Tag Archives: TSN2

Welcome, TSN2


On Wednesday morning, TSN2 went live on Videotron’s Illico digital cable feed, on Channel 61 (681 in HD). GOL TV, which formerly occupied No. 61, has moved to 58. Channel 661 (the more logical place for the HD feed) is Rogers SportsNet HD, which will no doubt cause some confusion because SportsNet East SD is 81.

The channel is free for anyone who has access to TSN. Similarly for the HD feed.

TSN2 isn’t quite like any other channel. Its license actually requires it to mostly duplicate content from the main channel with a three-hour delay. And that’s because the license for the network wasn’t designed for the purpose TSN is branding it to become (essentially a Canadian equivalent of ESPN2).

Here’s the deal: TSN is a national network airing mostly live sporting events (hockey, football, curling, all the good stuff). But live game of the major sports leagues are also really finnicky about television rights. Some of them might enforce a blackout on local television coverage if the arena isn’t sold out for a home game. Others have exclusive deals with a local station or network, and so require regional blackouts. Others take their orders from Zorxon the Great and just declare blackouts randomly. So a sports network like TSN (and particularly the Rogers SportsNet regional networks) would be required to black out its programming for certain regions.

To help with this problem, the CRTC allowed TSN to split its network, both timewise – having a west coast feed on a three-hour delay – and to substitute other programming to replace blackouts, like another game. To make sure that TSN didn’t use this privilege to create a second network, they limited the amount of replacement programming to 10% of the schedule, which works out to 2.4 hours a day.

In 2008, TSN decided to rebrand this split network and “launch” what it called TSN2. Now there would be ads about what’s on this new network (that ran on all of CTV’s television properties), and the fact that it’s 90% the same as TSN was downplayed as much as possible. Besides, 2.4 hours means they can do what they want between 8pm and 10pm every day. Important events would air on TSN, but equally important events that happened at the same time would air instead on TSN2, and the network made sure everyone knew about that.

The reaction from the public was predictable. Having been told that their favourite sports programming would air on a network that they didn’t have access to, they followed TSN’s instructions (“For more information about TSN2, viewers are encouraged to contact their television provider“) and began badgering their cable and satellite providers. One by one they folded, and began carrying the second network.

Videotron was one of the holdouts, but it was just a matter of time before they too were forced to add the channel. There was a petition, a Facebook group, and all sorts of rumours about when Videotron would add the channel to its Illico digital cable lineup (Pierre Trudel had it “concrete” that it would launch Sept. 30).

This week the rumours were confirmed by various sources inside Videotron, and the service went live as scheduled. TSN sent out a press release about it, boasting that it’s now in 4.5 million Canadian homes and is the most-watched digital cable sports network.

I’m certainly not opposed to more sports networks. Even the CRTC has admitted it’s time to deregulate them and allow them to compete. Still, I think TSN should just ask for a license for another sports network to air separate programming. Instead, it will eventually go back to the CRTC and say that this arrangement is unworkable, and that it needs more leeway for more alternative programming (no doubt playing it as being better for the consumer) and the CRTC will cave, basically handing TSN the keys to a new specialty sports network.

In the meantime, I won’t say no to the channel. I’m just glad I don’t have to pay extra for it.

CRTC Roundup: Rogers gets its own CP24

The big news this month is that Rogers has been given permission to launch its own 24-hour all-news channel in the Toronto area called CityNews.

Now, you might think, doesn’t City already have a 24-hour all-news channel for the Toronto area?

No, silly. CP24, the existing all-Toronto, all-news station, was owned by CHUM, which also owned City. But CHUM was acquired by CTV, which was forced to dump City as a result to satisfy the CRTC. For some reason known only to the CRTC, that didn’t include CP24, even though it was heavily linked to CityTV. Rogers ended up buying City, and is now the one behind this new network.

Even under CTV, CP24 is very much a City network. It even airs City News three times daily. Now, not only does CTV have to figure out how CP24 and CTV Newsnet are going to coexist, it has to deal with this new channel from Rogers which is no doubt going to take all the City content for itself.

Oh, and how does the CRTC justify having two Toronto all-news stations like this? Well, they split hairs like I’ve never seen before (emphasis mine):

CITY News (Toronto) would provide a niche news service targeted to Greater Toronto. In contrast, CP24’s mandate is and has always been to serve the region of Southern Ontario.

Yes, that’s right. CITY is for Toronto, while CP24 is for Southern Ontario. Therefore they don’t compete directly with each other. Yeah.

I might have understood if the CRTC pointed to its recent decision to allow more competition for news and spoirts programming. Instead, it came up with the flimsiest excuse in the book to pretend like the obvious isn’t true.

The application was opposed by CTV (for obvious reasons) and by The Weather Network, because of City’s unhealthy obsession with providing information on the weather.

