Saturday, August 9, 2008
NASCAR TV Hits A Brick Wall In Canada
After a tremendous fan turnout for the Montreal race weekend, Canadian fans of NASCAR are looking forward to the extended TV coverage from ESPN of both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series this weekend from Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, they will have to look very hard.
ESPN is not carried in Canada. So, ESPN has an affiliated network called The Sports Network (TSN). While ESPN has a minority stake in the network, it is actually owned by CTVGlobeMedia, a Canadian TV company. This single channel is very busy with sports from both the US and Canada, so it must sometimes expand to a second temporary channel. This is called the TSN - Alternate Feed (TSN-AF).
On Friday, TSN-AF will carry the Sprint Cup qualifying from The Glen. Saturday, it will host the Nationwide Series qualifying. The live Nationwide race will be on TSN-AF and areas of Canada that receive the ABC Television Network on cable.
Finally, on Sunday the TSN - Alternate Feed alone will have full coverage of the big Sprint Cup Series race. That is the good news.
Here is the bad news. Effective July 29th, almost all of the Canadian cable TV providers have dropped their distribution of TSN-AF. A couple of big systems out West were first and now the East side providers have also given up.
Originally, the TSN-AF "overflow channel" was provided free of charge to the Canadian cable TV companies so they could show more sports. Not anymore.
Now, TSN wants the cable companies to agree to carry a new sports network called TSN2 when it comes online in the Fall. The cable companies who do not agree to add this new fulltime channel lose the ability to show the TSN - Alternate Feed programs for free.
The response from the Canadian cable companies has been swift. Most of them have said no and TSN-AF has been discontinued. The cable companies are saying TSN pulled the feed, while TSN has been silent. All we know is that where Canada is concerned, a large chunk of NASCAR TV programming is suddenly in the dark.
Needless to say, many Canadian NASCAR fans are in for a rude awakening this weekend. Click here for the link to the TSN blackout story in the Toronto Globe.
Here is the TSN-AF program list that shows Canadian viewers missing the IRL race from Kentucky and NFL pre-season football among the sports no longer available. Here is a bigger motorsports list for some perspective.
TSN will re-run the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races on a tape-delayed basis very late that same night, but that certainly is not the same experience as seeing them live on TV.
How and when this mess will get sorted-out is anyone's guess. It just seems a shame that after a memorable Montreal weekend, Canadian TV viewers are suddenly shut-out of a classic NASCAR road racing weekend at The Glen.
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