The Sports Network

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The Sports Network
TSN Logo.svg
TSN logo
Launched September 1, 1984
Owned by Bell Media (80%) and ESPN Inc. (20%)
(CTV Specialty Television Inc.)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
Slogan Canada's Sports Leader
Country Canada
Broadcast area National, with two part-time secondary regional feeds
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario
Sister channel(s) TSN2, RDS, RDS2, RDS Info
Bell TV 400 (SD), 1400 (HD)
Shaw Direct 400 (SD), 280 (HD)
Available on most Canadian cable systems Check local listings, channels may vary
FibreOP 100 (SD), 470 (HD)
Bell Fibe TV 400 (SD), 1400 (HD)
MTS 22 (SD), 475 (HD)
Optik TV 110 (SD), 660 (HD)
SaskTel 110 (SD), 410 (HD)

The Sports Network (TSN) is a Canadian English language Category C specialty channel that is owned by CTV Specialty Television, a joint venture of Bell Media (80%) and ESPN Inc. (20%). It is Canada's oldest and highest-rated English language sports television channel. TSN premiered in 1984, as part of the first group of Canadian specialty cable channels.[1]

CTV Specialty holds a single licence from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which encompasses TSN, its secondary channel TSN2, two part-time regional feeds (Canadiens on TSN and Jets on TSN), and their respective high-definition simulcast channels, some of which (depending on service provider) may only be available at an additional charge. Bell Media also operates TSN-branded properties, including the five TSN Radio stations, as well as the similarly-branded French-language channel Réseau des sports (RDS).


TSN's original logo, used from launch until 2001.

Licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on April 2, 1984 as Action Canada Sports Network,[2] the channel was launched by the Labatt Brewing Company on September 1 of the same year as The Sports Network, or TSN. TSN was formed partly to promote Labatt's flagship products, but also to act as a vehicle for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team (which was also owned by Labatt at the time). In 1989, TSN also launched a sister French language service, Réseau des sports (RDS).

Due to CRTC regulations on the foreign ownership of broadcasters, Labatt was forced to sell TSN and RDS upon its acquisition by Interbrew in 1995. Labatt's broadcasting assets were sold to a privately held consortium named NetStar Communications, the investors of which included a number of Canadian firms as well as ESPN Inc., which held an interest of about 30%. The Sports Network launched its website on October 1, 1995.[3]

Acquisition by CTV, expansion[edit]

In 2000, after ESPN blocked two attempts by the Canadian partners to sell NetStar to Canwest, CTV Inc. acquired the Canadian partners' shares thanks in part to ESPN's disapproval of Canwest. CTV Inc. was acquired by Bell Canada and The Woodbridge Company (owners of The Globe and Mail newspaper) as part of the joint venture Bell Globemedia in 2001. As a result of its purchase of TSN, CTV would be forced to sell its regional sports network CTV Sportsnet, eventually selling it to Rogers Media, who already owned a minority share in the network. Following the acquisition, TSN would move its operations to CTV's Agincourt complex. However, Sportsnet would not move from Agincourt until 2008 (when it moved to the Rogers Building in Downtown Toronto), which led to the now-competing networks sharing the same building as their headquarters. This oddity would become an inside joke between personalities on both networks, who commonly referred to jumping between the two networks as "crossing the parking lot."[4]

Plans were made to relaunch TSN as ESPN Canada in 2001. However, due to TSN's name recognition, these plans were shelved. Instead, TSN began to incorporate elements of ESPN's branding into its own throughout the year; including a new logo based on ESPN's, the use of ESPN's BottomLine ticker, and the renaming of its flagship sports news program SportsDesk to SportsCentre – a Canadian version (in both format and spelling) of SportsCenter. TSN also launched a number of digital specialty channels in 2001; including a local version of ESPN Classic, and the NHL Network – a network devoted to ice hockey and the National Hockey League. TSN only holds minority interest in NHL Network however, it is also owned in part by Insight Sports and a consortium of the NHL and several of its Canadian franchises.

