James Duthie, Bob McKenzie and the TSN crew are odd men out under the NHL's new deal. (Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Canadians are about to lose their second national anthem. But in return, they'll gain access to more NHL games than ever before.
The league announced this morning a lucrative new 12-year, multi-platform deal with Rogers Communications for the rights to broadcast games in Canada.
The package is worth a reported $5.2 billion. The Globe and Mail reports that Rogers will make annual payments to the NHL of $300 million, with the amount increasing incrementally until it reaches $500 million in the final year of the deal. Rogers will also pay $150-million up-front to the league.
While this deal only covers Canadian TV rights, the windfall is split equally among all 30 teams. Each share is worth approximately $173 million per club over the life of the agreement.
Rogers Sportsnet will have exclusive English-language NHL TV rights, but will sub-license to CBC, ensuring that Hockey Night In Canada, the gold standard in Canadian sports broadcasting since 1952, will continue to be a staple of free Saturday night viewing.
However, the CBC's broadcasting role will be diminished. In its own press release, the network stated that it is committed to "320 hours of prime-time hockey [per season], including games in the choice Saturday night-time slot and the Stanley Cup Final," but only for the next four years.
In exchange, it cedes control of the broadcast to Rogers. Although it will pay nothing for the rights, it gives up all advertising to Rogers. That's not insignificant, since estimates suggest HNIC advertising generated nearly half of all ad revenue accumulated by the CBC.
It also gives up editorial control of the broadcast, bringing into question the future role of controversial commentator Don Cherry. His wildly popular "Coach's Corner" segment is expected to remain a staple of the show, but he could also be leveraged across multiple Rogers broadcasts...or he could be cut out completely.
The deal shuts out TSN, which has broadcast games nationally since 2002 on a sub-license from the CBC. That network's broadcasts had been introduced by the iconic music, Hockey Theme, since 2008, when TSN won the rights away from CBC.
TSN does continue to hold regional broadcast rights to the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Jets.
The change throws the careers of several of hockey's most talented broadcasters up in the air at the end of this season, including analysts Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, as well as superlative game host James Duthie. There's obviously still a place for them at the network, which will continue to cover hockey as fervently as it did as a rights-holder, but it would be a coup for either Rogers or NBC, which owns broadcast rights in the U.S., to scoop any or all of them up to enhance their presentations.
Rogers also will take control of the NHL Center Ice and NHL Game Center Live packages in Canada, which means prices are all but guaranteed to rise next season to reflect the significant investment made in this deal.
Here's a look at what a sample Saturday night might offer Canadian viewers:
More games, more channels. Outside of additional wear-and-tear on the channel changer, it seems like a good deal for the Canadian fan.
Here's more from the Rogers press release:
“Sports content is a key strategic asset and we’ve been investing significantly to strengthen our sports offering to Canadians,” said Nadir Mohamed, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rogers Communications. “Canadians are passionate about hockey, and through this landmark partnership with the NHL we’ll be able to bring hockey fans more games and more content on their platform of choice.”
Said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: "Our fans always want to explore deeper and more emotional connections to NHL hockey, and that is precisely what Rogers has promised to deliver over the next 12 years – channeling the reach of its platforms and the intensity of its passion for the game into an unparalleled viewing experience. The NHL is extremely excited about the power and potential of this groundbreaking partnership."
Canadians will receive more NHL games than ever before through Rogers’ diverse media assets. Highlights of the agreement include:
• National rights across TV broadcasts, TV Everywhere, wireless and mobile tablets, Internet streaming, terrestrial and satellite radio, and out-of-home;
• National rights to all regular season games, all playoff games and the Stanley Cup finals, and all special events and non-game events (i.e. NHL All-Star Game, NHL Draft) – in all languages;
• Out-of-market rights for all regional games;
• Ownership of all linear and digital highlights, including condensed games and video archives;
• NHL broadcast assets: Rogers to operate NHL Centre Ice and NHL Game Centre Live;
• Sponsorship rights to the NHL Shield logo as an official partner of the NHL; and
• Canadian representation of ad sales for NHL.com.
Rogers will provide multiple game coverage on up to nine TV channels, as well as digital and radio on any given night.
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