By Pat Hickey
There aren’t too many Canadiens fans who are happy with the television schedule for the 2014-15 season.
Fans in Quebec and points east will be well-served with all 82 regular-season games available, but the days of one-stop viewing are over. There will be 22 national games, mostly on Saturday nights, on TVA Sports, while the remaining 60 games will be offered in a regional package on RDS.
But anglophones and francophones living west of Ottawa are not happy with the new order because they will not have access to the RDS package.
“We have a large number of subscribers in southern Ontario and in Western Canada and they won’t have access to our signal because we’re designated as a regional package,” said Domenic Vanelli, the vice-president of production for RDS. “For many French-Canadians, this will be the first time they won’t have access to Canadiens games in their own language because we offered the games, and before that they were available on Radio-Canada.”
Vanelli said disgruntled fans might create enough pressure on politicians and the rightsholders to effect a change in RDS’s availability, but he didn’t hold out much hope.
“There’s nothing we can do, it’s business and it will be like that for another 12 years,” he said.
Some francophone fans outside Quebec will have access to TVA Sports as an add-on to their cable or satellite packages. Rogers, which controls the national NHL rights, offers TVA Sports on its cable service, but it’s not currently available on Canada’s other major cable provider, Shaw.
RDS also played a role in promoting bilingualism in the country because many anglophones outside Quebec subscribed to the channel to fill in the gaps between the team’s appearances on Hockey Night in Canada and on the TSN main network.
There will also be fewer English-language telecasts available for anglophones in Quebec and Eastern Canada. There will be 18 Saturday night games available nationally under the Hockey Night in Canada banner and another 13 games on City TV or Sportsnet. That’s about the same number of national games as in the past and there will be greater access to those games in Ontario and in the West.
But there will be no English regional package as there has been in recent years. TSN and Rogers both passed on the regional package because it didn’t make sense from a financial point of view.