SBD/November 26, 2013/Media

Rogers, NHL Reach 12-Year Media Rights Deal Worth C$5.2B; TSN Has No National Games

Rogers also controls mobile rights, Internet streaming and radio rights
The NHL’s new Canadian media rights agreement with Rogers Communications for 12 years and C$5.2B was formally announced at a press conference this morning in Toronto. The deal starts next season and continues through the '25-26 season. “It’s a game-changer for hockey broadcasting in Canada,” said Rogers President & CEO Nadir Mohamed. “We’re proud to bring more games, more content and more in-depth coverage. We’ve been looking to build on our sports portfolio for some time and have now substantially built our Sportsnet brand.” Rogers signed sublicensing deals with CBC for English-language broadcasts of “HNIC” and other game telecasts, and TVA for all national French-language multimedia rights. CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix said he was “comforted” that "HNIC" will continue its 61-year run. But he went on to explain why CBC, a public broadcaster, was not a bigger player in the new deal. “The NHL set very high standards, and very high financial expectations, in these negotiations,” Hubert said. “While we thought we brought something very special to broadcasting, CBC was not, candidly, in position to spend taxpayers’ money in this game of high stakes. In this modern era, CBC needs to protect and promote its public service mandate through just this kind of partnership, where we could put our public broadcasting assets to work in a smart, fiscally-responsible way.” The NHL’s agreement, which also calls for Rogers to operate NHL Centre Ice and NHL Game Centre Live, sponsorship rights to the NHL shield and Canadian representation of ad sales for NHL.com, is subject to approval by the NHL BOG at its meeting in Pebble Beach on Dec. 9-10 (Christopher Botta, Staff Writer).

MORE DETAILS OF THE DEAL: The GLOBE & MAIL's Steve Ladurantaye reports as part of the deal, Rogers will "make annual payments" of C$300M to the NHL, which will "incrementally increase until they reach" C$500M in the final year of the deal. There also is "an upfront payment" of C$150M. The deal "fundamentally reshapes the sports broadcasting landscape in Canada," as CBC's "HNIC" will not "maintain its exclusive lock on Saturday night hockey." Rogers indicated that it will "air another Saturday night game on its City network, giving fans another place to watch hockey." The deal also gives Rogers "a great deal of control over NHL content." In addition to TV rights, it "controls mobile rights, Internet streaming, and terrestrial and satellite radio rights." That includes "all regular season games, playoff games and events such as the All-Star Game and draft." Rogers also "controls the highlights, including condensed games and video archives" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 11/26). The NHL said that the agreement "guarantees that there will be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts." In Toronto, Rush & McGran note Rogers has "three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team -- Wednesday nights, Saturday nights (including CBC) and Sunday nights" (THESTAR.com, 11/26).

LEFT OUT IN THE COLD
: The GLOBE & MAIL's Ladurantaye reports TSN was "shut out of the bidding and won’t carry national NHL hockey when its rights expire at the end of this season." However, it "has a regional deal" with the Jets. TSN plans to "continue covering the sport with its highlight shows and specials, but will lose 70 regular season games as well as playoff matchups" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 11/26). POSTMEDIA NEWS' Rob Brodie writes, "Simply put, this is a massive blow for TSN, which has built a large part of its operation around the NHL." Without hockey, TSN's "major remaining live sports properties would include" the entire slate of 77 CFL regular-season and playoff games, men's women's and junior world championships in hockey, the national and world championships in curling, MLS and a handful of Raptors games. Meanwhile, there are "many questions worth asking about the deal, but here's an interesting one -- what becomes of the theme song TSN currently uses on its hockey telecasts?" Brodie: "You know, that oh-so-familiar tune that was part of HNIC for so many years, until a dispute with its composer saw TSN get its hands on it" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 11/26). SI.com's Allan Muir writes the broadcasting changes throw 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." Muir: "Adding any of these men would be a coup for either Rogers or NBC, which owns broadcast rights in the U.S." (SI.com, 11/26). Meanwhile, in Montreal, Brendan Kelly writes there is "no way to sugarcoat" the loss of games for RDS. The channel's "entire schedule is built around" Canadiens broadcasts, and the French-language outlet has "lost at the very least a big chunk of that." The net "may still have some Habs games next season, but not all of them" (MONTREALGAZETTE.com, 11/26).

HUGE COUP FOR ROGERS
: The FINANCIAL POST's Christine Dobby writes locking up all-platform distribution rights for the long term is a "huge coup for Rogers." Rogers in recent years has "invested heavily in its Sportsnet properties -- including television networks, radio stations and a magazine -- to challenge the once dominant" Bell Canada-owned TSN. Rogers and Bell both "own equity stakes in" MLSE, which owns the Maple Leafs as well as other sports assets. Macquarie Capital Markets Canada analyst Greg MacDonald said, "Sports is the most important content by far. Locking up all-platform distribution rights for the long term in a (net present value)-positive deal is a huge coup for Rogers." Rogers said that it "expects the deal to be immediately accretive to its media division's operating profit" (FINANCIALPOST.com, 11/26).

TWITTER REAX: The Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs wrote on his Twitter feed, "TSN reportedly is out of NHL's Canadian national-rights TV picture. 'Stunning' doesn't begin to describe it." The National Post's Bruce Arthur wrote, "A little biased, but I'm stunned the NHL not only cut out an NHL owner on TV rights, but also the best hockey broadcaster on the planet." The Hockey News' Adam Proteau: "It's a measure of the devotion of hockey fans that the TSN/Sportsnet news is being received like a death in the family." The Globe & Mail's David Shoalts‏: "NHL dumping TSN a big shock of course. But once again proves that no matter how much you, um, hug a pro league, in the end money talks." USA Today's Steve Lepore: "Rogers essentially bought the NHL on television on Canada. Unbelievable. Welcome to the future, Canada."
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