Beginning in 2006, the CRTC officially allowed TSN to operate national secondary digital feeds with limited amounts of alternative programming.[5] Following this development, TSN began to use such a feed to broadcast additional programming that could not be aired on TSN due to scheduling conflicts or other events. On August 29, 2008, the feed evolved into a new 24-hour channel, similar to ESPN2, known as TSN2.[6]

Acquisition by Bell, TSN Radio[edit]

On September 10, 2010, Bell Canada announced plans to re-acquire 100% of CTVglobemedia's broadcasting arm, including its majority control of TSN. Under the deal, Woodbridge Company Limited, Torstar, and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan would together receive $1.3 billion in either cash or equity in BCE, while BCE would also assume $1.7 billion in debt (BCE's existing equity interest is $200 million, for a total transaction value of $3.2 billion). Woodbridge has since simultaneously regained majority control of The Globe and Mail, with Bell retaining a 15% interest in December 2010. The deal closed on April 1, 2011, after the CRTC approved the sale on March 7, 2011 – the new company became known as Bell Media.[7]

After a longstanding speculation about TSN's interest in launching its own TSN-branded radio network, TSN entered radio broadcasting with the launch of the first TSN Radio station, a relaunch of AM station CHUM in Toronto on April 13, 2011.[8] Bell Media's Bell Media Radio division already operated several sports radio stations elsewhere in Canada (most of which were branded as The Team, a name introduced by previous owner CHUM Limited in its own failed attempt at establishing a national sports radio network), it was reported that Bell could theoretically relaunch these other stations as a part of TSN Radio as well.[9]

Also in 2011, TSN acquired broadcast rights to the returning Winnipeg Jets. TSN would establish another part-time feed, TSN Jets, to broadcast the games. Additionally, co-owned CFRW would also gain radio rights to the new Jets.[10] CFRW, along with Montreal station CKGM, also migrated to the TSN Radio brand on October 5, 2011.[11] Additionally, Bell would also launch TSN Mobile TV, streaming versions of TSN and TSN2 offered through Bell Mobility's Mobile TV services.[12]

On December 9, 2011, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan announced that it would sell its majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to two major telecommunications companies; Bell Canada (TSN's main parent company) and Rogers Communications (owners of the competing Sportsnet chain of sports channels) with a 37.5% share each (Larry Tanenbaum will increase his ownership to a quarter of the company as well), in a deal expected to be valued at around $1.32 billion in total.[13] The deal was completed in summer 2012, following the approval of Canada's Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (with regards to MLSE's television channels), as well as the leagues for each of MLSE's main sports franchises. The deal is expected to have a major impact on future broadcast rights for MLSE's teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, as their ownership of the teams will offer enhanced coverage for the team through new platforms such as mobile television.[12]

Following the announcement however, concerns were again raised by critics, speculating that Bell Media may attempt to acquire full rights to the NHL once CBC's current contract with the league expires in the 2013–14 season – using their potential ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the NHL's highest valued franchise, as an impetus for such a coup. Concerns were also raised that such an arrangement could prevent wireless service providers other than Bell and Rogers from accessing its content. However, the CRTC ruled in favour of Telus in a decision requiring Bell and other media companies to allow other competing wireless providers access to its content, and not exclusively tie it to their own service (as they had attempted to do with TSN Mobile TV).[12]


As is permitted for all Category C sports services, the TSN licence encompasses the original standard-definition channel as well as the following additional channels. However, unlike premium services like The Movie Network, subscribers to the original channel are not automatically entitled to receive these additional channels, and in many cases they are (or previously were) only available by paying a separate charge to a service provider. For example, until 2013, Rogers Cable customers were required to subscribe to the HD Specialty Pack add-on in order to receive TSN HD (whereas most other HD simulcast channels were provided at no additional charge); those customers must still pay for a higher-tier package to receive both TSN and TSN2.

