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NHL signs 12-year TV, Internet deal with Rogers; CBC keeps ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ by Curtis Rush

Nov 26, 2013

The deal gives Rogers national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, on all of its platforms in all languages.

Source: Toronto Star

In a blockbuster deal, Rogers Sportsnet has seized control of CBC’s flagship Hockey Night in Canada and the majority of hockey media rights across the country.

The 12-year, $5.2 billion deal, the largest in NHL history, will bring to an end Hockey Night in Canada as we have known it on the CBC for the past 61 years.

Rogers, not the CBC, will oversee its every aspect as of the beginning of the next NHL season.

The deal also leaves TSN on the outside looking in.

And while CBC retains its Saturday time slot, but will no longer make any money off of the show. Rogers assumes control over content, on-air talent and the creative direction of Hockey Night in Canada when the deal kicks in.

The branding of the show won’t change for at least the next four seasons under a sub-licensing deal the public broadcaster signed with Rogers. All of this came together in a deal between Rogers and CBC in less than a week, after the CBC was informed last Thursday by the NHL that it had lost the rights to hockey to the Rogers’ media empire, according to CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson.

“It will be the NHL like never before,” Rogers Media president Keith Pelley promised.

In a memo to CBC staff, however, CBC president Hubert Lacroix wrote, this wasn’t “the outcome we had hoped for.” The memo went on to say that “while this deal will result in job losses, the staffing impact would have been much greater had we lost hockey entirely.”

“From next year on, the content of that show, whatever features are being done, that’s a Rogers responsibility and you know what? It’s kind of fair, they just paid $5.2 billion for 12 years for that,” Lacroix said following the announcement.

Ron MacLean, Hockey Night in Canada’s long-running host, said Tuesday he wasn’t sure how the deal will impact him, but he thinks the new agreement is good for hockey.

“I was happy for whoever happens to be working on the show, even if it isn’t me,” he told The Canadian Press. “I think that’s great and I think the $5.2-billion deal is tremendous for the league and the players. It just shows, you know, what hockey in Canada has meant. It’s a great day.”

The deal also means that the CBC will no longer be the only network to broadcast NHL games on Saturday nights. The agreement gives Rogers national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup playoffs and Stanley Cup finals, on all of its platforms in all languages.

The NHL and Rogers called the deal “a game-changer” because fans will get more hockey than ever before, including on City, Sportsnet and wireless and mobile options.

Rogers will provide game coverage with expanded pre- and post-game coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (ET) on Saturdays and Sundays. Rogers also has exclusive rights to events such as All-Star Games and NHL drafts and the media company will provide multiple-game coverage on up to nine TV channels.

“We have a goal to build the largest audience, and the CBC provides the biggest avenue to create that audience,” Pelley said.

Who gets what game on which night is something that Rogers will work out with the league. As far as the Maple Leafs go, Pelley said some weekends they will appear on CBC and other weekends they will appear on City or Sportsnet.

“Not if, but when the Maple Leafs hoist the Cup, we expect they’ll hoist it on CBC. But at the same they could be hoisting it on Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360 and all different platforms,” said Pelley.

Since Rogers will be in control of on-air talent, the future of MacLean and Don Cherry is unclear. As the deal stands now, however, Cherry and MacLean could be seen on different platforms, much in the same way at on-air talent was shared at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“We haven’t even had this discussion,” Pelley said about the future of MacLean and Cherry. “Don is an iconic Canadian. He’s made such a big difference in the way in which we experience our Saturday nights.”

The NHL players will benefit in the deal because they get half of the revenue and the salary cap will increase because the cap is tied to hockey-related revenue.

However, along with the CBC’s job losses, TSN will also likely shed employees, either through layoffs or by having their on-air talent poached by Rogers.

TSN, the specialty sports TV channel and a long-time partner of the NHL, loses tremendously. Spokesperson Greg McIsaac said in a statement that, “we submitted a bid we believed was valuable for the NHL and appropriate for our business, but were ultimately outbid.”

TSN, which owns the Hockey Night in Canada theme song, still has regional rights to air some Toronto Maple Leafs games through 2015 and Winnipeg Jets matches through 2021. And McIsaac said the network plans to keep using the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song.

The NHL said the agreement guarantees that there will be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts. Rogers has three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team: Wednesday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday nights.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman came looking for a long-term media partner to expand its television programming some time ago.

“We’re the ones who pitched it initially,” Bettman said. “Nobody’s ever done a deal quite like this.”

The NHL was looking to add a long-term partner in Canada to complement the 10-year $2 billion (U.S.) deal the NHL signed in 2011 with NBC in the United States.

The deal will be financed with an upfront payment of $150 million spread over the first two years. The communications giant will then make annual payments at just over $300 million in the first year, with gradual annual escalations, increasing to approximately mid-$500 million in the final year of the contract term.

Nadir Mohamed, president and CEO of Rogers Communications, pulled the deal together with the NHL.

However, the timing of this deal is curious. Mohamed is leaving Rogers and is being replaced as CEO by Guy Laurence, 52, who will take over next Monday as Rogers’ top executive.

© Toronto Star