(Updated) Bell Media to launch three new TSN channels for fall

TSN isn't giving up its Canada’s Sports Leader title without a fight

TSN isn’t giving up its title as “Canada’s Sports Leader” without a fight.

Stewart Johnston, president, TSN

The Bell Media-owned sports network, which turns 30 this year, suffered a body blow late in 2013 when Rogers Media snatched the national rights to all NHL hockey for the next 12 years away from CBC and TSN.

Rather than retreat, TSN is going on the attack with plans to launch three new channels – TSN 3, TSN 4 and TSN 5 – this fall.

The deal reflects media company interest in sports programming as invaluable advertising inventory in a PVR era. Sports content is being positioned as king and Bell Media believes its has more than enough sports content to populate five channels up from the existing two: TSN and TSN 2.

“We have been building a significant suitcase full of premium content over the last three years,” said Stewart Johnston, president of TSN. But often TSN is unable to show all of that content, a problem solved by the new channels. “It reliefs conflict pressure,” he said.

While it lost out on national NHL hockey rights (though it does have some games and regional rights), TSN has rights to the National Football League, Major League Baseball (Sunday, Monday and Wednesday nights), National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer as well as NASCAR, international hockey, tennis, FIFA soccer (starting in 2015), and more.

On any given weekend, it’s not unusual for TSN to “have three, four, five games crashing into each other,” said Johnston. “And in the world of sports there is no such thing as tape delay.”

TSN is also promising “a slate of expanded programming,” including “more live game coverage” of big events like the World Hockey Championships and World Juniors and the Grey Cup and the ability to cover games or matches simultaneously—multiple court feeds from Grand Slam tennis tournaments for example.

“We own every single hour of all four Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open),” he said. But often TSN would face the difficult decision of showing Canadian star Milos Raonic or another international star like Rafael Nadal. “Now we can show both,” said Johnston.

TSN also touts the ability to schedule its sports news and highlights show Sportscentre to multiple time zones and says it’ll feature more ESPN content including its “vast package of college sports.”

Sportscentre typically broadcasts at 6 p.m EST, but that means 3 p.m. on the West Coast. “We have never had a suppertime news show for B.C.,” he said. “Now we can program at 6 p.m. You are actually targeting the audience you intended.”

Expanded programming opportunities mean capital investment to fill the pipeline, Johnston said. TSN will be building three new master controls and updating its radio stations with TV production facilities enabling more TV broadcasts of its sports talk radio programming, a growing trend in recent years with both TSN and Sportsnet radio simulcasting popular radio shows on TV.

TSN’s did not announce any carriage deals today, but Johnston said they have met with all of the major providers and had a “very positive reaction” from each of them. “Our intention is to wrap up every deal over the course of the summer.”

TSN’s fall preview presentation for media buyers is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Toronto.

This story was updated at 2:04 p.m. on May 6, 2014

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