.

In addition to the Raptors schedule on TSN and TSN2, CBC will air 12 games, all on Sunday afternoons, up from eight last year.

The CBC wanted Sunday because it could promote the Raptors telecasts on Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada.

The Score Television Network will carry 20 games, with the remaining two airing on club-owned Raptors NBA TV.

Why did Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors, agree to games airing on TSN2 rather than its own Raptors NBA TV?

MLSE would not comment until the deal is formally announced, but one answer is distribution: TSN2 is in about twice as many homes, 3.2 million, as Raptors NBA TV. Should Rogers Cable pick up TSN2, distribution would jump to 4.2 million.

At this point, the optics for Rogers, in rejecting TSN2, are problematic. As MLSE's leading sponsor, Rogers has an interest in promoting MLSE teams.

Since Rogers has not given a reason for denying TSN2 carriage, the growing perception is it is protecting Sportsnet, which gave up on basketball and competes against TSN and TSN2.

TSN2 is basically an encore channel for TSN. However, 10 per cent of its programming can be live. TSN2 is expected to air some Ottawa Senators telecasts during the NHL season and also curling.

ANALYST REBOUNDS ON CBC

Montreal hockey commentator Yvon Pedneault says he was stunned when Réseau des Sports told him in July he was finished after 15 years with the French network.

Pedneault, who had been the game analyst for RDS's Montreal Canadiens NHL telecasts, says he was not told why his contract wasn't renewed.

"It was a shock," he said. "I have to admit, a real shock to me."

Complicating matters was his son, Eric Pedneault, working at RDS as a director of hockey telecasts.

"He's all right now," Yvon Pedneault said. "I told him, 'You do your career and let the old man do his own thing.' "

Pedneault has been covering hockey in Montreal for more than 30 years.

He writes a column for Journal de Montreal, as well as Journal de Quebec. He has a daily radio show on CKAC and a TV show on TQS.

As well, Hockey Night in Canada is using him as a game analyst on its Canadiens telecasts. It was good move, because Hockey Night did not have a Montreal presence, aside from P.J. Stock, who reports the out-of-town scores.

Pedneault worked his first game last Saturday with Bob Cole and Greg Millen.

"I was a little bit shaky," he said.

"But I think I will do better next time. It's a new experience, three in the booth and trying to be the complement rather than the lead colour man. You have to adjust yourself."

He was also broadcasting in his second language.

"To tell you the truth, I loved it," he said. "They're nice people and they helped me a lot."


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