In 1984, the Labatt Brewing Company made a breakthrough in the history of the Canadian television network. They began specialty channels in order to focus on a specific genre, subject, or target television market. The Sports Network, more commonly known today as TSN, was a part of the first group of Canadian specialty cable channels. Sports-related programming, such as live and recorded event telecasts, and sports talk programs is the main focus of TSN’s networks. With hockey being Canada’s national sport, TSN realized its potential with the sport as it started televising the NHL. The National Hockey League’s first national cable broadcaster in Canada was indeed TSN. Throughout the history of The Sports Network, it has maintained its title as “Canada’s sports leader”, currently, TSN has more than 7 million subscribers, the most subscribed Canadian sports network. In 2010, TSN branched outside of the broadcasting business and created an app that enables Canadian sports fans to watch the networks’ five national broadcast streams and digital-only content on a variety of platforms, whenever and wherever they like.
Before getting into what makes the app great, I feel we should indulge into the regulations of TSN. Firstly, as mentioned in the overview, TSN is proudly a Canadian network, thus meaning that in order to watch TSN live (either its five channels) you must be located within the region of Canada. This is what makes TSN “Canada’s sports leader”, the fact that it is only allowed to be viewed in Canada. TSN is partnered with ESPN and is often known as the Canadian version of ESPN. Although TSN does its best to make sure that the viewers are strictly in Canada, there remains the threat of VPNs which allow users to, while utilizing public networks, create a secure network connection, encrypt their internet traffic, and mask their online identity. They allow the user to be somewhere completely different from where they actually are.
A further example of regulation of TSN, like most apps too which you need to subscribe, is the age requirement. According to TSN’s terms and regulations, in order to purchase a subscription to or to download the app, you must be the age of majority in Canada, which is 18 years old. This age requirement is to ensure the safety of the youth. Another unique regulation of TSN is the fact in the user must obviously agree to TSN’s terms and conditions and since they have a partnership with Bell Media, users must also agree to all of their terms and conditions as well. TSN teams up with Bell Media to help with television and broadcasting, radio broadcasting, digital media, and internet properties.
Today, TSN is available for anyone to use, better yet, available for anyone in Canada to use. Most of TSN’s users consist of avid Canadian sports fans. In 2010, TSN made a breakthrough in its 26-year history by creating an app that allows users to watch live broadcasting through their phones, computers, TVs, and more. In its early days, TSN focused mainly on hockey and the NHL, although this was great for Canadian hockey fans as they were able to watch their favorite hockey teams play each night, not everybody in Canada enjoys hockey. Although Canada is known for running the world in hockey, there is still a large population who don’t care for and don’t watch it. Today, TSN has diversified immensely and broadcasts any sport you could think of, not only do they broadcast different sports, but on their app and website, TSN journalists write articles about the latest news of each league. Diversifying its network has helped TSN to reel in not only hockey fans but Canadian fans of any sports. The TSN currently has a section for over 20 different leagues, which include NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, UFC, 2 different golf leagues, and more. The diversity in channels is one of the key contributors to TSN’s success and is why it is recognized today as Canada’s sports leader.
One of TSN’s innovations throughout its time is TSN live, as mentioned previously, it allows subscribers to watch live television on the go. TSN live has a multitude of subscriptions, first, the day pass. The day pass costs $7.99, and gives permission to the user to watch TSN live for a 24-hour span, this pass is geared towards any user who wants to watch a specific sporting event, maybe it’s a championship which only occurs every so often. Next, there is the monthly pass, this pass allows the subscriber to get a taste of TSN live within 30 days. The monthly plan costs $19.99 and the user is billed after the completion of the 30 days. Finally, there is the 6-month plan, this plan allows subscribers to get the advantages of having TSN live for a full 6 months and costs $99.95. Today, TSN has more than 7 million subscribers, around ⅕ of Canada’s population. As time has gone on, the TSN website, app, and television network has grown drastically. In 2019, the Toronto Raptors, Canada’s only NBA team made history by reaching the championship series against the Golden State Warriors. This Cinderella story ended in game 6 where the raptors took home the Larry O’Brien trophy in a 114-110 score game. TSN aired this game and saw an average of 7.7 million viewers, and remains the most-watched NBA game in Canada’s proud history. As Canada’s men’s soccer team has qualified for the 2022 world cup in Qatar, TSN is airing all world cup games. TSN will most likely see a noticeable increase in viewers over the course of November and December.
