Tag Archives: Sportsnet

NHL trade deadline coverage: TSN still edges Sportsnet on breaking news

The National Hockey League trade deadline. That magical moment when NHL fans stay glued to their TV screens with the hope that their team’s general manager will pull off the deal of the century that will get their team to the Stanley Cup.

For TSN, it’s an annual event, filled with analysts, insiders constantly on their phones, and gimmicks to fill time. For Sportsnet, which only really started treating this like TSN does after it got the NHL national rights, it’s a chance to compete with the traditional leader at this game. Both networks began their coverage at 8am, going through past the 3pm deadline.

I recorded both networks from 8am to 5pm so I could compare their coverage. It’s one of the few events you can do that, because unlike game broadcasts or events like the NHL draft, there are no exclusive rights here. The two had a lot of similarities — multiple desks of analysts inside a big studio, an insider guru (Bob McKenzie vs. Elliotte Friedman), on-screen graphics listing recent trades and players who could be up for grabs, and reporters in all seven Canadian NHL markets following their teams’ actions and getting comment from their general managers. They also had several differences. TSN tried to be funny, even getting actors Jay Baruchel and Jared Keeso to do sketches for them. Sportsnet had some fun but it was mostly talking heads.

But, really, who cares about that stuff? I wanted to compare them based on the thing that really mattered: Who breaks the news first.

I compared when the two networks announced trades during their broadcasts to see which one came out first. I also compared when they interviewed players who had just been traded. (There were other journalistic scoops, such as confirming that a player wouldn’t be traded, or a team was done trading, but I left those out of this assessment.)

Here’s how it went. All times are Eastern, and are based on my PVR. There’s an inherent imprecision when it comes to digital television, so the times could be off by 30 seconds or so. For the purposes of determining a winner, I’ve considered any announcement within 30 seconds apart on the two networks as a tie. (Only what’s broadcast on TV counts here. I’ve ignored Twitter, app or other non-TV alerts.)

Player trades

Player Teams TSN time Sportsnet time Winner
Thomas Vanek DET to FLA 11:54:30 11:47:54 Sportsnet
Joseph Cramarossa (claimed off waivers) VAN to ANA 12:07:25 12:08:07 TSN
Dwight King LAK to MTL 12:21:16 12:20:38 Sportsnet
Jarome Iginla COL to LAK 13:09:56 13:00:35 Sportsnet
Kyle Quincey NJ to CBJ 14:07:16 14:09:07 TSN
Andreas Martinsen/ Sven Andrighetto COL-MTL 14:07:56 14:07:46 Tie
Mark Streit PHI to TB 14:28:43 14:30:17 TSN
Valtteri Filppula (as part of Streit deal) TB to PHI 14:35:18 14:35:44 Tie
P.A. Parenteau NJ to NSH 14:51:57 14:51:31 Tie
Curtis Lazar OTT to CGY 14:53:16 14:56:10 TSN
Eric Fehr PIT to TOR 15:10:00 15:12:47 TSN
Frank Corrado and Steve Oleksy (as part of Fehr deal) TOR-PIT 15:21:29 15:29:02 TSN
Mark Streit TB to PIT 15:21:40 15:18:52 Sportsnet
Drew Stafford WPG to BOS 15:30:03 15:31:34 TSN
Lauri Korpikoski/ Dillon Heatherington CBJ-DAL 15:32:13 15:31:52 Tie

Most of these were very close to each other, and the difference is often as simple as how fast you can get the panel to stop talking so it can be announced on air. Sportsnet got a clear win on the Vanek trade, and TSN was first by quite a bit to peg that Frank Corrado was being returned as part of the Eric Fehr deal. For Iginla, TSN was first with the rumour of his trade to L.A., but Sportsnet was the first to confirm it (or at least be confident enough to go with it — some of these trades were hard to judge because they were reported with varying degrees of confidence.)

The other announcements were all within a couple of minutes of each other.

But by my judging criteria, TSN wins seven, Sportsnet wins four, and four are ties.

Player interviews

After a trade breaks, there’s a rush to get the players involved on the phone to discuss what happened. Here’s how that broke down.

