Shaw Targets Canadian Sports Cable Channel License

Western Canadian cable giant is looking for license to launch a cable sports channel to compete against TSN and Rogers Sportsnet.

TORONTO -- Canadian cable giant Shaw Communications is getting into the sweet spot of Canadian TV: sports.

Shaw, which recently acquired a national TV network and a string of cable channels, has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a broadcast license to launch Shaw Media Sports, a national English language cable sports channel.

The move into live sports comes as Canadian broadcasters face off over expensive rights for pro hockey, football and basketball and increasingly look to shift those major sport properties from free-to-air television to far more lucrative cable sports and pay TV services.

It also comes as Canadians continue to watch live sporting events like this weekend’s Super Bowl XLV game on Fox and CTV, while increasingly watching U.S. network comedies and dramas on VOD channels.

Shaw’s sport channel will face stiff competition from CTV’s The Sports Network and Roger Communications’ Rogers Sportsnet channels, both of which were part of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, which snagged the rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics from rival CBC.

For the CBC to win back the rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia and the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, the betting is Canada’s public broadcaster will have to launch a joint bid with Shaw Communications.

As with the recent 2010 Winter Games from Vancouver, Canadian broadcasters also see value in acquiring exclusive sport rights and driving the content to alternative platforms like the Internet and mobile phones.

Ahead of its planned foray into cable sports, Shaw hired former Canadian Olympic Broadcast Consortium exec Christos Nikitopoulos as its new vice-president of sports.