NHL deal with Rogers huge blow to CBC by Raju Mudhar
Nov 26, 2013
Rogers’ new $5.2 billion, 12-year deal, sewing up all things NHL in Canada is likely to have a massive effect on the national broadcaster.
Source: Toronto Star
First TSN came for the theme song. Now Rogers has absconded with everything else CBC hockey had.
After this season, it is highly unlikely that Hockey Night in Canada will look anything like it currently does.
As part of Rogers’ new $5.2 billion, 12-year deal with the NHL, CBC’s hockey department exists in little more than name only. While the CBC 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 on CBC.
As for Don Cherry? He’s a free agent at the end of the year.
For years, HNIC has been a cash cow that helped float many of CBC’s other news and original programming endeavours, with some estimating it was worth $200 million, and up to half of the TV network’s advertising revenue. With ratings that hovered around the 1.7 million mark, it was a juggernaut, regularly the most viewed sporting event of the week.
Part of the reason for its revenue-generating power was the exclusivity HNIC enjoyed, with no other network allowed to air hockey opposite it.
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Now Rogers 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. It is a pitiful lifeline.
The domino effects of this are unknown, but the potential loss of $200 million is sure to have an effect on the properties hockey helped paid for. The sport has long been CBC’s most viable revenue engine. From The Fifth Estate to Arctic Air, who knows what else will be on the chopping block as a result of the deal?
The CBC also keeps some playoff games and the Stanley Cup final, but Rogers president Keith Pelley said that if a Canadian team made the final, Rogers would simulcast the games across its networks.
This is grim news for the national broadcaster. Sure, hockey will be more accessible to more Canadians over the next four years, but unless Rogers is feeling charitable, why would they extend the agreement past that window?
Think of it as a transition period. It’s just speculation, but it may be that the continued involvement of the CBC in this deal was likely mandated by the NHL as a goodwill gesture for their 61 years of service. Rogers loses nothing, and instead gets another channel on Saturday nights to show a game.
CBC has already said that job losses from its hockey department will be part of the fallout of the deal. The bigger question is the effect it will have on the rest of the network. Hockey revenue clearly underwrote much of CBC’s other programming, and considering that the federal government already cut $110 million out of the network’s budget last year, it literally is death by hundreds of million (dollar) cuts.
At the news conference announcing the deal, at least five questions concerned what the deal would mean for Cherry. The executives and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talked about what a wonderful friend to hockey Grapes is, and that no decisions have been made yet. Cherry’s current deal is year-to-year with CBC, and his radio show already airs on Rogers’ family of radio stations, so there is a relationship there.
But you can bet that Rogers is going to have its own personalities running the Saturday night pre-game show. While Cherry and Ron MacLean have become synonymous with HNIC, both men are high-priced talent.
Of course, there will be a hue and cry whenever Cherry goes — particularly if he gets turfed as opposed to leaving on his own terms — but this humungous deal changes everything on Canada’s sports media landscape.
If you’re fan of what CBC does with Hockey Night in Canada, enjoy the rest of this season. After that, CBC and Cherry’s contribution to HNIC will depend on Rogers’ largesse, and we’ll see how long that lasts.
© Toronto Star