Player TSN time Sportsnet time Winner
Thomas Vanek 12:08 12:18 TSN
Dwight King 12:24 None TSN
Jarome Iginla 13:20 14:07 TSN
Kyle Quincey 14:21 None TSN
Curtis Lazar 14:56 15:14 TSN

No real contest here. All three players who spoke to Sportsnet did so after talking to TSN. (There were also interviews with players who had been traded before 8am on trade deadline day, but those were not breaking trades so I did not include them here.)

Both networks carried GM press conferences from Canadian teams and did good jobs of analysis. Though TSN still takes the edge here, Sportsnet has made up a lot of ground in terms of what really counts — breaking news.

Maybe by the time their 12-year NHL deal is done, they’ll be the ones blanketing their late-February broadcasts with promo ads about this news-reporting event (which didn’t report a single thing for almost four hours).

Elliott Price joins Sportsnet, kinda

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher of an announcement: Elliott Price is now part of the Sportsnet Network. But what’s the Sportsnet Network?

I asked the parties involved for a story that appears in Monday’s Montreal Gazette, about what Price has been up to since he was let go from TSN Radio 690 last November.

Basically, it’s an agreement for cooperation. Price gets access to Sportsnet’s branding and personalities he can interview on his show, plus Sportsnet’s website hosts his podcast. On the flip side, Sportsnet’s radio stations in Toronto and Calgary get access to Price to give a Montreal perspective on sports stories, and Sportsnet has a “presence” in the market, a benefit that is less tangible.

I could not get them to either confirm nor deny that money is changing hands as part of this deal, but Dave Cadeau, program director of Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto said the deal isn’t financial in nature. Price is not a Sportsnet employee, and he maintains his editorial independence. Price’s show (which has been renamed Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price) also carries some Sportsnet-related advertising, including spots for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

It was Price that got the ball moving on this deal, and he said he had been working on it since the beginning. Unlike TSN Radio, which has eight stations in five provinces (in every NHL and CFL market except Calgary and Regina), Sportsnet has only stations in Toronto and Calgary, and so needs some help to cover other major sports markets.

So does this mean we could see other deals like this in the future?

“Could I see it? Sure. Are we thinking about it? No,” Cadeau says. “This is all that is planned.”

Price’s situation is pretty unusual. CFMB is licensed as an ethnic radio station (it is required to broadcast programming in 16 languages for 16 ethnic groups, but there’s no particular limit on the amount of non-ethnic programming it can broadcast otherwise), and so is only sports for 10 hours a week.

The likelihood of Rogers starting a full-time all-sports station in Montreal is virtually zero while TSN 690 is on the air. Outside of Toronto, the market for sports-talk simply isn’t robust enough for more than one station. (Rogers did suggest it might be willing to buy TSN 690 during the Bell-Astral hearings, but it’s unclear how serious that offer was.)

So this represents the next best thing. Sportsnet gets a presence in the city that it doesn’t have to pay for, and Price gets to look a lot more professional and get lots of expert guests by associating himself with this big brand.

Price also is now a regular panelist on Sportsnet Central Montreal, the weekly sports talk show that airs on City Montreal.

Is Price’s show viable?

I asked Price whether he thinks he can get enough advertising to make his show break even. The initial response from advertisers has actually been quite impressive. Since it started as a one-day-a-week show on CFMB, the show has had several local sponsors. He said it was enough that the Sunday show paid for itself, but with the expansion to five days a week (making this a de facto full-time job for Price and co-host Grant Robinson), the advertising demands are greater. He guesses he’s about halfway there, though.

CFMB's main studio.

CFMB’s main studio.

This was my first visit to the new studios of CFMB since the Evanov Radio Group bought the station and moved it to new offices on Papineau Ave. in Rosemont. The building, which doesn’t have any exterior signage, has newly renovated offices on several floors (and half-floors). Upstairs are the studios of sister station AM 980.

The new studio is clean and reflects a the new reality of radio, and the big windows will expose hosts to a lot more natural light than the basement studios the station vacated in Westmount.

CFMB's ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

CFMB’s ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

UPDATE (Aug. 11): Price is interviewed on Breakfast Television Montreal about his new show.

