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The Usual Suspects

CHUM creating second station to boost B.C. Lions Add to ...

CHUM, which operates Vancouver's Team 1040, has gassed the 1410 format they own (The Buzz buzzed?) to create a second sports vehicle that it can use to better promote its B.C. Lions property. CHUM has excess properties such as Jim Rome, Dan Patrick and live events that the suits cannot fit into the 1040 franchise - what with the 24/7 Canucks obsession.

Voila, Team 1410 (under PPM measurement, separate names are not required for stations). The station won't have morning or afternoon drive shows (there will be a sports wheel in the morning), and 1040 figures will appear on both stations. This follows a model now in the U.S. where one owner uses two stations to spread out their sports properties. Says 1040 program director Robert Grey, "We feel there's enough advertising support, and our listeners have said they want a choice some nights between Canucks and Lions when they conflict."

Flu The Coop

The Calgary Flames' adventure in flu vaccination has been the hot-button issue with both sports media and their news cousins. Public antipathy to millionaire athletes has been married to Canada's legendary resentment of private health care. The withering tone of Global's venerable Tony Parsons was unmistakable as he led his newscast with a "queue-jumping" story on Calgary's farm team in Abbotsford: "While [people]shiver in the cold for hours, there's word that a number of hockey players have recently been vaccinated by their team doctor …" Ouch.

Knowing Canadians' fervour for egalitarian health care, the decision of the Flames' hockey organization to move its players ahead of the ticket-buying public was remarkably tin-eared (especially as team president Ken King has been a newspaper publisher in the past). Making the initial gaffe worse were the dog-ate-my-homework justifications offered to the press for hockey players as a vital social service. Defenders of the Flames' inoculating their players, management and families have cited the number of people the Flames encounter, the travel they do and even the tourist value they offer the economy.

One official with Calgary's Abbotsford farm team told Global TV that the players visit hospitals and high-five youngsters as an excuse for giving players on the B.C. club the accelerated position. Ah, the dreaded high-five flu. This when health-care workers aren't all getting the vaccine yet.

Four Play

You have to admire the persistence of Rogers Sportsnet. The network wants subscribers to buy all four of their regional channels instead of one. To encourage the move, Sportsnet has been varying programming across the channels. So Prime Time Sports is live only on the East, while Hockeycentral is on the Ontario channel, etc. That brainwave met with mixed results in the just-finished MLB postseason.

Apparently, the Sportsnet staff wasn't exactly chuffed about the policy at this week's pep rally held to boost Sportsnet's staff in a time of budget slashing. Usual Suspects has learned that there were pointed questions from staff about the public pushback to the buy-all-four strategy. Doug Beeforth, Sportsnet's president, was asked why the network didn't offer a limited-time free period to encourage viewers. But Beeforth says that Rogers isn't budging. It may offer lower prices for the extra channels, but free … not so much.

The buy-all-four plan might be a bargain if it bought more of Sportsnet's regional NHL content, but blackouts wipe out most of that advantage over TSN.

On Second Thought

Speaking of Sportsnet, Doug MacLean of Hockeycentral was recently trying to play down the importance of Marc Savard on Phil Kessel. MacLean made reference to some research he'd done that proved Kessel was not completely reliant on Savard for his goal-scoring success in 2008-09. Turns out that MacLean's "research" had come from blogger Gus Katsaros of Maple Leaf Hot Stove during a conversation at a game. When Katsaros cried foul, MacLean invited him on Hockeycentral Thursday for his moment in the sun. Done and done. BTW: Katsaros thinks Kessel's not worth the hefty price Brian Burke paid.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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