The Ottawa Senators and Bell Media announced a new agreement this morning that will see regional television and local radio coverage of the team air on Bell-owned stations for the next 12 seasons. This is the same duration as Sportsnet’s new national broadcast agreement with the NHL. The deal includes at least 52 games on TSN and at least 40 games on RDS within the Senators regional territory, which includes eastern Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. TSN Radio 1200 retains exclusive radio rights to all games. Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
This agreement brings up several questions to Senators fans in the east. Will Bell charge extra for a TSN-Sens channel, as they do for local Winnipeg Jets games. The local Jets channel costs $10 a month (that comes out to about $1 per game). Or will Bell package the games along with TSN, as they do with regional Canadiens broadcasts, making them more accessible. Or will Bell combine the Canadiens and Senators packages, they share the same regional territory, into one regional NHL hockey package? The Jets games cost money because Bell had a pay a lot more for those rights than they did for the Canadiens rights.
Bell likely paid a significant amount for this Senators contract, considering the NHL/Rogers agreement sparked a bidding war between Bell and Rogers. So, I’d guess they will have to monetize these games in some fashion. How much money can they get considering the Senators quickly lose popularity once you cross the Ottawa River? This isn’t like Manitoba where an entire province loves the local team. The Senators have to compete with the Habs in Quebec, the Leafs in Ontario and both in the Maritimes. Indeed, even in Ottawa many fans still have ties to Montreal or Toronto.
The other looming question is what will come of longtime Senators voice Dean Brown? He has called almost every regional Senators game since Sportsnet launched in 1998. There are two possibilities for Brown. He is a Sportsnet employee and he does freelance work for the CBC. In my opinion he is a the best play-by-play announcer Sportsnet has in their ranks and deserves a spot on their new national broadcasts. Him and former partner Garry Galley would make an excellent eastern-based pairing for Rogers. While it is possible TSN could hire him to call Senators games regionally again, I think it is unlikely. Dennis Beyak will likely continue to call Jets regional games. That leaves Chris Cuthbert and Gord Miller to do the Leafs and Senators.