Chantal Desjardins, P.J. Stock among cuts at Sportsnet

Rogers Media today finally confirmed what’s been reported, that George Stroumboulopoulos has been let go as host of Hockey Night in Canada and Ron MacLean will return to the big chair on Saturday nights.

But also changing is a lot of other jobs in Sportsnet’s hockey broadcasting team, both national and regional broadcasts. Among them, in-game analyst Glenn Healy, studio analysts P.J. Stock, Billy Jaffe and Corey Hirsch, and regional game studio hosts Leah Hextall (Flames) and Chantal Desjardins (Canadiens).

Desjardins mainly hosted the regional Canadiens broadcasts from the Toronto studio, but would also work as a rinkside reporter during some national broadcasts.

Desjardins and Stock worked together at CHOM before getting jobs at Sportsnet. In 2010, they hosted the morning show with Pete Marier after Ted Bird left the station. Marier was also let go this past week.

The Globe and Mail reports Sportsnet will be airing national pregame shows instead of regional ones before regional hockey games, which would reduce the need for staff.

UPDATE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman offers a tribute to his dismissed colleagues at the end of this column.

Sportsnet admits it’s using Canadiens Saturday night games as subscription bait

If you’ve been paying attention to the scheduling of Hockey Night in Canada, you might have noticed that Canadiens games are more likely to be on Sportsnet this season, whereas last season they were more likely to be on City.

This season, of the 13 Saturday evening games that have aired so far, plus the next one (Feb. 27 against the Leafs) that has already been assigned, six were put on Sportsnet, two on City and six on CBC or CBC and City. Of those six, three are games against the Maple Leafs, and two were nights the Leafs weren’t playing. Only once, on Oct. 17 (in the middle of their season-opening hot streak) did the Canadiens go on CBC and bump the Leafs to another channel (in that case, City), which caused plenty of frustration from Leafs fans who had been used to just owning CBC on Saturday nights.

The Leafs’ dominance on CBC is nothing new. The same thing happened last season. And it makes sense. The Canadiens have stronger ratings overall, but if you discount francophones who will watch those games on TVA Sports, the Leafs are the more popular team on English television on Saturday nights. And so Rogers gives them the network with the largest overall reach.

But what’s changed this year appears to be the order of priority when it comes to channel assignments. It used to be CBC > City > Sportsnet > Sportsnet One or 360. But now it appears Sportsnet has moved to the No. 2 spot on Saturday nights, to the point where City has on some weeks had either simulcasts of the CBC game or an all-American matchup.

I asked Scott Moore, the president of Sportsnet, about this during an interview I did for a Gazette story that appears in Saturday’s paper about the difficulty in finding live sports online.

“We want to put whatever games we can to the widest distribution,” he said.

But Moore, who noted he’s a Habs fan, admitted that the scheduling strategy has changed this year, and “the second best game has moved to Sportsnet and the third best game has gone to City.”

“That’s simply for a subscription play,” he said.

What does that mean? It means Rogers is putting that second-best game, whether it’s the Canadiens or Senators or Jets, on Sportsnet as a way of getting more people to subscribe to Sportsnet.

Sportsnet gets 72% of its revenue through subscriptions (75% if you also count Sportsnet One, 360 and World), and only 23% through advertising, according to figures from 2013-14 submitted to the CRTC. And as the CRTC mandates channels be offered on a pick-and-pay or small-package basis as of March 1 (and both as of Dec. 1), it’s in Sportsnet’s best interest to protect that subscription revenue.

It’s a balancing act from a capitalist perspective. Lock the games down too much on expensive specialty channels and you risk losing fans. Put too many games on free TV and occasional fans won’t bother subscribing to your sports channels because they don’t need them.

For a company that spent $5.2 billion on a 12-year deal with the NHL, finding that balance on the sport’s marquee night of the week is very important.

“It’s not so much a science as it is a feel,” Moore notes of how Saturday night games are assigned. That’s the big reason why channel assignments are only announced a week or two in advance, except where it’s a Canadiens-Leafs game, because that’s obviously going on CBC.

