Bell dishes out freebie

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Senators' first-ever pay-per-view telecast went off with a hitch.

In fact, to some fans in the Ottawa area, it became a don't-pay-per-view.

Those who have Bell Express Vu's NHL Centre Ice package in certain "pockets" of the capital region would have discovered the Senators-Detroit Red Wings game Tuesday was not blacked out -- as it should have been -- because of what appears to be the mistake of a technician.

The Senators were naturally unimpressed, but taking a "what-can-you-do" attitude.

"Human error," explained Jim Steel, the Senators VP, broadcasting and the executive producer of the this season's five pay-per-view games. "Someone at Bell Express Vu forgot to hit a switch or whatever.

"Obviously, I'm not happy. We put a lot into building this first show and that's the kind of mistake you want to avoid. "I'll be talking to them about it, but what's done is done," added Steel, who doesn't have a true indication of how many homes picked up the signal for free.

"It'd better not happen again."

$10.95 to watch

Rogers didn't make the same mistake, completely shutting out its Ottawa-area Centre Ice package holders who did not pay the extra $10.95 for the game.

Steel said he wouldn't know until sometime in the next week how many subscribed to the pay-per-view, which continues with four more Senators games (March 8 at home to Toronto, March 13 in New York, March 18 in Pittsburgh and April 3 in New Jersey) before season's end.

He said the production itself went well, with former NHL defenceman Grant Ledyard adding analysis and Sportsnet's Ian Mendes as host, complementing the broadcast team of Dean Brown and Gord Wilson.

"We added features and a lot of elements people would have been happy with," said Steel, who has also heard from fans unhappy about having to pay extra for games this season.

"We looked at this as a long term strategy, to max out on the number of broadcasted games so there are very few not broadcasted, one way or another.

"We use the Western (Canada) teams as a model ... especially Vancouver. They've been doing it for four or five years, and they all say the same thing -- it takes time to build this, you can't expect huge numbers in the early going.

"We knew we'd be lucky to break even the first year, even the second year, but that we could start seeing dividends in maybe the second or third year, and from there not look back.

"It's not a 'this year' thing. It's a long-term strategy we're applying, to see where it goes," added Steel, who hopes to have a growth in pay-per-view for 2007-08, perhaps to as many as eight games.


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