Sports the last live and lucrative bastion for television. Rogers' coup may not have happened had Bell and CBC's joint bid for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Olympic rights not collapsed in June 2012
Source: Business Vancouver
North Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin's coverage of sports, business, politics and news has appeared in local, regional, national and international outlets since 1990. He launched the 2010 Gold Rush column in BIV in 2006 to follow business issues and opportunities surrounding the Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Winter Olympics. Mackin is a regular guest on The Sport Market on Team 1040. Follow him on Twitter: @bobmackin
By Bob Mackin Tue Dec 3, 2013 12:01am PST
There is nobody named Rogers in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but a media game-changing November 26 announcement means that Rogers Communications will transform how Canadians see the national winter sport.
The company best known as Canada's mobile phone market leader swung a 12-year, $5.2 billion deal for National Hockey League TV and Internet rights, records for both Canada and the NHL.
Next fall, TSN will be left with regional Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets rights, while CBC will become a Rogers subcontractor. Its Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) brand, which debuted on TV in 1952, will be extended to Rogers platforms, including Vancouver-based Sportsnet Pacific, City and Omni. Rogers gets editorial control of HNIC on CBC, which means the love-him-or-hate-him Don Cherry's retirement could be decided by a company that splits 75% of the Toronto Maple Leafs with Bell.
CBC will remain the flagship for at least four more years, but it will pay no production costs and gain no advertising revenue. CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix conceded that private partnerships are the future for the public broadcaster, which still needs the HNIC profile to promote the rest of its news and entertainment schedule.
Rogers title-sponsors Rogers Arena, so expect more nationally televised Vancouver Canucks' home games.
Vancouver will also figure in Bell's strategy to buffer TSN from an anticipated post-NHL hangover. It will become reliant on the five-year, $200 million deal with the Canadian Football League, whose Grey Cup is returning to BC Place next fall, and the premier sponsorship of Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver-based Telus uses its CFL sponsorship to promote Optik Internet TV, but it is not a player in pro sports rights. Telus has quietly charted a course in the less sexy, but highly lucrative, electronic medical records and data niche.
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were the genesis of the Rogers/NHL deal. Bell changed the face of Canadian broadcasting in February 2005 when it bid $153 million jointly with Rogers and later appointed CFL on TSN's Friday Night Football creator Keith Pelley as head. The package, which included London 2012 rights, was 110% bigger than CBC's Turin 2006 and Beijing 2008 agreement with the International Olympic Committee. Rogers lured Pelley away from Bell in August 2010, and he became architect of the NHL deal.
Rogers' coup might not have happened had Bell and CBC's joint bid for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Olympic rights not collapsed in June 2012.
A dozen years ago, the NHL couldn't be viewed on mobile phones and webcasting was in its infancy. A tablet was a pill and a tweet was something birds did. The next dozen years will provide Rogers plenty of time to innovate.
Canada's top sports video game studio, EA Sports, is Burnaby-based, and Xbox One maker Microsoft is down Interstate 5 in Seattle. The lines between reality and fantasy are being blurred. Video game consoles are now all-in-one entertainment centres engineered for social media and interactive TV.
A wave of new devices, big and small, were previewed at last May's Society for Information Display Display Week 2013 convention in Vancouver. Ultra-high definition TV is coming, and it is expected to do what 3-D failed to do: become a must-have for hockey fans.
On the small side, watch for video-enabled watches and bendable/foldable mobile phone screens. Perhaps Google Glass or the Vancouver-developed Recon Instruments products will factor in the equation for Rogers. The GoPro helmet-mounted camera has demonstrated its worth for various adventure and extreme sports. Imagine a smaller version embedded in a goaltenders' mask or even the puck.
It all adds up to more ways to experience hockey, to keep the great Canadian game number one in a fragmenting TV universe turned upside down by Netflix and PVRs. •
© Business Vancouver