Had the Canadiens continued on their hot streak instead of plunging into the toilet with the rest of the Canadian NHL teams, we might have seen the Canadiens on CBC more often.

Will we see more subscription plays during the playoffs? The math changes then, with audience increasing and ad revenue becoming more important.

But at this rate they might not have to worry about it, because none of the seven Canadian teams are in playoff position (they’re all among the bottom nine teams in the league right now).

“It would be really interesting to see what happens between now and NHL trade deadline,” Moore said, a glimmer of hope in his voice that some miracle would save the postseason audience his company paid so dearly for.

Concordia students get $650,000 out of a Rogers acquisition

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University's journalism building on Wednesday.

Sportsnet records its president announcing its donation at Concordia University’s journalism building on Wednesday.

Concordia University journalism students will be getting a financial boost in the coming years thanks to a $650,000 donation from Rogers Sportsnet.

 

More than half of the donation will be used for scholarships for students over five years:

  • Six scholarships of $3,000 each to undergraduate students
  • Seven scholarships of $4,000 each to graduate diploma students
  • Two scholarships of $6,000 each to masters students
  • Two prizes of $8,500 each to students based on sports journalism portfolios

This works out to $75,000 a year, or $375,000 over the five years of the program. The rest of the money will be used for things like new equipment purchases and other stuff whose details haven’t been finalized, said Concordia journalism department chair Brian Gabrial.

Other than the $8,500 prizes listed above, the scholarships are not specifically sports-related.

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from left).

Students and staff at Concordia celebrate their donation with Sportsnet president Scott Moore (third from left).

The donation, the largest in the department’s history, was celebrated with a wine-and-hors-d’oeuvres event at Concordia’s journalism and communications building on the Loyola campus on Wednesday, with Concordia president Alan Shepard Sportsnet president Scott Moore in attendance.

But while this is great news for the university, it’s worth noting where this money is coming from. It’s not something Rogers is doing spontaneously out of the kindness of its heart, but rather a mandatory funding initiative linked to Rogers’s 2013 acquisition of The Score (which it turned into Sportsnet 360).

When the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the acquisition of the sports news television channel in 2013, it mandated that 10% of its purchase price (valued at $172 million) be spent on tangible benefits, or donations to programs and initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system as a whole. This is the CRTC’s way of mitigating the loss of diversity that comes from consolidation of ownership.

Rogers had originally proposed more than half of that going to something called the “Sportsnet Winter Games”, an annual amateur sports event. But the commission rejected that, saying it was worried that this would be self-serving. Instead, Rogers broke down the proposed benefits as follows:

  • $5 million for a Sportsnet Independent Production Fund
  • $5 million for a Canadian University Sports Initiative
  • $2.5 million for digital media produciton scholarships
  • $4.7 million for amateur independent sports production

Moore confirmed that the $650,000 donation to Concordia comes out of this tangible benefits package, which has to be paid out over five years. He said internal bureaucracy at Rogers, combined with some major distractions, caused them to get a slow start on this.

Gabrial credits Bob Babinski for helping get this done. Babinski worked with Moore at CBC Sports, and after Moore moved to Rogers Media, he hired Babinski to launch City Montreal. Moore said he called up Babinski and asked about Concordia’s journalism program, and then Sportsnet approached Concordia asking them to put together a proposal.

Moore referred to the donation as an “investment” in the future of journalism. That’s a nice sentiment, though the CRTC rules prevent any quid pro quo.

Other Sportsnet university initiatives include the Sportsnet U Recruited program. Its first recruit is Julian McKenzie, a Concordia journalism student, former sports editor at The Link and producer at CJLO 1690 AM. After the event, McKenzie had lunch with Moore.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

A fake Concordian front page announcing the donation.

Breaking down the Canadiens 2015-16 TV broadcast schedule

Last week, Sportsnet unveiled its schedule for Canadiens TV broadcasts for the 2015-16 season.

The good news is that there’s little change from last year. All 82 games will be broadcast in English, and 40 of those games are national.

The bad news is that there’s little change from last year. The other 42 games are still regional, inaccessible to those west of Belleville, Ont., unless they fork over big money for NHL Centre Ice.