Elsewhere in the news/blogosphere:

CTV wants HD loophole

CTV is applying for special permission from the CRTC to distribute HD versions of its local stations (including CFCF Montreal) to cable and satellite networks, even though those stations do not have digital broadcast licenses (and the CRTC normally requires that before distributing HD feeds). CTV offers excuses for not getting those licenses, and says that they should be granted this loophole to keep Canadians from seeking the same programming on U.S. networks. Deadline for comments is Jan. 9.

TSN2 is OK

Following complaints about the launch of TSN2 by the CBC and The Score, the CRTC has concluded that, though TSN is essentially exploiting a loophole to create a new channel, it has every right to do so. TSN2 takes advantage of time shifting and a special allowance to replace up to 10% of its programming on split feeds (presumably to get around regional blackouts for live sporting events) in order to create a second channel which shows 90% identical programming (though time-shifted three hours from TSN) and 10% different live sporting events from TSN.

Two new French-language networks

The CRTC approved Category 2 digital licenses for two new French-language networks:

Category 2 networks, which most new specialty channels are approved as, has no protection from direct competition (though it can’t directly compete with existing analog channels). They also have no guaranteed carriage rights, which means they have to negotiate with cable and satellite providers for a spot on their grids (and then get subscribers to add them).

More HD!

The following networks have received approval to setup high-definition versions of themselves:

When is a channel not a channel?

Hey, remember back when I said you should expect CTV’s competitors to get mad when it decided to brand a regional split of TSN into a separate channel called TSN2?

Yeah, they got mad.

TSN says it’s respecting the letter of the law, and that only 10% of programming will differ between the channels. But Score Media wants the CRTC to clarify that this should apply to advertising as well.

Either way, TSN is selling this as an entirely separate cable channel, not as a split feed. And that, at least, seems to be going against the spirit of its license.

CRTC roundup: Cancon porn, TSN2 and the Rural Channel

Lots more fun out of the CRTC this week:

Insert “beaver” joke here

The biggest news (or at least the most titillating) is the approval of a new Canadian-based pornography channel. Called Northern Peaks (cute), it would feature 50% Canadian content (i.e. Canadian-produced porn) from various categories, including pornographic sitcoms and game shows (that actually sounds like fun, but it’s really just the company covering all bases, so to speak).

The 50% mark is actually quite unusual, and is well above what would normally be required for such a network. But apparently it was the applicant’s request, according to the National Post:

Mr. Donnelly said he was required to offer as little as 15% Canadian content to appease regulators.

But because he wants “to legitimately be Canada’s adult channel,” he started at half Canadian. He said there is a huge unfulfilled market in Canada for local porn. Beginning last year, he began getting calls from cable companies looking to license his Canadian productions.

“I’ve always found there’s a real turn-on to watching and knowing it’s people you could run into in the grocery store,” he said.

But with more than 200 titles (and presumably they can be replayed over and over again, since most viewers wouldn’t mind repeats of classic programming), he thinks he can do it.

Quoth the CRTC: “The Commission did not receive any interventions in connection with this application.” Really? Not even from the pizza guy? Or that nosy peeping-tom neighbour you’re just waiting to have sex in front of so they can masturbate to it?

Needless to say the media had a field day with this one, the National Post turning it into a front-page story (complete with photo) and an opinion piece that’s pretty tongue-in-cheeks (sorry) asking readers to comment and either denounce the channel or come up with some programming ideas for it. (A funny side-effect of the latter is offhand mentions of Sheila Copps and Avi Lewis, which means searches for these two under “related stories” brings up a comment about a porn channel they have nothing to do with.)

One comment posted to the Post:

When do the adults at the Post return from summer holiday?

Of course, it wasn’t just the Post. The Globe and Mail also had a lengthy article on it (about 12 inches), and the news was picked up by Canadian Press and Reuters and Agence France-Presse and reached news outlets all around the world (well, those two anyway). It also got a mention on an anti-abortion (but still pro-women) conservative website.

The channel is being run by Real Productions (apparently not this Real Productions nor that Real Productions, which appear lower in the Google raking and I’m guessing confused or offended at least a few potential customers), which is run by a man named Shaun Donnelly (but not this Shaun Donnelly, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East).

Due to the nature of the channel, it can’t be included in any channel packages and must be specifically requested by the subscriber. The network also promises to spend at least 25% of revenues on developing new programming.

Also of note is the 100% closed-captioning requirement, which may foreshadow a fight with Videotron concerning their demand that they not have to closed-caption on-demand video porn.

UPDATE (Aug. 18): The Globe has more on the channel, including an idea of what a broadcast day would look like. And then even more on the channel here. (They won’t let this story go, will they?)

UPDATE (Aug. 24): Farked. With suggestions on Canadian porn titles. Some of these people should write headlines for a living.

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