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Volume 24 No. 136
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Rogers' 12-Year, C$5.2B Deal With NHL Reshapes Canada's Broadcasting Landscape

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).