Actually it’s somewhere between 40 and 42 games, because some of those regional games involve other Canadian teams (which means they’ll be available in those regions): Both games against the Vancouver Canucks are regional, one of two games against the Calgary Flames, and one of four games against the Ottawa Senators. Both games against Edmonton, both games against Winnipeg, and of course all four games against Toronto are national.

Regional games for the most part are on Sportsnet East, but like last year, they’re using City Montreal as a backup when Sportsnet carries baseball or NFL football in the fall. A total of 11 games are planned for City Montreal, the last one on Dec .17.

For national games, a similar situation to last year, with 10 Wednesday night games on Sportsnet and 20 Saturday night games to be decided on a week-to-week basis. (Expect Leafs games on CBC and Canadiens games on City again.) There are also two Thursday night games in October on Sportsnet 360. No games are scheduled for Sportsnet One.

Rogers Hometown Hockey continues this season, but moves to Sportsnet from City now that Rogers has decided to go back to imported dramas and comedies on Sunday nights. The six Sunday night games are all national.

Broken down by time, 39 games start at 7pm Eastern, 30 at 7:30pm, three at 8pm, three at 9pm, two at 10pm and two at 10:30pm. The only afternoon games are the Winter Classic at 1pm and the two Super Bowl matinees at 2 and 2:30.

TVA/RDS share unchanged

On the French side, it’s still 22 national games plus all playoff games for TVA Sports and 60 regional games plus all preseason games for RDS.

Like last year, the national games in French include all Saturday night games plus the season opener. But because the Canadiens are playing in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, that gets added to the national roster in both languages. This means TVA Sports will have 20 Saturday night games instead of 21. (There’s a Saturday afternoon game, which is national in English as part of Hockey Day in Canada, but remains regional in French.)

TVA Sports put out its NHL schedule in June. It’s posted here.

No announcements have been made for changes to NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre Live.

 

Quickie review: Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports on the NHL season opener

Like much of the city, I spent Wednesday evening sitting in front of the TV welcoming the official return of NHL hockey, curious how it would look in the new TV environment. Unlike much of the city, I constantly switched between Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports to try to evaluate both networks at the same time. Here are some thoughts on how it went.

Note that I’m not a hockey expert, or an expert on hockey broadcasting. I can’t tell you which panelist’s comments were more insightful, or which play-by-play guy described the game better. I look at this with the eyes of the casual fan, and that’s how I’m evaluating this.

Pregame

Both networks are just starting off 12-year deals that are costing them a nine-figure number. So naturally the season opener pregame started months ago. I only tuned in for the last 45 minutes or so, and both networks took advantage of this time to sell themselves and their plans for the coming season. Sportsnet was a mix of old faces from Hockey Night in Canada, new faces from Sportsnet that were less familiar to Canadiens fans, and faces from elsewhere like Darren Pang. There was Elliotte Friedman with his sit-down interview. And the $4.5-million studio and its bells and whistles saw some use, though not as much as we might have expected.

On TVA Sports, a new set that actually looked quite professional, and a panel of experts that when it comes down to it doesn’t strike me as much different from the panels you’ll find on Sportsnet or RDS.

Opening


At 7pm on Saturday nights was when CBC would give us a hockey montage to set the mood. Sportsnet didn’t go that way on this night, instead going with a monologue from Marc Messier about how great hockey is. It fell a little short to me, lacking emotion.

TVA Sports picked up the torch, though, and presented a musical montage of recent and ancient hockey footage set to Imagine Dragons’s Radioactive. It didn’t have the emotional punch of HNIC’s best Habs-Leafs montages, but it was still nicely done.

TVA Sports also had the better computer-generated graphics that followed, though everything repeatedly exploding and coming back together may have been a bit too much.

Studio

Rogers’s big new studio in the CBC building in Toronto didn’t get much use after the pregame show, and seemed to be limited to a desk with four chairs behind it. Maybe that will change on Saturday, but I felt they weren’t using it to its fullest potential.

TVA Sports’s studio looked quite nice. Not spectacular, but nice enough that it looks like they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it professionally.

