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SBD/November 27, 2013/MediaPrint All
The NHL's 12-year, C$5.2B rights deal with Rogers Communications, the "most complicated and expensive rights deal in Canadian history," was put together in five days after Rogers "decided to gamble the company’s broadcasting future" on the league, according to a front-page piece by Ladurantaye & Atkins of the GLOBE & MAIL. Rogers President Keith Pelley "realized last Wednesday as he sat in a New York boardroom that there was a chance not only to steal the lucrative Saturday night national broadcast rights" from the CBC, but that there also was an "opportunity to freeze out Bell Media." The Rogers team "scrambled to get the company’s board onside, and raced to persuade the CBC and Quebecor Inc.-owned TVA to join their bid as broadcast partners who would show games but reap little financial benefit." The bid "had one catch -- it had to include all digital rights." The deal was "signed on Sunday, beating out Bell Media, which is believed to have pitched a similar plan to the NHL." Sources said that TSN made its own "aggressive bid, not far short of the Rogers offer." While the CBC will continue to broadcast "HNIC" on Saturdays "for the next four years, Rogers will decide which games it shows, and control staffing in a strange situation that gives Rogers control over everything from commercial inventory to on-air personalities at the CBC." Rogers also will "ensure other Canadian games are shown on Saturday nights, something that has not happened for decades." All CBC ad revenue "will go to Rogers." Once it was "clear a deal was possible, Rogers approached the CBC to find out if it would be interested in a partnership to keep Hockey Night in Canada alive, but transfer editorial control to Rogers." CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix "reluctantly agreed." But he added it was not what "we had hoped for" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/27).
WE'VE GOT THE POWER: The GLOBE & MAIL's Susan Krashinsky notes Rogers is "positioning its Sportsnet properties to be the go-to channels for Canada’s national pastime." The company has been "aggressively building the Sportsnet brand, with a massive rebranding, a new magazine, an expanded digital presence, the acquisition of competitor the Score and an investment," in partnership with Bell Canada, in MLSE. Rogers with the NHL TV deal "is making a big bet that the country’s national sport will drive growth in its media business -- and shore up its position in the growing battle for TV and mobile subscribers." A move toward a la carte pricing would "pose a challenge to all cable networks." With the "right content, however, there is a greater chance that consumers given a choice will choose to pay for the channel." Sportsnet currently has 8.8 million subscribers, while Bell-owned TSN has 9.2 million. Rogers with this deal also can "cherry-pick the best games to broadcast on its networks, driving viewership." Access to NHL content "also puts the power in Rogers’ hands to go to competing TV distributors and demand higher fees to carry the channel" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/27).
PARDON MOI: In Montreal, Pat Hickey notes while TVA has "emerged as a sub-licensee for national French-language rights, the bulk of the regular-season package -- 60 games -- could still be televised on RDS." TVA will "televise 22 games, including all Saturday night games on TVA Sports." Whether the other 60 regular-season games "stay on RDS or move to TVA will be up to the NHL and the Canadiens to decide in the coming days or weeks" (Montreal GAZETTE, 11/27).
NHL NET TO SEE CHANGES: The deal with Rogers will change the way the league operates the NHL Network. The NHL’s current partners on the network are Insight Media -- owned in part by MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum -- and TSN, its outgoing broadcast rights-holder after this season. NHL Network utilizes TSN studios and some of its talent. Over the next few months, the league will look to transition into a partnership with Rogers and Sportsnet and consider other ways to upgrade the performance of NHL Network (Christopher Botta, Staff Writer).
The CBC's hockey department "exists in little more than name only" following Rogers Communications' 12-year, C$5.2B rights deal with the NHL on Tuesday, according to Raju Mudhar of the TORONTO STAR. While the net "retains Saturday night hockey for the next four years, all editorial and personnel decisions are now the domain of Rogers, as well as responsibility for production." Rogers will "even get the money from the ads that run" during "HNIC." That show for years "has been a cash cow that helped float many of CBC’s other news and original programming endeavours," with some estimates putting its worth at C$200M, and "up to half of the TV network’s advertising revenue." Rogers now can "air games across its seven networks, and promises that if a Canadian team is playing, it will be on one of those networks." That much hockey "will only erode Hockey Night’s dominance." The "only thing CBC gets out of the deal is 320 hours of hockey programming, which counts as Canadian content, and some of their series advertised across Rogers channels." The sport has "long been CBC’s most viable revenue engine." Mudhar: "From 'The Fifth Estate' to 'Arctic Air,' who knows what else will be on the chopping block as a result of the deal?" (TORONTO STAR, 11/27).
