Jays fans feeling betrayed by Rogers

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

Blue Jays fans from coast-to-coast are seething, threatening boycotts and worse after Rogers Sportsnet transferred 25 of the team’s remaining games to Sportsnet One, a channel most Canadians can’t get.

TSN, not so long ago, pulled a similar stunt, switching a handful of Toronto Raptors games to off-spring TSN2, assuming public outrage would force cable/satellite operators such as Cogeco, Bell and Rogers to include TSN2 on their roster. They were right.

A few months later, no more tantrums. Just slightly higher cable bills.

This time Rogers is the very bad guy, yanking 25 Jays games and some elite Premier League soccer matches from its four regional channels, and broadcasting them on Sportsnet One, a new national venture which launched last weekend.

As of now, Sportsnet One is available only to Rogers subscribers, meaning if you live in Cogeco or Shaw country, or prefer satellite, tough cookie. As for you “lucky” Rogers customers, you currently are receiving Sportsnet One on a free, three-month trial basis. Come November, you will probably have to pay for it.

Meanwhile, Jays fans from Hamilton to Victoria and most every place else, can’t believe the audacity.

“Way to go Rogers! You are showing your true colours, once again,” wrote angry Cogeco subscriber Pat McCann in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun.

“No longer will I and my family be buying game tickets or have anything to do with any Rogers products, nor may I add, their sponsors’ products.”

Even Sportsnet’s own website has been deluged by e-mails from “mad-as-hell” sports fans.

So far, I haven’t noticed any written by Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston, but word is Beeston and the Jays feel betrayed, too.

We called his office to hear for ourselves, but so far no response. I mean, what’s he going to say? Tell Rogers to shove it?

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Jays. Only recently had casual baseball fans begun caring again, their interest stoked by Brandon Morrow’s one-hitter followed a week later by another one from Shaun Marcum.

Sandwiched in between was rookie J.P. Arencibia’s incredible four-hit, two-homer debut at the stadium-formerly-known-as-SkyDome.

Now, with interest in the Jays higher than it has been in what, two decades, parent company, Rogers, turns off the tap.

What’s the sense in that? Well ...

Gold mine

Rogers Sportsnet and its four regional channels (East, West, Ontario and Pacific) made $40.7 million last year. Sports is a gold mine for the cable guys and Rogers figures there’s a lot more consumer cash where that came from. But they need rivals Cogeco and Shaw and Bell’s help, and they’re using you — the out-raged sports fan — to get it.

It’s cheaper than free labour.

You, the complainant, pay for the angry phone call to your local cable/satellite company — and you the complainant will pay extra for Sportsnet One, once Cogeco, Shaw and Bell make the new channel available.

Which they will.

Otherwise, this controversy will spill into the hockey and basketball seasons, when there will be more and arguably bigger games in play.

The Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators recently signed new deals with Sportsnet, agreeing to have some of their games broadcast on Sportsnet One. Of course, if you can’t get it, you don’t get it. Even if you are prepared to pay for it.

The Raptors will be getting national exposure on Sportsnet One, too.

Or no exposure beyond the Rogers’ net.

It’s easy to be cynical here. I mean, how many times do governments or corporations rip us off — only to be met with threats of boycotts which never materialize. We’re such sheep.

What’s different this time, though is that Rogers seems so willing to sacrifice one of its own — the Blue Jays — rather than wait until the hockey season when the stakes are higher.

But what a terrible message to be sending baseball fans.

“I live in a place where Rogers Cable is not available,” writes reader Bob French. “And they have the audacity to limit Jays games to subscribers. I say let them die and move to Charlotte. After 30 years of living and dying at every game I will never read another story on them, I will never watch another game.”

Promise?

dave.fuller@sumedia.ca


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