Play-by-play

Sportsnet viewers were treated to the recognizable voices of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, who have done this countless times before and just picked up where they left off.

On TVA Sports, it was the first big night for Félix Séguin and his partner Patrick Lalime. Though Habs fans have gotten used to hearing Pierre Houde calling their team, I don’t think it’ll take that much getting used to the new voice.

Or at least I thought that until the first time Séguin said “lance … et COOOOOMPTE!” That’ll take some getting used to after years of Houde’s “et le but!” (Even Séguin needs to get used to it apparently. He let out an “et le but” when the Canadiens scored a surprise goal in the last minute of play.)

Sportsnet graphics tvagraphics

Graphics

Sportsnet and TVA Sports clearly based their scoreboard graphics off the same software, with just the logo and the language different between them.

The graphics are block-ish, but they present the necessary information.

I should note that neither channel uses its own graphics for less important games. The late game on TVA Sports 2 just used the same Sportsnet feed with the same English graphics. Sportsnet One showed a late U.S. matchup that just piped in NBC Sports Network. It goes without saying that they don’t supply their own broadcast team either.

Intermission

The giant Sportsnet hockey studio seemed pretty small during the intermission report, which mainly focused on a few talking heads around a table. Maybe it’ll be more impressive on Saturday nights, but I felt as though a first impression was wasted here.

Michel Bergeron

TVA Sports didn’t wow me with its Coach’s Corner-style first-intermission starring Michel Bergeron. But it was better for the second, featuring Paul Houde talking about how many points the Canadiens should need at key points of the season if they expect to make the playoffs, and Joel Bouchard with a brief on-ice segment about goalie strategy. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to see more of.

Postgame

Sportsnet didn’t have much of a postgame. Five minutes after the end it had to tee up the late Canucks-Flames game. But the panel took a few minutes to discuss what happened and what it means for both teams.

At TVA Sports, the late game was moved to TVA Sports 2, allowing it to run Dave Morissette en direct, the postgame analysis show. It was fine, but talking heads who are experts on the NHL don’t wow me, especially when the same thing was happening on RDS and TSN.

But there were some odd moments. Like Sébastien Benoit in a bar in Boucherville passing the microphone around asking people what they thought of the game and getting two-word answers of approval. By all means show us reaction shots from Montreal bars, but no need to shove a microphone in their faces if they have nothing intelligent to say.

Overall, I’m hoping Sportsnet shows more pizzazz on Saturday and Sunday, but if not I think we can live with its broadcasts. TVA Sports clearly showed it put in the effort, and had some strong points that Sportsnet didn’t have, even though it has a smaller audience and budget.

But I’m just some guy on the Internet with an opinion. What did you think of the broadcasts?

See also: A review from Bill Brioux for Canadian Press

Why is RDS/TSN/Sportsnet blacked out? NHL regional TV rights explained

TSN blackout

Even though I’ve written quite a few blog posts on the subject of NHL regional rights and in particular how Canadiens fans have to deal with them for the first time, there’s still a flood of questions, usually the same ones, from people who suddenly find themselves staring at a screen saying a hockey game is not available in their region.

The situation hasn’t changed dramatically, except for broadcasts on RDS. Until this season, the network had a special deal with the Canadiens and the National Hockey League that allowed all 82 regular-season games to be broadcast nationally without restriction. This is the exception rather than the rule. Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators games in English have been subject to regional blackouts for years now.

It’s caused so much rage that RDS has posted a page — in both French and English — explaining how the blackouts aren’t its fault.

Am I affected?

The Canadiens broadcast region. Map via Shaw Direct

The Canadiens broadcast region. Regions in green can will not experience blackouts on RDS, TSN5 or Sportsnet East. (Map via Shaw Direct)

If you’re used to watching Canadiens games on RDS, you’ll no longer be able to do so if you live west of eastern Ontario (officially, a line connecting Pembroke and Belleville). This is the Canadiens/Senators broadcast region. It includes that corner of eastern Ontario, plus all of Quebec and all four Atlantic provinces. In Toronto, the Prairies, B.C. and territories, you’re out of luck. Because RDS carries only the regional games, you won’t see a single Canadiens game — or any NHL game at all for that matter — on RDS this year.

