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Jets games on TV for free

And there's no catch -- no extra fees for viewers with TSN

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Winnipeg Jets fans have something to cheer about already, long before the NHL season has even started.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Jets fans have something to cheer about already, long before the NHL season has even started. Photo Store

Once the Winnipeg Jets and TSN sent out their press releases on Monday, Jets fans couldn't be blamed for asking, "What's the catch?"

The good news would seem to be there is none.

Winnipeg Jets regional television broadcasts for the 2014-15 NHL season will no longer require a subscription to the TSN Jets channel to be viewed. The TSN Jets channel is being discontinued.

Those games (60 regular season and five pre-season) are going to be available on the new TSN3 channel, which will be included for anyone who subscribes to TSN.

TSN will expand to five national channels next Monday, up from the current two.

'There's going to be a greater ease with which Jets fans can watch their team on television playing every game'

It will bring Winnipeg and region viewers in line with the majority of Canadian-team markets. Only the Jets' and Montreal Canadiens' games required an extra fee for regional-network broadcasts last season on some cable and service providers.

"The big thing for us will be the marked increase in the exposure of the team across the entire region," said Jets senior director, corporate communications, Scott Brown. "The benefit will be not only to us but to our corporate partners with increased exposure.

"And now there's going to be a greater ease with which Jets fans can watch their team on television playing every game."

The TSN Jets channel's subscription number for the first three seasons since the 2011 relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers has been described as "moderate." That's believed to be something not too far below 100,000.

When TSN3 becomes the main national feed for the region that includes Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and parts of northwestern Ontario including Kenora, Dryden, and Thunder Bay, that number goes up by many multiples, almost surely a whole lot closer to a million viewers.

The way the new landscape was explained on Monday was if you have TSN as part of your regular digital cable package, TSN3 will be your main feed in this area.

If you are only an analog customer (without a set-top digital box), then your one TSN feed will be TSN3, which will feature the Jets' regional games at no extra charge.

The other details are less certain but will differ by service provider.

MTS TV, for instance, also announced Monday TSN's new lineup of five national feeds will be available and TSN3 will be part of the basic service channel group.

MTS hasn't yet said if all five TSN feeds will be part of basic service or if the other four (other than TSN3) will require an extra package purchase.

Shaw Cable confirmed Monday TSN3 will be the base programming feed for the region's customers and won't require any subscription for Jets' regional broadcasts.

"A free preview of the new TSN suite of channels will be made available to Shaw Cable and Shaw Direct customers at launch on Aug. 25, with additional information, including pricing and package availability made available on shaw.ca and shawdirect.ca at that time," said Chethan Lakshman, vice-president of external affairs for Shaw Communications in an email.

The bottom line for Jets fans is that timing worked in their favour this time.

The TSN Jets subscription fee is gone because the games will now be aired as part of any regular TSN service.

Given the network's loss of the NHL's national broadcast contract for Canada, it is eager to make the most of its remaining regional NHL deals. And so regional-package games involving the Jets, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs -- those not part of any new Sportsnet national presentations -- will be featured and marketed heavily to fans in those respective areas.

In this case, your eyeballs are more valuable to TSN than they once were.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2014 C2

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