"Please listen to the menu as our options have changed. If you have an inquiry about the new Rogers Sportsnet One channel, press one..." When you warrant your own prompt on the phone menu of a cable company like Shaw, you know you've gone viral with an issue. But the dissatisfaction with the launch of Rogers' new Sportsnet One channel - and the loss of Blue Jays games for customers of non-Rogers carrier - is refusing to die down.
Most point the finger at Rogers, which launched its new venture on August 14, despite having just one carrier - Rogers Cable - signed up. (Even then, Rogers' basic customers also can't access the signal.) But Doug Beeforth, president of Rogers Sportsnet, thinks people are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
"We have made this signal free of charge to all the carriers for the first three months," he told Usual Suspects. "We gave them two months' notice of our plans. Why aren't they offering a free channel to see whether the public wants the service? We are absorbing the production costs of games so people can see what we're offering. I think fans have to be asking the other carriers why they're not carrying the signal rather than blaming us for providing a new service."
(As explained in a previous column, rival carriers such as Cogeco, Shaw and Bell - perhaps sensing Rogers' discomfort - are telling customers that they're studying the issue and hope to have a resolution at some unspecified time in the future.)
Beeforth also takes issue with the claim that Rogers is "taking away" games from customers who have signed up expecting to see 137 games. "This year we're producing more Blue Jays games than ever before. But there just isn't enough room on our channels to carry all the Jays games without launching another channel. The only way to deliver more games is to create a new channel for them - and for our NHL teams in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa."
Finally, Beeforth sympathizes with Rogers' basic cable customers who can't access the free Blue Jays games on higher tiers of the dial. "But as we move away from analog to digital, we have to find new places to provide our services. It's a bit like when we went from most sports being on over-the-air stations such as CBC or CTV to having most sports events on cable. It's an evolution in the technical progress of our business. I know it doesn't make people happy in the short term, but that's how technology evolves."
Raiding Party: With the news of Keith Pelley's stealth mission, going from CTV/ TSN to Rogers, the folks at his old stomping grounds are probably happy they got featured performers such as James Duthie and Bob McKenzie under new contracts recently. Leverage and all that. Industry insiders are anticipating Pelley might look to bring some of former employees with him to revamp the Sportsnet brand. Certainly, Sportsnet could use the jumper cables on its product to help distract attention from Carriergate (see above).
Meanwhile, TSN has filled its executive openings in the wake of Phil King's promotion to president of Sports and executive vice-president of programming, CTV Inc. Like King, new TSN president Stewart Johnston is from the business side of the operation. As King's key aide, the 39-year-old was formerly vice president of programming where, among other things, he was responsible in negotiations and acquisitions of sports broadcasting properties. Reporting to Johnston are Mark Milliere, who'll head production, and Shawn Redmond, vice president of programming (Johnston's former post).
Meanwhile, Adam Ashton succeeds Pelley as the head of the Olympic Broadcast Consortium for the 2012 Olympics in London. Ashton was formerly the vice-president of marketing in Vancouver for the consortium.
You Talkin' To Me?: There aren't many hockey markets north of Edmonton, but, after going through over 100 candidates, the NHL's Oilers found their new radio play-by-play voice in one. American Jack Michaels, formerly the voice of the Alaska Aces, will replace Hall of Famer Rod Phillips (who may still work as many as 10 games this season. Michaels, 36, was the ECHL's broadcaster of the year in 2004 and has worked the annual all-star game on five separate occasions. Michaels, who has 900 games under his belt, will work with analyst Bob Stauffer. He grew up in Pennsylvania, listening to Penguins legend Mike Lange. So expect a few "scratch my back with a hacksaw" references if the Oilers lose 47 games again this year.
Schadenfreude: Finally, no one in the American sports media pack has been quicker to condemn than Jay Mariotti of ESPN's Around the Horn and AOL Fanhouse. Now Mariotti is hoping that his colleagues exhibit the milk of human kindness after he was arrested on a domestic assault charge in Los Angeles. Don't hold your breath, Jay, as your own quotes are fed back to you. "If we can feel sorry for a man who threw away something close to a perfect life, just so he could sleep with bimbos, then this is the time," Mariotti opined about Tiger Woods. Ouch.
It's not just writers skewering Mariotti. NFL star Chad Ochocinquo tweeted his Cincinnati teammate Terrell Owens. "Lets see if they crucify their own like they do us." No probs, Chad. ESPN says it's monitoring the situation. Translation: Jay is pain grille.