During the first preseason game on Tuesday night, some people reported being able to get RDS un-blacked-out outside the Canadiens region. Some had the HD feed blacked out but the SD feed not. This should not be relied upon as a stable loophole.

If you’re not sure what region you’re in, you can put your postal code into this website, which will show which teams’ region you’re in. Any team not on that list will (or at least should) be blacked out in your region.

For fans of other teams, this post explains their broadcast regions and how many games will be broadcast regionally and nationally.

Who is to blame?

The big change isn’t so much that Rogers has spent $5.2 billion on a wide-ranging deal for NHL rights in Canada. It’s the emergence of a competitor to RDS, TVA Sports, which has sublicensed the rights to national games from Rogers. RDS picked up the regional rights, but that doesn’t give them the rights to broadcast these games nationally. They’d love nothing better than to do so, but they can’t.

So who is to blame? Rogers? Quebecor? Bell? The Canadiens? Your cable company?

No, it’s the National Hockey League.

The NHL, like other sports leagues, sets the framework for television rights deals. And part of that framework forces most of the regular-season games of any team to be broadcast only within that team’s designated region. Or, looking at it the other way, it prevents other team’s broadcasts from entering that team’s region.

The purpose is simply to protect that team’s territorial rights and market. Basically, if you live in southern Ontario, the Leafs own you, and they want you to be a Leafs fan, not a Canadiens fan. You might think that’s ridiculous, but that’s nevertheless the logic.

(Be glad that the NHL doesn’t also follow the NFL’s rule that blacks out local games when a team has not sold out a home game. Though since the Canadiens always sell out, that wouldn’t affect them.)

What can I do about it?

So, you’re a Canadiens fan in southern Ontario, Calgary or Vancouver who wants to watch all 82 Canadiens games, and you don’t mind what language it’s in. Well, here are your options:

  • Learn to live with watching only half the season. Rogers is broadcasting 40 of the 82 Canadiens games nationally in English, plus all playoff games, including all Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday night games, and all games against the Maple Leafs and Bruins. (The 22 games broadcast nationally in French on TVA Sports are included in those 40.) You’ll also see when the Canadiens play the team that owns your broadcast region. I break down which games are which here. If you live in the Jets, Oilers or Flames regions, you’ll see the games against those teams too. People in Saskatchewan will get a total of 44 Habs games all told.
  • Buy NHL Centre Ice. This is the official way to get around the regional blackouts, and it’s what distant fans of other Canadian teams have had to do for years. Details of this service haven’t been announced yet, but it will be offered by your cable or satellite provider for about $200 for the season or $35 a month. They might also offer a special deal for just the French Canadiens and Senators games from RDS for $60. NHL Centre Ice blacks out any game that is otherwise broadcast in your region, so you’ll need to get Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360 to watch national games on those channels. Contact your TV provider for details.
  • Buy NHL GameCentre Live. Similar to NHL Centre Ice, GameCentre offers a way for people to watch out-of-market games. GameCentre is a streaming service, to watch the games online or on mobile or tablet apps. Because it’s delivered on the Internet, it’s offered directly by Rogers, not by your TV provider. You can subscribe to it here. It’s $200 for the season (with a $180 early bird special). Rogers has also promised a special deal for $60 with just the RDS Senators and Canadiens regional games. GameCentre Live used to have the same rules as Centre Ice, blacking out any game available to you on TV. But Rogers is making all of its nationally broadcast games available on this service. It’s also making in-region regional games available, but only if they’re on Sportsnet and you’re a Sportsnet subscriber. This requires authentication with your TV provider, which means they need to be on board as well. This means that Senators games, French Canadiens games, Jets games and some Maple Leafs games that air on TSN and RDS are not available in-region on GameCentre Live.
  • Listen to blacked out games on the radio. Blackout rules don’t apply to the radio, so you can listen to the livestream of TSN Radio 690 from anywhere in the country.
  • Get an illegal bootleg stream online. There are various ways to get access to Canadiens games through third parties that illegally rebroadcast the games online. I won’t provide instructions here, but you can find them.
  • Move to Montreal. I’m just saying, that’s an option.

