Monday, April 02, 2007

RCS and Setanta update

September 28, 2006

I've been covering the debacle that is lack of test rugby on Canadian television for most of the year. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) I last reported in June the milquetoast reply I got from Sue Colacci at TLN’s media relations depratment about the future of RCS and the possible connection to Setanta Sports. Now, I still don't have confirmations on any of the information I was requesting, but Rob Brodie at Slam Sports (Sun Media, Canoe, etc.) posted an interesting article last month while I was away. Time to play catch-up and re-print:

Setanta aims to take kick at Canadian channel

Rob Brodie
Slam! August 25, 2006

The "little one" has big hope it can enjoy television success in Canada.

Setanta Sports, an Irish-born international broadcaster of soccer and rugby, hopes to be on the air in our fair land before year's end.

Shane O'Rourke, Setanta's president of North American operations, confirmed the network's interest in taking a kick at the Canadian market. And he's anxious to get started.

"I'd like to be on the air yesterday," he said earlier this week from his San Francisco office.

There's plenty of work to be done, though, before it can happen.

Given the CRTC's onerous Canadian content rules, O'Rourke said a partnership with an existing Canadian network is a must. Unless Setanta wants to red card any chance at prosperity, that is.

"It's very difficult, especially when you're dealing with a niche product," said O'Rourke. "There's no real Canadian soccer content out there. You have to create it."

It's been suggested Telelatino -- which carries Italy's Serie A -- might prove to be Setanta's ideal match. Telelatino owns a pair of digital licences for yet-to-be launched soccer channels (Soccer Television and RCS Television), which were granted by the CRTC in April. One of them, presumably, could become Setanta Sports Canada.

But O'Rourke said "nothing is signed, sealed or done yet" with any prospective partner. And that's only half the job. There's also the matter of finding cable or satellite carriers for the channel (Setanta plans to target Rogers, Shaw and Bell ExpressVu first).

"Let's face it, the fans just want to see their game," said O'Rourke.

"But you just can't barge in the door and demand that people carry your product."

That's why Setanta wisely waited until it landed a deal for English Premiership matches before it began to get serious about a foray into Canada. And with exclusive rights to Sunday 8:30 a.m. matches and first choice on Saturday at 10 a.m., the company believes it now has a rather substantial chip to play (last weekend, Setanta viewers in the U.S. saw Arsenal and Manchester United's season openers).

"It's the best of the best," said O'Rourke of Setanta, a Gaelic word which means "the little one."

The channel also offers the club-owned Man United and Chelsea channels, along with live Coca-Cola Championship (formerly First Division), Dutch and French matches, plus Scottish Premier and Champions League fare.

What's the cost, you ask?

Setanta's soccer entity will be marketed as a premium digital channel at $14.99 per month. A separate rugby channel might also be launched, O'Rourke said, with viewers getting a discount for taking both.

Will Canadians buy in? O'Rourke is confident the answer will be yes.

"Canada is an incredibly diverse market," he said. "Put it this way. The potential for a Setanta channel in Canada is probably twice as good as it is in California, and the population is about the same."

Source: Slam Sports.


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