True North has been pretty successful at keeping their powder dry, but the word that leaked nearly a month ago was made official this afternoon. TSN and Sports Radio 1290 will broadcast the club’s games for the next ten seasons, and the crews for radio and TV were introduced as well.
Among the points of interest covered this afternoon, the team’s territory was established, with Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario as far east as Thunder Bay acting as the outer markers. The population of the TV market as drawn is over 2.5M, which is a far cry from the dark ages of the 80’s and 90’s when local TV rights gave the team’s first iteration a potential market of maybe 750K to 1M people at best. That generous drawing of the local market had to have been a significant bonus for the club when it began the process of selling the rights. I’d be curious to know how much the deal is for, and if TSN is presuming that the fans in the outer reaches of the market will be a committed audience in the long term.
I’d also be interested to know if the Flames and Oilers have received compensation for allowing the upstarts to transmit games to the Gap, given that the two Alberta clubs shared that province along with Manitoba as their territory until this year. There have been rumours that Saskatchewan would be a open zone for the three prairie clubs, and if so, having all three team’s games available sans Centre Ice would represent a rare time when I’ve ever been remotely envious of anyone living there. The Leafs also had rights in Northwestern Ontario, so the same issues would have been in place there.
A few other notes included the info that all games would be in HD, and that Bell was currently the only official outlet for games, but that the other primary carriers in the neighbourhood (Shaw, MTS, Sasktel, Access and others) were in negotiations with TSN to ensure a wide reach. Shaw is the main cable player in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, so I suspect they’ll feel compelled to get a deal done with TSN in short order, and to be honest if any of the major carriers in the region couldn’t get things worked out, I’d be flabbergasted.
As for the broadcast teams themselves, there weren’t any major surprises, as former Leafs radio broadcaster and Winnipegosis native Dennis Beyak was named as the club’s TV voice. He’ll be joined by Brian Engblom and Mike Johnson on the colour side, while the primary radio voices will be former Moose PBP’er Brian Munz and Shane Hnidy. Hnidy likely would have preferred playing in Winnipeg rather than heading to the booth, but from the tone of his remarks this afternoon, I suspect he’s reconciled himself to being finished as a player, at least on the pro level.
Today’s announcement was the last major piece of business-related news for the club, give or take a jersey unveiling, prior to the start of traning camp. As I mentioned, my primary curiousity regards the value of the deal to the club. True North has been incredibly successful in extracting dollars from the locals for tickets and merchandise, but a solid TV deal will allow the team to have a certain level of protection from revenue drops due to external factors, and add one more piece that would help to ensure the club’s viability once the initial burst of excitement subsides.