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Shaw's main office building in Calgary

TODD KOROL/Todd Korol/Reuters

At a time when the largest cable and satellite companies have thrown themselves into the media game, the players are facing off over one type of content in particular: sports.

Now Shaw Communications Inc. has applied for its own sports network, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission reported on Friday. The channel, to be called Shaw Media Sports, would be a national specialty station broadcast in English.

Shaw Media Sports would air "programming dedicated to all aspects of sports with an emphasis on mainstream Canadian professional sports," according to the application filed to the regulator by Shaw in December.

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The CRTC generally has rules against new specialty channels being launched that compete directly with existing services - because the Canadian market is so small. However, the regulator decided in 2008 that news and sports were robust enough to handle the competition, and lifted protections for those two genres.

The channel would compete mainly with sports networks TSN and Sportsnet, as well as smaller sports channel The Score. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment also has a licence for a general-interest sports specialty network, but has not used the licence to launch a new channel so far. To take its channel to air once approved, Shaw would have to make significant investments in competing with other companies for lucrative - and pricy - broadcast rights to popular sports events.

However, if it were able to carve out enough rights for a competitive channel, there is potential for sizable profit. In 2009, TSN and Sportsnet each pulled in more than $120-million in subscriber fees; by far the highest subscriber revenues in the specialty TV landscape, which is then augmented by advertising the channels can sell.

The regulator will review the application, along with others, at a hearing on April 1.

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