As previously stated, The Sports Network was created in 1984 by the Labatt Brewing Company, and Gordon Craig specifically. Craig began his career at CBC, where he oversaw the TV coverage of the 1972 and 1974 Russia-Canada hockey tours as well as the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Craig persuaded senior management to broadcast the events nonstop throughout the 1976 Olympics, only pausing for news coverage. This arrangement later became the norm for all subsequent Olympic coverage. Craig finally resigned from his post as head of operations for CBC English-language radio and TV in 1983 to become the president of Action Canada Sports Network. He introduced The Sports Network, a 24-hour, all-sports channel with user-pay options, on September 1st, 1984. In 1984, they agreed to give the Toronto Blue Jays an exclusive package on TSN, and they did the same for the Montreal Expos. Additionally, they supported the Special Olympics and covered the competitions. The Sports Network is Canada’s largest specialty channel, in 2013, TSN had made over $400 million in revenue, and it has grown considerably since 2013. During Covid, TSN earned its most profitable year while people were stuck at home and watched sports teams play in “the bubble”. In 2020, TSN profited close to $120 million.
In 2010, TSN created its first mobile app, and in 2013 it created the 2.0 version, where it redesigned its app to make it easier for users to navigate. Throughout the app, users get to check live scores of any games in any league, view player and team stats, read articles about their favorite teams, watch TSN live if subscribed, and plenty more. Since 2013, the app has made constant updates to enhance and better appeal to the user.
In the Circuit of Culture, Representation resembles how a company or a network in this case displays itself to its users. TSN represents itself not only as a sports page but as a prideful Canadian sports page. They stay true to themselves, as all of their journalists are Canadian. As stated, in TSN’s early days, they represented mainly hockey, and other Canadian sports teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, the Toronto Raptors, the Montreal Expos, etc. as the channel grew in popularity, they began to represent more sports, leagues, and teams. TSN prides itself on being a diverse channel where any sports fan can log into the app and view any sport they like. The diversity of TSN’s representation has helped it to grow significantly and make it become Canada’s most profitable specialty channel to this day. Sportscenter, a morning sports recap show of the games played the previous night is on every morning on TSN. Throughout the show, the Journalists go through plenty of different games and show the highlights, some of the journalists include Kate Beirness, Darren Dreger, Darren Dutchyshen, and more. If you watch the show, you understand how these Journalists do a great job of recognizing when a Canadian player makes an outstanding play, although the NHL is filled with Canadians, the NBA and NFL are not, this goes to show how TSN represents itself as a proudful Canadian sports channel.
TSN being under Bell Media is big on identity and keeping itself as a good name. Bell Media is a huge advocate for spreading awareness of mental health. Each year on January 26th, Bell Media has its Bell Let’s Talk day, an effort to spread knowledge and fight the stigma associated with mental illness in Canada. “Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs on Bell Let’s Talk Day for every text, local or long distance call, tweet, or TikTok video that uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, for every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube, and for every use of the Bell” (Bell Let’s Talk Day, 2022). This began in 2010 and is now going on to its 13th year. Throughout its first 12 years, Bell raised close to $130 million and better yet has created awareness around mental health. Every year in December into January the IIHF world Junior championship is played, and TSN airs it each year. TSN illustrates its identity with the commercials that they display during these tournaments. The commercials represent togetherness during the holiday season, they often show players from the team Canada world junior team going to hospitals and playing with the kids. This demonstrates the identity of TSN and its owner Bell Media.
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