Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cable providers hope to score TSN Jets

MTS, Shaw negotiating contracts

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Hockey fans had to wait 15 years for the NHL to come back to Winnipeg but they'll have to hang on a little longer before they find out how many Jets games they'll be able to see on television.

With the team's rookie camp about to start and the first exhibition game less than two weeks away, the two biggest television-service providers in the province are working hard to include TSN Jets on their customers' TV menus.

Both MTS and Shaw Communications are in talks with Bell Media to be able to offer more than 50 of the team's games on the all-Jets specialty channel.

Hockey fans with Bell satellite TV service, however, already have their remote controls at the ready.

"If you're a subscriber (with Bell), you would automatically get TSN Jets. It's part of your basic package," said Greg McIsaac, director of communications with TSN.

Peter Bissonnette, Calgary-based president of Shaw, said the initial offer it received from Bell Media to carry TSN Jets was too rich. He remains hopeful something can be worked out before the season starts next month.

"Their first proposal was very expensive from our point of view but there's more than one way to skin a cat," he said. "We'd love to carry those games. We understand clearly how desirous people in Manitoba would be to see those games. It's a matter of us doing something that makes sense for everybody."

Bissonnette said it's far too early to discuss a possible price for the Jets specialty channel -- which would be in addition to customers' basic cable packages -- but when it used to offer pay-per-view services for Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers games a few years ago, an entire season cost $70.

"It would be a win-win for everybody at $100 (for the season)," he said.

While nothing has been finalized with MTS, there is plenty of speculation in the business community that after having spent millions of dollars to upgrade its sponsorship of the MTS Centre, showing Jets games on MTS TV is a no-brainer. Whether it's part of the basic cable package or an extra channel remains to be seen, said Selena Hinds, director of corporate communications for MTS Allstream.

"We're working hard to ensure the best price and packaging for our customers with Bell Media for the TSN Jets channel. We don't have a deal yet," she said.

"We absolutely want to be able to give our customers as much Jets coverage as we can. We're thrilled the team is coming back to Manitoba. It's incredibly exciting for all of Winnipeg and Manitoba."

Hinds said there's no question the return of the NHL to Winnipeg is the sports story of the year not only here but perhaps across the country.

"Everywhere our executives go, people are talking about it. It's crazy. Everything Jets is hitting the news," she said.

Stewart Johnston, president of TSN, said the network has been "overwhelmed" by the positive reaction from fans towards the TSN Jets channel.

"We have presented a package to television-service providers in the region that represents the economic realities of broadcasting pro sports in a smaller market but we are working as hard as possible to ensure the widest possible distribution," he said.

CBC's Hockey Night in Canada will show 22 Jets games this season while TSN will air another five on its main network.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2011 A2


Updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 12:17 PM CDT: updates with clarification that nothing has been finalized yet

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