TSN HD logo
  • TSN HD is a high definition simulcast of TSN that launched on August 15, 2003. TSN HD airs widescreen and high-definition feeds of sporting events when available. On September 25, 2006, SportsCentre began broadcasting in HD, airing high definition highlights of sporting events when possible, adding even more high definition content to the channel.
  • TSN2 is a multiplex channel in operation since 2008 (succeeding an earlier part-time "alternate feed" in operation for various purposes since 1997). While mainly serving as an overflow channel for TSN's various sports rights, it is the primary channel for TSN's Toronto Raptors (and other NBA) regular-season coverage. It also has an HD simulcast channel, TSN2 HD.
  • Canadiens on TSN (or TSN Habs) is a part-time feed which has carried English-language regional broadcasts of Montreal Canadiens games, in the eastern Canadian territory shared by Montreal and the Ottawa Senators, since October 2010. It is provided at no additional charge to customers who subscribe to TSN through Bell Satellite TV, Bell Fibe TV, Bell Aliant FibreOP, and Shaw Direct.[14][15]
  • Jets on TSN (or TSN Jets) is an additional part-time feed which carries regional broadcasts of Winnipeg Jets games, restricted to the Jets' NHL home territory of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and parts of northwestern Ontario. It is currently available as an add-on option (approximately $10/month for the duration of the NHL season) through Shaw Cable, Shaw Direct, Bell Satellite TV, Access Communications, and MTS TV.[10][16]

The other sports channels owned or managed by Bell Media, including ESPN Classic, NHL Network, and the French-language Réseau des sports and related channels, operate under separate licences.


Studio programming[edit]

TSN's flagship news program is SportsCentre, a sports news program airing several times throughout the day. Formerly known as Sportsdesk, it was revamped to closer resemble ESPN's own SportsCenter (including the use of its theme music, logo, and opening) in the Fall of 2001 as part of a corporate restructuring, closer aligning itself with new minority owner ESPN. In 2006, a new studio was built in order to prepare the show for its transition to high definition – becoming the first daily news program in Canada to be produced in HD beginning on September 25, 2006. Other original programs on TSN include the daily hockey news program That's Hockey, the talk show Off the Record with Michael Landsberg, the automotive newsmagazine Motoring, and TSN The Reporters.

Through its minority ownership of TSN, the network also airs some of ESPN's original programming as well, including Pardon the Interruption, Sunday NFL Countdown, and other ESPN programs and documentaries including the 30 for 30 series, though not always simultaneously with their U.S. broadcasts.

Significant domestic broadcast rights[edit]


TSN is a major broadcaster of ice hockey in Canada. It holds the national cable rights to broadcast the NHL in Canada, including regular season games on weeknights, and exclusivity on Wednesday nights. Its current contract expires at the end of the 2013–14 NHL season and is not being renewed, with Rogers Communications (owners of Sportsnet) securing a twelve-year contract for sole national rights beginning with the following season.[17][18][19]

Beginning with the 2009 contract, TSN has the third, fifth and seventh choices of series during first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (previously, the CBC automatically had rights to any series involving a Canadian team)[20] CTV also acquired the rights to The Hockey Theme after the CBC decided not to renew its rights to the theme song in June 2008 amid a legal dispute with its composer, Dolores Claman. A reorchestrated version of the tune, which has been the theme song of Hockey Night in Canada for 40 years, has been used for hockey broadcasts on TSN and RDS since fall 2008.[21] TSN also frequently carries games broadcast by NBC and NBC Sports Network, though more so on TSN2.

In addition to its national rights, TSN holds regional, English-language rights to the Montreal Canadiens (through 2013–14), Ottawa Senators (beginning in 2014-15), and the Winnipeg Jets (through 2020–21), which are independent of the national rights deals. The games are aired exclusively on part-time feeds carried within the home markets of the teams themsemves. It also holds regional rights to ten Toronto Maple Leafs games per season (through 2014–15) and 26 games per season thereafter (indefinite due to Bell's co-ownership of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment).[22][23][24] The "regional" Leafs telecasts are currently broadcast nationally with the consent of the other Canadian teams in conjunction with TSN's national NHL rights deal;[25] it is not clear if this will continue once Sportsnet takes over as rightsholder.

