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The Usual Suspects

Kouleas, The Score part ways Add to ...

The evolution of The Score Network from a hard-core sports highlight provider to … well, something else, was confirmed this past week with the departure of Steve Kouleas, the network's face of hockey the past 13 years. The 42-year-old and the network mutually agreed to see Kouleas and his high-energy style move on to new opportunities.

With him went the last vestiges of what was once a thriving hockey presence.

"I leave with no hard feelings," Kouleas told Usual Suspects. "I feel blessed to have had 13 years doing what I most wanted to do in life. We went from supplementing the sports wheel to creating original programs. The network is heading in another direction, and it just feels right to pursue a different path myself. We shook hands and we're still friends."

Kouleas was the host on a number of Score hockey shows where he and panelists such as Al Strachan, Steve Ludzik and Mark Osborne chewed over the hockey issues of the day. Sometimes the results were inspired, other times it was a cringe worthy. But it was rarely boring under the effervescent Kouleas, who won a Gemini nomination in 2009.

Kouleas - who interviewed for the Edmonton Oilers radio play-by-play job this summer - says he'll take a few weeks to consider his options, then get back to business.

"The secret in today's business is content," says Kouleas, who's continuing to host the Live From Wayne Gretzky's radio show. "You can't just be selling Steve Kouleas or TV. You have to bring show ideas for all the platforms out there today."

In may ways, The Score was a pioneer in the hockey TV field. With a blank canvas and acres of air time to fill, Kouleas and crew were the first to make a specialized production out of previously unheralded NHL events such as trade deadline day and the July 1 free agent frenzy - shows now staples of their competitors at TSN and Sportsnet. Hockey Night In Canada also picked up elements of their style when it signed reporter Elliotte Friedman.

With Kouleas gone (along with NBA, MLB and EPL soccer), it's fair to ask where The Score is headed. Where once hockey was the most recognizable feature of the network, NCAA basketball, horse racing, Serie A soccer, wrestling and Cabral Richards, aka Cabby, the schmoozing locker room comedian, are the new faces of the network.

In recent months, Score president John Levy has repositioned with ScoreMobile and ScoreMobile FC apps, Hardcore Sports Radio and reality-based promotions to find a niche versus the programming juggernauts at TSN and Sportsnet. Without the ability to compete for rights to the big four sports TV properties, he'll have to stay lean and creative, knowing that their best ideas will often be co-opted by their competitors.

Mad As Hell

Add Rogers cable customers who buy basic cable to the list of folks irritated by the company sending Blue Jays games to its new Sportsnet One channel. While Sportsnet Ontario is on basic cable, the new channel is not, obliging customers to either pay more for another tier of channels or miss the Sportsnet One games altogether.

Disgruntled ball fans needn't contact the CRTC if they feel Rogers is employing misleading advertising after promising to deliver the full Blue Jays season. One customer who appealed to Canada's broadcast regulator was told "The CRTC's jurisdiction does not extend to concerns such as misleading or deceptive advertising."

King For A Day

TSN is looking for a new president after Phil King was promoted to president of sports and executive vice-president of programming with CTV Inc. King, who's been with TSN for 21 years, will now assume responsibility at CTV for the Olympic TV consortium as it prepares for London in 2012 - as well as all of CTVglobemedia's TV sports outlets in English and French.

Rick Brace, who previously held the responsibilities, now becomes CTV's president of revenue and business planning. An announcement on King's successor as president of TSN and the Olympic consortium is expected this week.

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