Gary Bettman’s negotiated a lot of TV deals in the United States for the NHL with arguably mixed results, however there’s always one thing that Gary can count on when he’s talking to Canadian media outlets; He’s got them over a barrel. Big news broke in the wee hours of Tuesday morning with TSN’s Bob (the Bob father) McKenzie reporting that the NHL has negotiated a 12 year deal with Rogers Sports Net for exclusive Canadian English language broadcast and multimedia rights. Rogers has also negotiated a sub licensing deal with the CBC allowing them to keep the much valued Hockey Night In Canada property, leaving TSN out of the NHL picture for the first time in recent memory.
The news that has shocked most observers and fans is that second string Canadian sports broadcaster Rogers Sports Net has outbid its main rival TSN for Canadian english language rights. TSN has surged through the last decade outflanking the CBC by scooping up exclusive broadcast rights to the CFL, Covering non CBC NHL games and teaming up with fellow Bell media property CTV for coverage of the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver. With this surge TSN has enjoyed a migration of talent away from its rivals and has by many accounts raised the bar for production values and analysis in Canadian sports media. With all that said Rogers Sports Net has signed an unprecedented 12 year, 5.2 billion dollar deal with the NHL for exclusive English language Canadian broadcast and multimedia rights to every NHL game, including CBC Saturday night games, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup final. Rogers Sports Net will also have exclusive rights to the NHL entry draft. This will relegate TSN’s major offerings to its regional NHL properties and CFL football.
For its part the CBC will provide Sports Net access to the Hockey Night in Canada brand, in exchange for re-broadcast privileges across the CBC network.
The new rights holder, Rogers Sports Net has been largely seen by hockey fans as a second string start up nipping at the heels of TSN and CBC, however at the start of the 2014/2015 NHL season Rogers Sports Net will swing into a dominant role within Canadian sports broadcasting, so now the question is can they raise their game? Undoubtedly the talent herd will migrate to where the pastures are greenest, and exclusivity to the NHL provides fertile ground to lure them away, but can the typically second rate sports network transform itself? The answer is that with a 5.2 billion dollar investment they’ll have to.
It’s also important to note that the deal also covers all multimedia and Internet rights within Canada and eliminates blackout restrictions. This effectively gives Rogers the ability to create new mobile and internet broadcast offerings which can integrate with Sports Nets parent company Rogers communications which itself holds huge stakes in mobile, and internet delivery networks. This could be a silver lining for fans that are disappointed with the move away from TSN.
So what does this mean for Jets fans? Not much. TSN Jets is a 10 year regional deal that has been negotiated directly with True North Sports and Entertainment, so Dennis Beyak and Sarah Orlesky will continue to be the go to tandem covering Jets games throughout the foreseeable future. TSN 1290 radio is a similar deal negotiated directly with True North as well, so nothing will change from that standpoint either. The real change will come to the Canadian sports broadcasting landscape as a whole. NHL Hockey has a certain gravity that will undoubtedly pull viewers and advertisers away from TSN and towards whatever Rogers Sports Net transforms itself into.
At the end of the day something new will arise from what’s now Rogers Sports Net, whether it’s good or bad will remain to be seen. The old guard will continue to defend the national public broadcaster at the ramparts of Hockey Night in Canada, and TSN will undoubtedly be left searching for new ways to maintain its viewership, and its relevance to the Canadian sports consumer. So with an apparent changing of the guard it seems that even in the universe of Canadian sports broadcasting the only true constant is change.