It's summertime. The fish are jumping and the cotton is high. And, as first reported by Usual Suspects, the Toronto Raptors are going to be a major tenant for the new Rogers Sportsnet One channel beginning this fall - where they'll show 23 Raptors games (with another 12 on regional Sportsnet channels).
The NBA team will be joined at the One by the Vancouver Canucks, who will forgo pay-per-view contests for 14 games at Sportsnet as part of their new stadium naming/media rights deal with Rogers Communications Inc.
The Canucks' move scuttles any hope of a joint western network of the three NHL clubs - an idea Telus Corp. had tried to sell for a time before revenue distribution disputes among the Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames kyboshed the proposal.
"The Canucks rights agreement is turning into a productive relationship for us," Doug Beeforth, president of Rogers Sportsnet, told Usual Suspects. "The Canucks are a wonderful partner. A long time ago, a wise man told me that rights are king in this business. And it still applies."
The new all-sports network - which debuts Aug. 14 - is an attempt by Rogers to accommodate more major properties at a time of year when NHL coverage saturates the four regional networks.
"It hit us when we couldn't renew the NBA three years ago, because we couldn't deliver the schedule for them," Beeforth said. "We didn't have room left to do what we wanted to do. If you're trying to be a sports broadcaster in this country, you need a diverse a group of properties. Sportsnet One gives us shelf space to acquire those extra properties. And it helps us get around any conflicts in our schedule."
Beeforth says Sportsnet - which made a reported $40.7-million pre-tax profit in 2009 - is now talking to cable and satellite carriers about adding the new channel to their lineups.
"It's a chicken and egg thing - until you have some details you can't really get a discussion going with the carriers. It's logical to say it'll probably be on the Rogers system. The rest are being negotiated."
As they like to say in TV land, call your cable provider and tell them you want Sportsnet One. Or not.
Long-time radio host Tom Larscheid announced his retirement this week. The former CFL player morphed into the radio voice of the Vancouver Canucks 30 years ago, and was know for his … uh, enthusiastic style. Larscheid fulsomely praised players - Bingo, bango, bongo, his name is Roberto Luongo!" - and obliterated them with criticism - "Let's face facts - Jan Bulis is just a dumb hockey player."
His Pavel Bure missteps became legend with Vancouver fans. "I just came from the Canucks dressing room and Pavel's groin has never felt better," Larscheid reported one night in the 1990s. Plus: "Bure is such a great talent, if only he could play with himself out there, it will really give the fans a show."
Love him or tolerate him, it's the end on an era for Canucks fans. Usual Suspects has been told that ex-NHLer Dave Tomlinson of Team 1040 is the successor to Larscheid.
Thanks For Nothing
The very public Chris Bosh divorce from the Raptors was bad enough for the on-court product. But the NBA team's ex-franchise player later plunged the fatal dagger into Toronto via a media interview with the Miami Herald.
Talking about the city's amenities, Bosh put the scarlet letter on Toronto as a non-destination. "I didn't want to go there. It was different," he said. "You could tell you're somewhere different. You could feel it. You could look at it. You could smell it. Everything. All your senses tell you you're somewhere different."
Translation to hoops prima donnas everywhere: Avoid Toronto. As we saw with Bosh and chums Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, players gossip about cities you want to play in. Lifestyle. Money. Media profile. Travel. Winning. All play a role in whether a city gets the good housekeeping seal of approval from the fresh princes of the NBA.
With a willing Bosh in Raptors colours, there was a chance to spin Toronto as a destination. Now? Welcome to Siberia. The Raptors will only get rookies, reclamation projects and guys chasing the final buck for the foreseeable future. They will have to massively overpay to keep players. The only consolation? Commissioner David Stern has exhausted the market for cities that want a transferred NBA team.
LeBron James's media obsession has tripped him up again. The newly minted Miami meal ticket dragged along an ESPN reporter to a recent Las Vegas party where the focus was … LeBron (who'd been paid to attend, money being in short supply these days). The story of LeBron worship is gag-inducing, so much so ESPN rapidly pulled the story off their website with a claim it hadn't gone through the editorial process. This would have nothing to do with ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer flaying the World Wide leader for its sycophantic The Decision TV special. Of course not. Maybe it was the line, "I wish they'd have one of the girls with no panties do that instead of the guy." Your choice.
Finally: Toronto Argonauts Rob Murphy, meet the new CFL policy on social media. The veteran offensive lineman was offensive on Twitter.com the other day. Something about taking a train through "Frenchland" (trans.: Quebec) and "smelling foreigners." Which shows Murphy - an American - is at least picking up a little of the Canadian mosaic. Just not a nice piece. In any event, Murphy has now become the first CFLer fined under the league's policy for saying dumb stuff. Upside: At least he wasn't talking about Sean Avery's ex-girlfriends.