HAD BEEN IN TALKS WITH THE LEAGUE: CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix in an internal memo wrote that the CBC "had been in conversation" with the NHL "for several months" about remaining one of the league's broadcast partners. Lacroix wrote, "The CBC was prepared to do a fiscally responsible deal to preserve hockey on Saturday nights and to help the NHL to build the hockey brand through a variety of significant events and outreach activities. The NHL chose a deal with only one broadcaster -- that’s their choice and that’s their prerogative." Lacroix added that Tuesday's deal "wasn’t 'the outcome we had hoped for,' confirming there will be job losses, though not as many as there would have been had they lost the NHL altogether." Lacroix said that the NHL had "high financial expectations and the CBC was 'not in a position to [spend] taxpayers money on this game of high stakes.'" Lacroix when asked how the CBC will make money from the agreement "pointed out that Rogers will get all the revenue but that there will be no cost to CBC." Meanwhile, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during Tuesday's press conference announcing the deal stressed that "HNIC" "remains a priority for the league." Bettman: "We all recognize the importance, the value and the significance of 'Hockey Night in Canada' on CBC" (TORONTO STAR, 11/27).
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR CHERRY? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes if the CBC's Don Cherry is "willing, viewers will see much, much more of him once Rogers takes charge of hockey on national Canadian television." Rogers Media President Keith Pelley did not go into much detail Tuesday about plans for Cherry and other "HNIC" broadcasters including Ron MacLean. But he did say, "Don could appear on seven different networks." Shoalts: "Rest assured that Mr. Cherry is held in much higher esteem in the boardrooms at Rogers than he is in the same quarters at the CBC." Sunday will be Rogers' day to "exclusively broadcast national NHL games in Canada," and the plan is to have "non-stop, NFL-style pre-game shows, panel shows and post-game shows starting in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday." There will be "lots of room for more" of Cherry if "both he and Rogers want the additional exposure" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/27). In Toronto, Kim Nursall writes, "CBC could try to renew Cherry’s contract and keep him as part of the lineup, but given that the network is no longer making money off hockey, his contract could prove too large (and illogical) for the public broadcaster to absorb." There also is "the question of what happens to" MacLean. Nursall: "Does the CBC let him go? Either a network hires both, or the duo is going to be split up" (TORONTO STAR, 11/27). POSTMEDIA NEWS' Gary Loewen wrote, "Tip to the CBC: Create your own 30-minute pre- and post-game shows featuring Cherry on Saturday nights. Could you sell enough ads?" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 11/26).
Rogers Communications' 12-year, C$5.2B media rights deal with the NHL is a "significant blow" to current rights holder TSN, according to Eric Atkins of the GLOBE & MAIL. The loss of national rights "could mean a drop in ad revenue and subscriber fees paid by cable companies" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/27). In Toronto, Rush & McGran note on "most ratings metrics, TSN still beats Rogers Sportsnet, remaining the most-watched specialty channel in the country and it has better known sports personalities." But "all that could change" (TORONTO STAR, 11/27). YAHOO SPORTS CANADA's Chris Zelkovich wrote, "In this country, if you don't have the NHL you can't be seen as a serious player." There is "nothing out there that can produce the audiences or ad revenues that hockey does" (CA.SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/26).
TRYING TO SURVIVE: In Toronto, Rob Longley writes TSN will survive, as its programming roster is "deep and the established audience strong." Over time, though, there will "surely be an erosion in that status on top of the big strike Tuesday." CFL ratings are "at an all-time high, but other than three games a year, don’t touch big-time hockey." The World Junior Hockey Championships "are huge," but TSN "can't have four world juniors in one year." The NFL also is an "important property for TSN and it still has some regional Leafs content." But "not only is the cupboard less bountiful today, the protein is desperately short." Meanwhile, if TSN thought losing Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole to FS1 "was a big blow to 'Sportscentre,' this is potentially even bigger." Nightly sports news programs "depend on strong 'lead-in' programming with a carry-over audience." There is "no better lead-in than live NHL hockey" (TORONTO SUN, 11/27). In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes, "Try to imagine what TSN is going to fill its 24/7/365 sports hole with until the end of the 2025-26 NHL season, if the only hockey it's got are regional games" for the Jets and Canadiens, the World Juniors and "a few less prestigious properties." TSN has "developed a strong product and a deep, smart, high-calibre cast of characters." On the surface, the NHL's decision to "take the money and run from its most competent sports broadcast partner seems apt to produce sub-standard television for a while" (VANCOUVER SUN, 11/27).
