TV gets caught up in a bigger 'Net

ROB BRODIE

, Last Updated: 6:23 AM ET

Perhaps it's time for us to consider mothballing that old phrase "TV deal."

More and more, the inclusion of what's known as "new media" (or digital) rights are being bundled into broadcast agreements between television entities and leagues or teams.

We saw it again Monday, when the NHL and CBC announced a six-year extension for Hockey Night in Canada, which gives the network rights to distribute content via Internet, video on demand and mobile phone platforms.

While futuristic thinkers see this trend as a possible new cash cow for the TV networks, the truth is it's much too early to tell.

"Nobody can possibly know," said TSN president Phil King, whose network's own new NHL deal surely will contain multi-media rights. "Here's what is clear: It's growing in popularity, and advertisers are putting a bigger percentage of their ads on the Internet."

Richard Stursberg, CBC TV's executive VP, believes new media rights are becoming a must for broadcasters.

"It will be more important going forward as you begin to see the shift that takes place in the way in which people consume media," he said, adding his belief that "the pace of that shift in consumption will accelerate."

Or, as King said, "You need to be there. Whether you're a league or a rights-holder or a team, you need a presence on the 'Net. What you hope for is an incremental gain in viewership. But that's the part we don't know about yet."

PLAY BALL: Rogers Sportsnet is set to air the first nine Blue Jays games of the season, including Monday's opener in Detroit (1 p.m. ). Several enhancements are being added to telecasts, including improved graphics and a Strike Zone replay feature that follows pitch trajectory. HD telecasts are being produced with 5.1 Surround Sound. Jamie Campbell is again the network's voice of the Jays, with Pat Tabler, Rance Mulliniks and Darrin Fletcher rotating as analysts ... TSN's first Jays telecast isn't until June 6.

HE SAID IT: "With apologies to Mrs. Gump, he's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." -- TSN/NBC's Pierre McGuire on Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek.

AROUND THE DIAL: World men's curling championship coverage in Edmonton begins with Canada-Finland tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. on TSN ... TSN has added Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race (1:30 p.m.).


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