One thing that won’t help is to start a petition, yell at your TV provider or insult Rogers, Bell or anyone else on Twitter. Believe me, the broadcasters would love nothing better than to do away with blackouts that annoy viewers, deprive them of advertising revenue and complicate scheduling. But they can’t, because despite those billions of dollars, the NHL is still the boss.

But if it helps you emotionally, go ahead.

John Bartlett leaves TSN 690 to be regional voice of Habs on Sportsnet

John Bartlett, who has been the play-by-play voice of the Canadiens on TSN Radio 690 ever since the station won the rights to the team’s games in 2011, is leaving it to join Rogers as the play-by-play man on regional Canadiens games that will air on Rogers Sportsnet East and City Montreal.

TSN host Mitch Melnick confirmed Bartlett’s departure on Thursday. On Friday, Bartlett was interviewed on Melnick’s show (where a “gag order” prevented them from saying where he’s going, but it wasn’t difficult to put two and two together). Audio from that interview is posted here.

The decision to hire Bartlett, who was the voice of the Toronto Marlies AHL team before joining TSN 690 (more on his history here at YorkRegion.com), wasn’t unanimously praised at first, with all the talent at the station who would have loved to take a crack at the dream job and the bad optics of not only bringing in an import, but one who worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ farm team. But as Melnick explained on his show, Bartlett quickly earned the respect of staff and listeners who are now sad to see him go.

I met Bartlett only once. It was at a Canadian Women’s Hockey League game in Montreal. Just his presence there said a lot about how much this guy cares about hockey.

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Chantal Desjardins hired by Sportsnet as Montreal correspondent

Chantal Desjardins has a steady job again

Chantal Desjardins has a steady job again

Chantal Desjardins, who has been doing various odd jobs since she was let go in the CJAD/TSN 690 purge a year ago, announced today that she’s been hired as the Montreal correspondent for Rogers Sportsnet.

Desjardins effectively takes over for Alyson Lozoff, who was let go by the company in March. The job to replace her was posted 98 days ago.

No word yet on what Desjardins will be doing specifically, whether she’ll be reporting rinkside during Canadiens games or how she’ll be contributing to City Montreal’s Breakfast Television and Montreal Connected. But she will be reporting for Sportsnet on sports news that happens in the city, particularly the Habs but also the Alouettes, Impact and other sports as needed.

With Sportsnet getting the English-language rights to 82 Canadiens regular-season games and all playoff games, a Montreal reporter becomes more vital than ever.

On the minus side, this means we won’t be seeing her on CTV anymore, either as a fill-in sports reporter, fill-in sports anchor, fill-in entertainment reporter or in advertisements. (Or at least not as much.)

Alyson Lozoff leaves City, Sportsnet

Alyson Lozoff

Alyson Lozoff

City Montreal is barely a year old (and none of its local programs have even reached that anniversary) but it has already lost its first personality.

Alyson Lozoff, who was the Montreal reporter for Rogers Sportsnet and also the co-host of City TV’s local sports magazine show Montreal Connected, “is no longer with the company,” a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed to me today.

She wouldn’t comment on why this is, and my attempts to reach Lozoff and City Montreal have failed to generate any response. Her Twitter account has been silent since March 22.

Lozoff’s departure was not addressed at all on the air. She last appeared on Montreal Connected on March 20 with co-host Wilder Weir as if everything was normal, without a hint that it would be her last show. During the week, the show’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were changed to list only Weir as the host.

Weir hosted this week’s episode solo, never explaining why his co-host from the previous week had suddenly disappeared.

This type of disappearance usually indicates a firing or unamicable resignation (say, to join a competitor). I have no idea which of these is the case.

Lozoff’s disappearance is curious because if anything Rogers should be hiring more people to be covering hockey in places like Montreal where it currently doesn’t have any broadcasting rights but will gain them starting this fall. On the other hand, it could be that in the process of re-evaluating its staffing across the country, the company has decided that Lozoff shouldn’t be part of the team.

Or maybe we’ll find out soon that she got hired by TSN or something. I really have no idea.

All I know is that the teeth on City Montreal just got a little less white.