TV rivals perfect match

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

In their wildest dreams, it never turned out this good. This huge.

Ask Doug Beeforth if he ever imagined landing the two biggest sports events on the planet for his still-young TV network, and the answer comes quickly and succinctly.

"I never would have made that prediction," said the president of Rogers Sportsnet and one of its founding fathers in 1998. "We're in the big leagues now."

Indeed they are. First Sportsnet added the 2006 World Cup of soccer to its portfolio. Now the biggest catch of all -- broadcast rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.

Even days later, that one hadn't quite sunk in with Sportsnet staffers.

"It's a combination of delight and pride," Beeforth said of the mood that greeted him after he returned home from Switzerland. "A lot of (staff) didn't think we were going to get it. Historically, CBC has been able to do whatever they had to do to get (the Olympics).

"There's almost a bit of shock here that we really did get them."

CELEBRATION

Beeforth figured that would wear off yesterday, when he gathered Sportsnet staff and told them about the road that led to the Bell Globemedia/Rogers consortium's victory over the CBC in Monday's bid process.

Then came a champagne toast, to celebrate the next step forward. And perhaps another chance to ponder the odd collaboration that suddenly has Sportsnet and its biggest rival, TSN, on the same team for two Olympics.

Make no mistake about it. The competition between the two networks -- who share a parking lot and a cafeteria, among other things, in Scarborough -- has been fierce at times. But Beeforth admits those times have changed.

"It was understandable," he said about the strained relations between the two early on. "TSN had been the only sports channel (in Canada) and we were this brand new interloper. They were doing what they could to protect their territory, and we were doing what we could to establish ourselves."

"Those guys took the NHL rights away from us, for goodness sakes," said Rick Brace, president of TSN parent CTV Inc.

Both Beeforth and Brace, who share a longtime friendship, say such talk of nasty rivalry these days is overblown.

"After the first two or three years, we moved away from that," said Beeforth. "We realized there was room for two sports channels ... it was pretty silly to kill each other off.

'NOT AN ENEMY'

"Sure, every night, I want to see more viewers watching Sportsnet News than SportsCentre. But that just means I'm a competitor of his, not an enemy."

In fact, Brace said the two networks' basic makeups -- TSN is a national service, Sportsnet is regional-oriented -- creates "a lot of areas in which we dovetail." Meaning they're a perfect complement for the Olympic stage.

Sportsnet's four regional feeds gave the partnership extra avenues to offer more Olympic hours -- something Beeforth believes was a key to their victory on Monday.

So in Vancouver in 2010, viewers can access 304 hours of Olympic coverage on TSN and another 378 on Sportsnet. The latter's number jumps to 903 in 2012, as a heavier Summer Olympic slate fills each of Sportsnet's feeds with unique content.

All of which adds to the ultimate smorgasbord the group -- which includes seven channels -- aims to present to Canadians.

"And," Brace says, "you can go back for seconds."

That's our kind of buffet.


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