lthough the transaction took place almost six months ago, many may have noticed that The Sports Network (TSN) has recently taken on a new look. The graphic and studio overhaul is the end result of American sports entertainment giant ESPN acquiring majority rights to TSN. Change is definitely a good thing, but one has to wonder whether it is in the best interest of Canadian sports media to lose such an important medium to the very company that they were trying to compete with.TSN has been heavily scrutinized for its apparent biased coverage of the Toronto sports scene. So heavily, in fact, that outside the Toronto area it is often regarded as the ‘Toronto Sports Network.’ The purpose here is not to dispute whether or not TSN had programming flaws, but rather what kind of effect the ESPN-TSN transaction will have on the Canadian sports media market. Due to the take-over, TSN has adopted the ESPN logo, studio and format. TSN’s Sportsdesk is no longer and has been replaced by the flashy, graphic reliant “Sportscentre.” The theme songs are the same, the delivery is the same and even the writing styles are the same. Unfortunately, TSN has been transformed into TSN — “The Sell-out Network.”
With their deal with ESPN, TSN has made it quite clear that Canadian content is not one of their primary concerns. Although the network does still include staples such as the CFL, Toronto Blue Jay baseball, and endless Toronto Maple Leaf coverage; it is simply a formality. TSN has not only adopted the glitz and glory of the ESPN format, but also the arrogance and light-hearted presentation of its sports coverage.
TSN was a pioneer in Canadian sports media. Without TSN there would not have been a Headline Sports, or a CTV Sportnet, or a Toronto Maple Leafs channel, or a Toronto Raptors channel. You’ve got the point by now.
The loss of TSN as the major Canadian media outlet will begin a trend of American sports and American coverage bombarding our television sets. Unfortunately, the price that TSN sold their majority rights to ESPN could very well represent just a fraction of the revenue lost to the Canadian market. Slowly, as the American press crosses our border our ability to appreciate a distinctly Canadian product becomes much more difficult.