Baseball TV heads a list of potential new sports channels for Canadian television in 2009 and 2010.
If a deal can be reached, Rogers Media would introduce the Canadian version of MLB Network, which launched last week in the United States to enthusiastic reviews.
Rogers would take programming from MLB Network, add Canadian content, and make the channel, titled Baseball TV, available to distributors.
Rogers Cable would carry it. And so, probably, would other companies. A spokesperson for Bell TV said the satellite company would "look at it very seriously."
Programming on MLB Network, which is 70-per-cent owned by Major League Baseball, includes analysis, vintage games and documentaries. The Ken Burns documentary on baseball started this week.
During the baseball season, prime time will consist of updates, highlights and live look-ins to games in progress. Anchor Hazel Mae, who is from Toronto and once worked for Sportsnet, left the New England Sports Network to join MLB Network.
The U.S. channel's first night of programming consisted of a rebroadcast of New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bob Costas provided interviews with Larsen and Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.
For the aficionado, a look back at two storied teams in one of baseball's famous games is pure gold.
Jackie Robinson, 37, hits a grounder that bounces off the Yankees' third basemen to the shortstop, who throws him out. Mickey Mantle, in his prime, chases down a line drive to save Larsen's perfect game. Mel Allen and Vin Scully called the game.
"The voices of Allen and his smooth Flatbush counterpart, young Vincent Scully, wash over the proceedings at the old Yankee Stadium like cool and sudsy vendor-poured beer," one U.S. blogger wrote.
How close is Baseball TV to starting?
Rogers has been negotiating with MLB for a Canadian broadcasting partnership.
"Nothing has stalled," a Rogers spokesperson said somewhat optimistically. If an agreement is reached, Rogers would be the majority owner in the same way Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is the principal owner of Raptors NBA TV, the Canadian version of NBA TV in the United States.
The Rogers application was approved last August. The channel is licensed to devote a maximum 10 per cent of its air time to live major-league baseball telecasts. The application promised coverage of minor and amateur baseball. It's also licensed to carry documentaries and movies.
Canadian content requirements would start at 15 per cent in the first year and rise to 35 per cent by the channel's third year. It's been speculated a launch could be made in the spring for the start of the baseball season.
In 2008, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved a sports channel for the CBC, but the licence has become redundant because of the introduction of new broadcasting rules that largely deregulated the industry. The CBC will reapply for another sports licence, one that would not be tied to amateur sports restrictions. Scott Moore, the head of CBC Sports, expects the new channel, CBC SportsPlus, to start in the early months of 2010. With the CBC owning exclusive TV rights to the World Cup in 2010, some soccer tournament programming will be carried on the sports channel - an incentive, the CBC hopes, for distributors to carry it.
The new broadcasting regulations will remove restrictions on TSN2, which was launched in 2008 as a repeat channel for TSN. TSN2 will no longer be required to devote the majority of its programming to encore presentations. It will become a mainstream companion channel to TSN, as ESPN2 is to ESPN.
The CTRC is moving slowly on the Canadian Olympic Committee's application for English and French-language amateur sports channels. It's a source of frustration for the COC, which is seeking a must-carry designation for the channels. Cable and satellite fees would pay the costs and also provide financial assistance to Canadian amateur athletes.
The CTV-Rogers Olympic consortium is very close to announcing its on-air talent for the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010.
Before Christmas, we reported on some of the hires. Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, the Canadian pairs champions at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, will be involved in figure-skating coverage. Gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan will provide speed-skating analysis. Hockey coverage, with Chris Cuthbert, Pierre McGuire, Gord Miller, Darren Dreger, Bob McKenzie and others, will be strong.