SBD/November 27, 2013/Media

CBC Takes Big Hit With New NHL TV Deal, As Rogers Will Make All Decisions On "HNIC"

Cherry (l) could potentially appear on seven different networks for NHL coverage
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).
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