In Ottawa on Wednesday, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission approved an application from Rogers Communications to broadcast the MLB Network in Canada. The network will be included as a cable option in the near future as part of the nation’s non-Canadian programming.

You might think that such news would bring great rejoicing to the halls of a Canadian baseball blog’s offices. Flutes of sparkling maple syrup for everyone! However, the upcoming availability of the MLB Network is much like the Final Destination movie franchise – a great premise best suited to remaining theoretical. The grape you can’t reach is always the sweetest, and in our imaginations, a television network devoted to baseball is great. In practice, the MLB Network is largely unwatchable.

In its previous state, as something hoped for but unseen, Canadian baseball fans heaped impossible expectations on all of the possibilities that MLB Network, or an all-baseball network, could present. On August 13, 2008, Rogers Communications was granted approval by the CRTC for a broadcast license to provide something called Baseball TV, a national, English-language specialty channel devoted to the coverage of baseball. The presumed thinking at the time was that Rogers stood to make more money by combining the content that it already purchased from Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays with more purchased content from MLB Network in a channel of their own, rather than merely adding MLB Network as an option to its cable sports package.

It made sense for Rogers. At any point since MLB Network first began airing, less than four months after Rogers was approved for its  Baseball TV licence, the Canadian Communications behemoth could have attempted to bring the station to Canada. However, without direct equity in it, there was little motivation for Rogers to try, especially considering how much baseball content in Canada that it already owned. Despite lengthy negotiations, an agreement between MLB and Rogers for additional content couldn’t be reached, and so the licence for MLB TV remained suspended until it expired last year.

When Rogers applied to add the MLB Network to its cable offering this summer, it was largely seen as an opportunity for the cable service provider elicit additional subscriptions to its services. It was an answer to an increased demand that didn’t exist in 2008. The 2012 season marked a dramatic surge in baseball viewership for Rogers Sportsnet, especially in the key 18-34 year-old demographic.

That’s largely due to Toronto Blue Jays games, which makes things interesting for the MLB Network in Canada. Because the application was approved as non-Canadian programming, it means that viewers will be spared from having to tolerate uniquely Canadian content on the channel. Instead, they will be forced to suffer through copious amounts of air time for the buffoonery of Harold Reynolds and Kevin Millar.

Baseball fans are typically more interested in their favorite baseball team than baseball as a whole. This is the symptom of a schedule that consists of 162 games per season, with contests on every night. Such a format creates strong regional interest in individual teams, but it does not necessarily translate into the same type national or more widespread interest. As National Football League fans are prone to flock to nationally broadcast games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday night, baseball fans normally have alternate programming in the form of their favorite team readily available to them.

So, the niche market for which the MLB Network is built consists mainly of serious baseball fans like myself, and presumably readers of Getting Blanked. However, the content that they’re providing – aside from live coverage and Clubhouse Confidential – is built to appeal to the lowest common denominator of baseball fans, or whoever it is that can stand Chris Rose’s shit-eating grin or thinks that whatever Mitch Williams says is the least bit interesting, let alone meaningful.

Of course, we have already seen the results of the content and market mismatch in the United States, where the MLB Network has been less than a boon for cable providers. It consistently ranks last among cable networks in terms of viewership.

Sources:

Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2012-637. [CRTC]
Baseball TV – Category 2 Specialty Service. [CRTC]
Rogers Looks To Bring MLB Network To Canada. [Globe And Mail]
It’s Confidential Because Nobody Sees It. [Getting Blanked]

Comments (22)

  1. Welcome MLB Canada at King and Peter!

    • As a Score-lifer…that made me sad. But the MLB Network won’t have huge ratings in Canada enough to warrant the death of a 24 hour ticker.

      Score > TSN & Sportsnet

  2. Always nay-saying !

    I just want it so I don’t have to watch 40 minutes of hockey talk in summer to get 5 minutes of baseball highlights.

    • Just stream ESPN.

      • When I’m procrastinating doing constructive things, its easier to flip channels than go over to the computer and stream, plus won’t be able to PVR ESPN. Then I can go to the computer after and procrastinate more.

  3. Next goal: getting the actual halfway decent ESPN Baseball Tonight shown in Canada. Seriously, summer road trips to the US are worth it just for Baseball Tonight in the hotel room.

  4. The content that Rogers HAS shown on Sportsnet this past year doesn’t have me itching for MLB Network. Pointless things like the MLB Player Poll and banal, overused skits like “got heeeeem!” have me preferring to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.

    At least if that stuff is on a separate network, I can just blissfully ignore it.

  5. Living in the States and watching it occasionally for years, I have to disagree here. Any channel that shows baseball 24/7 through games, highlights, and analysis (even if it is regularly poor) is better than not having one at all in Canada.

  6. What do you think the chances are we get to see some classic Jays game reruns? I’ve wanted to see some for years. It’s unfortunate how MLB doesn’t allow any content on YouTube – you can find almost any NBA game on there.

  7. What people are forgetting to mention is that theres a good chance to see vintage baseball games (a la Dave Henderson’s home run in 86)

    ESPN CLassic Canada had them for a few years but thanks to the MLB jerks, they were taken out of the library. There can be so much hockey to be shown on Classic.

  8. Any chance this channel will be available on Bell TV?

  9. I’d get it for Clubhouse Confidential alone…

  10. I actually like Chris Rose.

  11. It’s a television station with 100% baseball content. It’s a net positive in my opinion.

  12. Mlb Extra innings is the way to go… and since you can hook it up to your xbox, online tv’s, smart phones, computer…. it’s the way to go IMO

  13. Where was this 20 years ago before the internet made it completely pointless? Who wants the baseball equivalent of CNN?

  14. The only time that MLB network has any appeal is when sportsnet is playing some stupid UFC fight instead of the Jays Game.

  15. Mlb network is better than any of the other single sport networks. Both in terms of providing live coverage and different types of analysis. Obviously you are not going to love every show or every personality on the network. I’ve seen it from it’s inception and it has improved annually.

  16. Honestly, I think the availability to games, as well as the full draft and more in-depth analysis will be great.

    This summer Sportsnet One ran the morning baseball themed Sportscentre and it was great. All baseball highlights and analysis instead of shallow coverage on each game to get to offseason news from other sports. I think MLB Network is a great add, and as a fan, I really couldn’t care less about the money of it, I’ll let Rogers worry about that, just give me the content.

  17. I hope MLB channel comes to Canada. I’ve been an MLB At Bat app subscriber for 4 years and an MLB.tv premium subscriber for 3 years. I have to tell you, fellas, it’s the best 130$ I spend every year. Preseason coverage and offseason content like classic games. Jays are blacked out across Canada, though.

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