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Sportsnet scores with Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
It’s Ottawa Senators hockey and lots more of it.

And in the eyes of Rogers Sportsnet, that’s a very, very good thing.

The regional sports network will be the home of 40 Sens telecasts in the 2008-09 season and for the foreseeable future, thanks to a new multi-year broadcast deal announced last week. In previous years, those games had been evenly split between Sportsnet and A-Channel, with most of the latter’s telecasts also shown via simulcast to Sportsnet East viewers in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Now it’s a one-stop shop for Senators fans and for Sportsnet, which has carried the team’s games on a regional basis since the network launched back in October 1998.

Some early 10th anniversary present this new agreement has turned out to be, one might suggest.

“In Canada, there’s hockey and there are other sports,” said Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth. “If you’re running a sports channel and you can show NHL hockey and double the amount of games you show, that’s a real high point for you.

“Hockey is the lifeblood of Canadian sport. To take the relationship we had with (the Senators), from Roy (Mlakar, the team’s president and CEO) on down and virtually double the size of the partnership … That’s pretty significant, no doubt.”

Sportsnet also gets to take advantage of a new and wider Senators broadcast territory, which now extends west to Peterborough and also includes Northern Ontario.

“It’ll be a bonus, for sure,” said Beeforth. “But the credit for this (improvement) should go to Roy and his folks. They’ve been working on this for a long time. He wants to make sure that Senators fans, other than those in the former (broadcast) territory, get the chance to see their team.

“We’re very happy we get to show our games in more of Canada. But we weren’t on the front lines of this, making it happen. We knew what was going on, though, and it made things even better for us.”

Mlakar agreed, saying “Sportsnet has great penetration with our expanded carriage in Peterborough and Northern Ontario. Plus having our games carried in Western Quebec through Atlantic Canada certainly expands our brand and continues to develop more Sens fans.”

Viewers can also look forward to more high-definition broadcasts of Senators games in years to come. Sportsnet showed several of its games in that crystal-clear format last season and Beeforth said that number will continue to grow moving forward, as distribution systems boost their capacity to handle HD programming. The demand for high-definition mobile units – the pricey production trucks that make it all happen – also outstrips availability at the moment.

“Eventually, we’ll do all the games in HD,” said Beeforth. “Not in the coming year, but in a season down the road somewhere.”

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