New TVA Sports chan­nel takes a shot at RDS

rookie aims to show Cana­di­ens games

Montreal Gazette - - Business - JA­SON MAGdEr THE GAZETTE

Right out of the start­ing gate, the new French-lan­guage sports net­work served no­tice it will take on RDS.

“We would like to broad­cast Mon­treal Cana­di­ens games,” said Pierre Dion, pres­i­dent and CEO of TVA Group Inc. Tues­day af­ter an­nounc­ing the launch of TVA Sports, a na­tional French-lan­guage spe­cialty chan­nel for sports.

Dion said his net­work will of­fer “real competition” for RDS, the other French-lan­guage sports net­work in the coun­try. RDS is part of the CTV net­work that was pur­chased this year by Bell Canada En­ter­prises Inc. RDS broad­casts all Cana­di­ens games and sev­eral games of the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors.

TVA Sports will launch in Septem­ber and of­fer a range of sports. It will broad­cast 25 Sen­a­tors games next sea­son andgames­fromtheEuro­pean soc­cer Cham­pi­ons League. The net­work also signed an ex­clu­siv­ity agree­ment with Ultimate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship and the Toronto Blue Jays. It will broad­cast two Blue Jays games per week, for a to­tal of 60 games.

The chan­nel will be of­fered on Vidéotron, which shares par­ent com­pany Que­becor Me­dia Inc., with TVA and will be avail­able for a monthly sub­scrip­tion. Dion said he hopes to have the chan­nel dis­trib­uted with net­works across the coun­try, since the chan­nel’s fo­cus will be na­tional and in­ter­na­tional.

How­ever, that may not be a sure thing, since Bell Canada has re­fused to carry sev­eral new chan­nels that TVA has launched in re­cent months.

Bell stopped car­ry­ing Sun News, an all-news chan­nel launched by TVA just two weeks af­ter it launched in April af­ter a dis­pute over fees. It also doesn’t carry Mlle or Yoopa, two French-lan­guage chan­nels that fo­cus on women and youth that also launched this spring.

“We cer­tainly hope Bell will carry it to their sub­scribers,” Dion said.

“It’s dif­fi­cult for us to un­der­stand why they don’t carry (the other chan­nels).”

Que­becor has been try­ing for sev­eral years to ac­quire sportscon­tent­to­com­pete­with Bell Me­dia.

Two years ago, the firm failed in its pitch to pur­chase a stake of the Cana­di­ens, which even­tu­ally went to Bell.

Since then, Que­becor se­cured the nam­ing rights for a fu­ture arena in Que­bec City. There has also been spec­u­la­tion the com­pany would be a part owner of a new team if the NHL re­turned to the city.

“The ob­jec­tive one day is to be broad­cast­ing (Que­bec) Nordiques, Cana­di­ens and Sen­a­tors games,” Dion said.

Start­ing TVA Sports now is “a sort of a des­per­a­tion shot” be­cause the sta­tion has no ma­jor sport­ing hot-ticket broad­cast rights like the Cana­di­ens or the Alou­ettes foot­ball squad, said Pierre Be­langer, a broad­cast­ing spe- cial­ist at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa. He noted that the Sen­a­tors did not make the play­offs and ar­gued base­ball is dead to a Que­bec au­di­ence.

“In my mind, what Que­becor Me­dia is do­ing is prob­a­bly just revving up the broad­cast­ing ma­chine in the like­li­hood that there will be an (NHL team in Que­bec City) within the next two to three years,” Be­langer said. “(For now), they’re fac­ing a pretty up­hill battle.”

TVA

TVA Sports will launch in Septem­ber and of­fer a range of sports. It will broad­cast 25 Sen­a­tors games next sea­son and games from the Euro­pean Soc­cer cham­pi­ons League. The net­work also signed an ex­clu­siv­ity agree­ment with ultimate Fight­ing cham­pi­onship...

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