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TSN2 first launched what it then called its “alternate feed” in 1997 as a result of occasional regional blackouts for TSN programming in some areas. In its original iteration, the alternate feed could only air on analogue cable in specific areas, replacing the national service, though it was offered in parallel with the main feed on national satellite providers. Alternate programming could make up a maximum of 10% of the TSN schedule – an average of 2.4 hours a day.
In fall 2006, the CRTC allowed TSN to air multiple feeds nationally, with the alternate feed only available on digital platforms, as had previously been permitted for Sportsnet’s regional feeds. In essence, this meant that for digital cable and satellite subscribers, TSN now had two channels on which to air programming. The broadcaster’s use of the alternate feed changed significantly following this decision, as the alternate feed began to carry a much larger number of live events that could be aired nationally when the main feed was carrying another ongoing event.
On August 6, 2008, The Globe and Mail announced that the TSN alternate feed would be replaced by a new network known as TSN2. The new channel promised “major league programming” throughout the day, and would have extensive coverage of auto racing and tennis. Unlike the existing TSN alternate feed, which was available free of charge, service providers (and potentially, in turn, consumers) would be required to pay extra in order to carry this channel, and providers that had not yet agreed to carry the new channel were required to stop carrying the alternate feed in August 2008. Unlike the alternate feed, it would also be available in high definition.
Initially, it was restricted to acting as a timeshift channel for TSN, with most non-live programming being aired on a three-hour tape delay from TSN proper, allowing this channels viewers in the Pacific Time Zone to watch many programs at the same local time as TSN viewers in the Eastern Time Zone. However, as had been the case with the alternate feed, up to 10% of the TSN2 schedule could consist of alternative live sporting events that cannot air on TSN due to other programming commitments.
The new channel was launched on August 29, 2008 at 7 p.m. ET in standard and high definition , with live coverage of the US Open tennis tournament continued from TSN, followed by an encore presentation of a Friday night CFL game aired earlier on TSN.
Since February 1, 2010, TSN has been subject to revised conditions of licence (since formalized as Category C licensing) that allow this channel to operate autonomously from TSN’s main channel as a pure multiplex. TSN launched three more multiplex channels—TSN3, TSN4, and TSN5, on August 25, 2014, serving primarily as regional feeds of TSN.
Upon its launch, it promised that it would air over 800 hours per year of live events, and that it would also feature repeat broadcasts of live events that were shown by TSN earlier in the night. Repeat broadcasts of TSN’s original programming (such as SportsCentre) would fill out the schedule.
It’s alternative programming typically consists of National Basketball Association games featuring the Toronto Raptors, and NASCAR Xfinity Series races. However, it has also included tennis, boxing, baseball, and Major League Lacrosse coverage.
On October 22, 2008, it announced it would air 25 Toronto Raptors basketball games during the 2008-09 NBA season. However, due to the lack of carriage agreements at the time, these games were not available to cable subscribers in the team’s home market of Toronto and other regions served by Rogers Cable.
On August 20, 2010, they announced it had signed a multi-year agreement with Canada Basketball to become the exclusive Canadian broadcaster of various international basketball tournaments. Under the terms of the two-year deal, TSN2 was the exclusive broadcaster of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women, FIBA Americas Championship 2011, and FIBA Americas Championship for Women 2011. For its 2010 edition, TSN and TSN2 became the new Canadian broadcasters of the Spengler Cup hockey tournament. TSN2 would broadcast most of the tournament’s games.
On October 27, 2011, Bell Media, TSN and TSN2 announced that they had secured broadcast rights for FIFA soccer from 2015 to 2022. The rights include the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. On February 18, 2013, they introduced simulcasts of two shows from TSN Radio, Mike Richards in the Morning, and the new TSN Drive with Dave Naylor.
In January 2016, TSN2 simulcast ESPN2’s Megacast Film Room coverage of the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship.
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