Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets sign 10-year TV deal with TSN

All regular-season games available on national or regional basis

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Winnipeg Jet fans shut out landing tickets to watch their heroes in action this season -- and perhaps body-checked in their attempt to sweet talk somebody who did score seats -- now officially have an alternative:

They can hunker down on the couch to watch Ladd, Byfuglien, Enstrom, Kane & Co. on the tube or listen to the description of every goal, scrap and save on the radio.

The Jets and Bell Media announced Wednesday a 10-year agreement that awards the regional television rights to The Sports Network and the radio rights to Sports Radio 1290. The deal, lauded as "ground-breaking" and "revolutionary" by True North president and CEO Jim Ludlow and TSN president Stewart Johnston, means that 88 Jets games including six pre-season games will be available on national or regional telecasts.

TSN will telecast more than 60 regional regular season and exhibition games to fans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Northwestern Ontario via a new part-time specialty channel, TSN Jets. The first game featured on TSN/1290 will be the Sept. 20 pre-season contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"The NHL is something special in Canada, regardless of where you are," said Johnston. "We have historic franchises in Canada. But when do you get to experience and be a part of something like this, something that you see build for 15 years? We heard about the buzz, but you see it when you get here. You see merchandise shops with people teeming in and out. You see it on the front page of every newspaper at every newsstand and hear it on the radio. Your feel how this city has embraced this.

"It's all anyone wants to talk about and we're thrilled to be apart of it."

Although the financial details of the agreement were not available, the deal is worth millions to the Jets and the partnership with TSN gives them a significant vehicle to further brand their product.

"In the new NHL a broadcast agreement like this that provides you the opportunity to have all your games covered, home and away, into your regional marketplace as a complement to the national deals is very significant," said Ludlow. "It's a major turning point for us moving forward in terms of our ability to expose the hockey club. Clearly it's a big revenue line for member clubs in the new National Hockey League today from where you might have been five, six or seven years ago. And certainly in the last incarnation of the team here regional rights fees were not like they are today. The world's changed dramatically."

The radio agreement with 1290 also means hockey has found a new home on the radio dial after years on CJOB, which handled the last seasons of the Jets and all 15 campaigns of the Manitoba Moose. Manitoba product Dennis Beyak will call all 82 games, either on TV or radio with Brian Munz -- the voice of the Moose for the past five seasons -- calling 56 games on radio when Beyak is on the tube. The colour analysts on the TSN Jets telecasts will be Brian Engblom and Mike Johnson while Shane Hnidy will handle the colour on the radio.

TSN has opened a permanent Winnipeg bureau and brought home Sara Orlesky to handle those chores. The telecasts and broadcasts will feature pre- and post-game shows, GM and coaches shows.

"With respect to the community has brought forward to the Jets, it's been followed by the leading brands in the country," said Ludlow. "TSN is THE leading brand in the country and our ability to associate with them in Year 1 is phenomenal. This is a sustainable, long-term model for us in terms of brand, advertising, market penetration, exposure of the club... all those things come together to make this very important for teams like us."

ed.tait@frepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2011 0

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