In 2006, CTVglobemedia attempted to acquire exclusive television rights to the NHL in Canada in a $1.4 billion bid (over ten years), which would have covered TSN, CTV, and its French network RDS.[26] However in March 2007, it was revealed that the NHL instead decided to maintain its relationship with CBC (which would allow it to maintain Hockey Night in Canada), but allowed TSN to expand to include more coverage of Canadian teams.[27]

TSN also has a broadcasting contract with Hockey Canada, giving it the rights to broadcast the IIHF World Junior Championships, Men's and Women's World Hockey Championship, the IIHF World U18 Championship, Allan Cup, Royal Bank Cup, Spengler Cup, Telus Cup and Esso Cup.


As of the 2008 season, TSN is the exclusive broadcaster of the Canadian Football League, airing all of the league's games, including the season-ending Grey Cup,[28] The channel also previously held rights to the Vanier Cup, the country's championship university football game.[29] It has since moved to Sportsnet, who acquired exclusive rights to CIS tournaments in May 2013.[30]

TSN also broadcasts Toronto Raptors games produced by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which included 47 games across TSN and TSN2 in the 2010–11 season.[31]

In February 2011, TSN announced that it had began a new broadcasting relationship with Major League Soccer, airing 24 matches during the 2011 season that involved the league's Canadian clubs, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Its slate expanded to 30 games in 2012 with the debut of the Montreal Impact in the league. In addition the network, along with TSN2, broadcasts a package of other regular season games, the MLS All-Star Game, MLS Cup Playoffs and the MLS Cup.[32] In January 2014, TSN announced that it would take over broadcast rights to Whitecaps games beginning in the 2014 Major League Soccer season, under a separate deal.[33]

On October 27, 2011, Bell Media and TSN announced that they had secured broadcast rights for FIFA soccer tournaments from 2015 to 2022. The rights include the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup hosted by Canada.[34]

TSN has hosted much of Canada's supplementary Olympic coverage, being the first pay television channel in the world to ever broadcast the Olympics with the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and having been part of the CBC's coverage from 1998 to 2008. In 2010, TSN began to participate in CTV and Rogers' joint broadcast rights to the Olympic Games for 2010 and 2012. TSN will continue to be a part of CBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, but also in conjunction with Sportsnet (who participated in the CTV/Rogers coverage).[35]

TSN also broadcasts Canada's major curling tournaments; it holds exclusive rights to the Canadian Curling Association's Season of Champions series through 2020 (which include Canada's men's and women's national championships, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Horton's Brier, along with the World Curling Championships).[36] It also organizes The Dominion All-Star Curling Skins Game, an annual skins curling tournament.

TSN has also historically been a broadcaster for Major League Baseball in Canada, as its former parent company, Labatt, was also the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, TSN's coverage of the Blue Jays has decreased in recent years, as Sportsnet, which is owned by the Blue Jays' current parent company, Rogers Communications, currently holds the team's broadcast rights, along with national rights to MLB in Canada. Rogers continued to sub-licence a yearly package of games to TSN for several seasons afterward until 2010, when TSN began to sub-license ESPN's national MLB broadcasts instead (thus giving Sportsnet exclusive rights to all Blue Jays games), beginning with Sunday Night Baseball, and expanding to Monday Night Baseball and Wednesday Night Baseball beginning in the 2014 MLB season.[37]

In May 2011, Bell Media and Skate Canada announced a 10-year rights agreement making CTV, TSN and RDS the official broadcasters of Skate Canada. As part of the agreement, CTV, TSN and RDS acquire exclusive multimedia rights to all of Skate Canada’s premiere domestic events including Skate Canada International and the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. In 2011, TSN carried the Rugby World Cup, also with live and tape delayed coverage.

