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Blue Jays renew TV deal with French-language broadcaster

Extension allows fans in Quebec to see new Toronto catcher Martin in action

TORONTO -- Fans in Quebec will be able to keep a close eye on Russell Martin next season as the Blue Jays announced the renewal of a six-year deal with French-language broadcaster TVA on Monday morning.

TVA Sports will broadcast at least 60 Blue Jays games every year for the next six seasons. The number will be even higher in 2015, with TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 combining to televise 130 games during Martin's first year in Toronto.

The agreement also includes the television rights to next year's spring series between the Blue Jays and Reds at Olympic Stadium. The clubs will end their spring schedules with a pair of games in Montreal on April 3 and 4.

"We are extremely pleased to extend our partnership with TVA Sports," Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said in a statement. "Our continued partnership with TVA Sports validates the strength of our fan base in the province of Quebec. It is quite exciting that Blue Jays telecasts will be available in the French language for the next six seasons."

Quebec's interest in the Blue Jays likely increased earlier this offseason when the club signed Martin, but its relationship with Canada's only Major League team has been growing for the past several years. TVA Sports has has been showing Blue Jays games since 2011, with legendary broadcaster Jacques Doucet often working in the booth.

Toronto's two-game series vs. the Mets this spring also was an overwhelming success. More than 96,000 fans went through the gates at Olympic Stadium and the return of baseball to Montreal received attention not only across Canada, but also throughout the United States.

Martin will be of particular interest to the French market. He was born in Toronto but raised in Montreal, and he is one of the city's biggest celebrities. He joined Toronto earlier this month on a five-year contract worth $82 million after hitting .290 with a .402 on-base percentage for the Pirates in 2014.

In a sign of how much interest the Martin signing created, Toronto officially announced his contract with press releases offered in both French and English. During Martin's introductory news conference, there also was a large contingent of media on hand from Quebec.

"We are really pleased to continue our association with the Blue Jays, which will allow us to fulfill the wishes of so many baseball fans," said Serge Fortin, vice president at TVA Sports. "By broadcasting 130 games, in addition to the games at Olympic Stadium, TVA Sports will give its subscribers front-row seats to see the only Canadian team in Major League Baseball."

The renewed deal will have its biggest impact in Quebec, but the station is available in some other parts of Canada as well. French-language Canadians in Ontario and New Brunswick can subscribe to the Quebec-based channel. In Toronto, TVA can be found on channel 101 through the Rogers digital cable package.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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