|Mike Fisher and the Senators will get more television face time starting in 2010-11 thanks to the arrival Sportsnet One, a new digital sports channel (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty images).
The television home of Ottawa Senators hockey is about to gain a significant new addition.
Rogers Sportsnet ONE, a new national digital sports channel, is set for an Aug. 14 launch and along with it will come more opportunities for Senators fans to watch their favourite team. A four-year agreement unveiled last week provides for up to 15 Sens telecasts per season on Sportsnet ONE. That number is over and above the 40 that are slated to air on Rogers Sportsnet East.
"It makes it easier for our fans to get access to the maximum number of our games," said Jim Steel, the Senators' vice-president of broadcasting. "If it's not a national game (on CBC, TSN or TSN2), then you know it's on one of the Sportsnet channels."
Needless to say, all of that figures to be a hit with the Sens Army faithful.
"We've announced deals with both the Senators and (Vancouver) Canucks for the new channel and in both places, we're getting enthusiastic response," said Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth. "It means Senators fans will now be able to see more games than they have before. Exactly how many games, we don’t know now for sure until the schedule comes out and all the national slots are fitted in and everything else.
"But basically, between Sportsnet East and Sportsnet ONE, we’ll have the ability to show every Senators game that’s not impacted by the national deals (with CBC and TSN)."
Even better is that all Senators game telecasts on Sportsnet ONE will be presented in high-definition format. And, Beeforth added, "almost all" the games on Sportsnet East are set to get the same widescreen treatment. In fact, you'll notice little difference in the game production on either channel.
"It will have the Sportsnet brand," Beeforth said of the Sportsnet ONE telecasts. "It'll be our same graphics and the familiar faces. For us, there's the Sportsnet brand, which is how we present telecasts. That's how we'll approach our productions and whether the game is on Sportsnet ONE or Sportsnet East is more a mechanic of scheduling."
When Beeforth oversaw the launch of Sportsnet in October 1998, many skeptics scoffed at the notion that Canada was ready for a second 24-hour sports channel. TSN was already firmly established in the eyes of the country's sports fans and there didn't seem to be an appetite — or available programming — for a second kid on the block.
"It means Senators fans will now be able to see more games than they have before. Exactly how many games, we don’t know now for sure until the schedule comes out and all the national slots are fitted in and everything else. But basically, between Sportsnet East and Sportsnet One, we’ll have the ability to show every Senators game that’s not impacted by the national deals (with CBC and TSN)." - Doug Beeforth
Ironically, some 12 years later, Sportsnet is adding a national channel to its four regional feeds for one simple reason — its program inventory is now bulging at the seams. More than 800 hours of live sports programming are scheduled to be part of the Sportsnet ONE lineup, including Toronto Blue Jays baseball, Toronto Raptors basketball and English Premier League soccer. And yes, plenty of the puck stuff, of course.
"There’s no shortage of content out there," said Beeforth. "The key property for us anywhere in Canada is hockey. But teams don’t play hockey every night of the week and they don’t play hockey for a few months in the summer. And there are other events in both winter and summer that we think sports fans want to watch as well.
"Up until Sportsnet ONE came along, we were boxed in. If we’re showing a Toronto Raptors game on Sportsnet East, it’s difficult for us to show the Senators if we only have the one channel. And we want to show as many Senators games as possible, but we also want to be able to show baseball or NFL or NBA (games). So to do it, we needed more shelf space, which basically means this new channel."
Now the big chore is finding a home for Sportsnet ONE on the channel lineups of cable and satellite carriers across the country. While no deals have been signed yet, it's no doubt a given that Rogers — which owns Sportsnet ONE — is definitely on board.
"We’re launching on Aug. 14, but you’ll notice we’ve given ourselves lots of time before the hockey season starts," said Beeforth. "Will we have all our distribution deals done when we launch? I think that would be optimistic, but certainly we plan to have them done well before hockey season."
Also worth noting is that while Sportsnet ONE is a national service, Senators games televised on the channel will be subject to the same regional territorial broadcast restrictions as those aired on Sportsnet East (see this FAQ
compiled by Sportsnet about its new channel for more details).