Significant international broadcast rights[edit]

Along with its coverage of Canadian events, TSN also airs coverage of international sporting events (primarily American), often simulcast from other broadcasters. TSN also currently airs Formula One and NASCAR racing events. TSN2 carries a weekly early NFL game (to compliment sister terrestrial network CTV's other regional games), NBC Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football. TSN also carries some of ESPN's NFL analysis and highlight programs, including NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown. In December 2013, Bell Media and the NFL agreed on a multi-year extention of their broadcast partnership which will see more NFL games on TSN, including the Sunday 1pm and 4pm et regular season games.[38] TSN also currently serves as the main Canadian outlet for TNT's NBA coverage, along with exclusive Canadian rights to the NBA Finals.

TSN is the exclusive rights holder in Canada for all four Tennis Grand Slams (accordingly, as of 2014, minority owner ESPN is also the exclusive rights holder for all four). In 2012, the channel signed multi-year extensions for the Australian Open,[39] French Open[40] and Wimbledon.[41] On May 16, 2013, TSN signed a multi-year extension for the US Open.[42]

TSN is also the rights holder for all four of golf's major championships – The Masters (first two rounds), US Open, British Open and PGA Championship. In addition, it carries the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and simulcasts the RBC Canadian Open.[43]

On February 1, 2011, TSN announced that they had acquired the rights to the Tour de France in a multi-year deal.[44]

In 2011, as part of a larger deal with ESPN International, TSN acquired rights to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.[45] In the 2013-14 season, TSN began to air more regular season games, with particular emphasis on the Kansas Jayhawks due to their addition of Thornhill, Ontario native Andrew Wiggins.[46]

On October 29, 2012, TSN announced that it had acquired the rights to air English Premier League matches in a three-year deal starting with the 2013–2014 season.[47] The channel will air over 100 matches per season from 2013–2016, with coverage on TSN, TSN2 and TSN Mobile.

In August 2009, TSN and TSN2 began airing live and delayed coverage of Australian Rules Football. Selected games from the Australian Football League (AFL) Premiership Season and Finals Series including the AFL Grand Final are broadcast live or on delay every weekend.[48][49]

Professional wrestling[edit]

TSN featured live professional wrestling in the form of World Wrestling Entertainment's flagship show, WWE Raw for over a decade. However, the Raw program, which aired live, occasionally had been censored live for extremely violent scenes, or when female wrestlers or characters were assaulted by male wrestlers. These actions are supposed to be in order to meet Canadian broadcast standards, with repeat broadcasts often more heavily edited. This disappointed many wrestling fans over the years, and is unusual since the violence of wrestling scenes are not significantly different from other television programs aired on regular Canadian networks.[citation needed] (WWE has since toned down the level of violence and sexuality on its programming to meet standards for the U.S. TV-PG rating.)

It was expected that in fall 2006, when TSN started airing the ESPN iteration of Monday Night Football (as well as the NBC Sunday Night Football games), that WWE Raw would air on tape delay during the NFL season. However, WWE instead decided to move the program to rival sports network The Score rather than air on tape delay, although until the network became Sportsnet 360 in 2013, Raw was still aired on a 15 minute delay due to limits on the amount of live programming that channel could air in a week.

The final episode of WWE Raw on TSN aired July 31, 2006; the 2007 WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony was also aired on the network, but no other professional wrestling programming is known to have aired on the channel since then (though TSN's sister network E! Canada does air the WWE reality show Total Divas). Off The Record with Michael Landsberg continues to occasionally feature professional wrestlers in unscripted interviews, which it has throughout its run.

In 2004, both TSN and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA Wrestling), (known then as NWA-TNA), erroneously announced that Impact! would air on the network, although that deal was never completed and the article on the TSN Wrestling page was taken down shortly after. However, TSN's French-language sister network RDS airs the program.

In past years, TSN also aired shows from the American Wrestling Association (AWA), Stampede Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Monday Nitro, as well as producing a one-hour show called Pro Wrestling Plus, which featured highlights from various promotions and was hosted by Stampede announcer Ed Whalen; that program was the Canadian equivalent of the syndicated American program Pro Wrestling This Week.



Original programmes[edit]

Former programmes[edit]

International distribution[edit]


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  41. ^ TSN Becomes Exclusive Broadcaster of Wimbledon in Canada
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External links[edit]