Sportsnet is a Canadian English-language sports specialty service. It was established in 1998 as CTV Sportsnet, a joint venture between CTV, Liberty Media, and Rogers Media. CTV parent Bell Globemedia then was required to divest its stake in the network following its 2001 acquisition of competing for network TSN. Rogers then became the sole owner of Sportsnet in 2004 after it bought the remaining minority stake that was held by Fox.
The Sportsnet license comprises four 24-hour programming services; Sportsnet was originally licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as a category A service, operating as a group of regional sports networks offering to program tailored to each feed's region (in contrast to TSN, which was licensed at the time to operate as a national sports service and could only offer limited regional opt-outs).
Since 2011, the service has operated under deregulated category C licensing, which allows Sportsnet to operate multiple feeds with no restrictions on alternate programming. In each region, only the local Sportsnet channel is available on analog cable, but all four channels are available nationally via digital cable (subject to blackouts for some out-of-market teams).
The four Sportsnet feeds air some common programming and simulcast major, national events, but are capable of airing programming autonomously—most prominently regional programming. Sportsnet is the national cable rightsholder of the National Hockey League, and also holds regional rights to five of the league's Canadian franchises.
It is also the national rightsholder of Major League Baseball in Canada (although most of ESPN's MLB broadcasts are sub-licensed to rival network TSN), and the exclusive broadcaster of the co-owned Toronto Blue Jays. It also splits regional coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors with TSN; Rogers Communications and TSN's parent company Bell Canada own a joint majority stake in the teams' parent company.
The Sportsnet brand has since been extended beyond the original regional channels, now encompassing the national channels Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet One (and its regional part-time companion channels), and Sportsnet World; Sportsnet Radio stations in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary; and Sportsnet Magazine.
With these brand extensions, Rogers now generally uses "Sportsnet" (by itself) to denote its sports media properties as a whole, and on-air promotions for programs being carried nationally by these four regional feeds often list all four channels separately, or refer to the Sportsnet "regional" (or "main") channels, to avoid any ambiguity.
However, standalone mentions of "Sportsnet" in reference to a specific channel can still generally be assumed to be referring to the four regional channels (or the specific regional channel available locally on analog cable).