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote, "No matter if you're Team Sportsnet or Team TSN, you have to tap the stick for the way the latter covered the game." TSN had "innovations in camerawork and reporting, like the 'inside the glass' stuff." They had studio shows that "felt like appointment viewing," and had insiders that "you felt were completely connected, sometimes to a fault." The end of TSN's NHL coverage "comes as no fault of their own." Meanwhile, TSN’s "loss could be NBC’s gain should they opt to take advantage of it." TSN talent like James Duthie, Darren Dreger and Ray Ferraro "could be looking for new addresses." With NBC's Liam McHugh "in studio, the Duthie fit might not be perfect, but he’s as good as it gets." NBC "lacks the kind of insider voice Dreger could provide," and Ferraro is "one of the best analysts working today." Any number of TSN talents could "bolster the Peacock’s coverage" of the NHL (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/26).
NBCUniversal will use its Thursday broadcasts of "Today," the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and The National Dog Show "to burnish" its broadcasts of the Sochi Games, according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. Viewers are "likely to see a promo featuring various Olympic athletes celebrating moments of achievement all with Katy Perry’s 'Roar' as a backdrop." NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller said that NBCU will create "close to 500 different pieces of on-air promotion, ranging from spots for its top 30 station affiliates that may play up athletes who hail from specific regions, to commercials for cable and satellite distributors who may call attention to the NBCU broadcasts to subscribers." Steinberg reports NBCU "will even craft promos for use in Walmart, at gas stations and health clubs." Miller said that Perry's song "helps convey the feelings athletes feel when they achieve a victory or personal milestone." He added that NBCU will have "exclusive license to use the song for commercial purposes through the end of the year ... with an option to renew if there's a need." Steinberg noted NBCU "first started putting the Sochi Games in the spotlight" on Oct. 29, when viewers began seeing "a greater presence accorded to an on-screen insignia that pairs the company's famous Peacock with the iconic Olympic rings" (VARIETY.com, 11/27).
The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Michael O'Connell reported NBC has "locked down its second consecutive November sweep win" among adults 18-49 on the heels of two "especially strong showings" from "SNF." The net through Nov. 24 is "averaging a 2.6 rating in the key demo, which easily outpaces closest rival CBS." Fourth-place Fox, down 26% to a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49, was "without last year's significant advantage of several World Series games airing in the sweep window" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 11/26).
CRIS CROSSED: In Denver, Benjamin Hochman writes after back-to-back games on "SNF," many Broncos fans "have become not just irritated but irate" with NBC's Cris Collinsworth. It is "hard to believe that the highly paid, highly scrutinized professional broadcaster enters a game thinking: 'I'm going to make sure that a dislike for Denver comes through in my analysis.'" Hochman: "It's amusing, to a degree, that Broncomaniacs take this stuff so personally. ... Yet, why is Collinsworth the lone target?" (DENVER POST, 11/27).
DON'T CENSOR ME: NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller said of the net's usage of rink-side audio for its upcoming "NHL Revealed" series, "That audio has so much more to offer, probably in this sport almost more than any other." But Miller said that there is a "downside to player audio on a basic cable channel: NBCSN will have to employ a bleep button to edit the salty language" that is permissible on HBO's "24/7." Still, NHL COO John Collins said that at "some point a 'director's cut' will come out with those cuts restored" (ADAGE.com, 11/26).
OSGOOD AS GOLD: In Detroit, Gregg Krupa writes FS Detroit hockey analyst Chris Osgood's first season on the job is "affording viewers a new standard on what, for Fox, is a significant regional program." Mickey Redmond is a "big loss, on the road broadcasts," but Osgood is "already strong in the role, as well as in the studio before and after home games, and between periods." Osgood said of adjusting to his new role as a broadcaster, "I wouldn't say it is total comfort. But, I definitely enjoy it. That's the main thing, which is key for me: I’m having a lot of fun doing it" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/26).