Further Effects of the Mega Rogers/NHL TV Rights Deal

When TSN lost the NHL’s national broadcast rights to rival Rogers it was seen as a crippling blow to the Bell Media channel. It surely was, and the trickle down effect will only make it worse.

TSN has spent significant resources in becoming “Canada’s Sports Leader”. While the CFL is a nice attraction (or the only attraction if you live in Saskatchewan), its big prize was its hockey coverage. Not just broadcasting the games mind you, but all the extra coverage and analysis that hockey fans have no problem watching again and again as long as their team didn’t lose last night. It seems unlikely that once this new deal kicks in that TSN will continue to provide such shows.

Let’s start with the talent. Now flush with games, and promising to show as many as seven different ones a night, Rogers will be looking to boost their staff. Of course, they’ll look to their own people first, and then CBC’s (Canuck fans can look forward to the return of Jim Hughson), but eventually they’ll look toward some TSN guys to either help with the broadcast or be part of analysis.

Bob McKenzie just signed a 10-year contract and if his tweets are any indication, he appears to be going nowhere.

James Duthie on the other hand will be 60 years old by the time the Rogers deal expires. He has some tough decisions ahead to make, but at least he’ll have options.

Darren Dreger has made valuable connections in the business (one of them being a second cousin of Dave Nonis) and has worked in the past for the NHL Network, which is also part owned by Bell Media. Dreger also once worked at Rogers before making the jump to TSN.

Then there are still guys like Darren Dutchyshen, Ray Ferraro, Gino Reda, Steve Kouleas, Craig Button, Aaron Ward, Mike Johnson, Gord Miller, Chris Cuthbert.  The stable of NHL analysts at TSN is immense.

Given that TSN has regional rights to Leafs,  and Jets games, they will still have a foot in the NHL door. TSN currently has the regional rights to the Canadiens, but that deal ends this year, and is expected to be hotly contested between Bell and Rogers.  With Bell owning a minority share in the Habs, it would be a real embarrasment to lose this bidding war (and the TVA vs RDS french regional rights bidding war).  The Ottawa Senators deal with Rogers expires soon and Bell could step up and take it.

Buying the rights to CHL games will become an option after next season. TSN also has a deal with Hockey Canada that provides the network with the broadcasting rights to many IIHF events, most notably the World Juniors, but those events are brief.

TSN will be able to provide their panel with things to do, although either for a much smaller audience, or for just a few weeks at a time. The NHL Network (the Canadian version) is another potential outlet for TSN analysts given their parent company’s minority stake in the channel.

Let’s say TSN keeps all the guys they want to keep, and they decide to push forward with the same amount of hockey coverage. Their trade deadline, and free agent shows will still be the same but those are just once a year. The big change will be to their highlight shows like That’s Hockey, That’s Hockey 2Nite, even SportsCentre, and here’s why.

Without national broadcasting rights, TSN will legally only be allowed to show three minutes of NHL highlights per hour. That small amount can be classified as “news”, but any more and TSN would be breaking some laws. Now, in the past TSN and Rogers have made deals where they would trade the rights to their content, but Rogers might not have much incentive to do so anymore. They have Bell completely at their mercy here, and could charge whatever they want, if they even want to sell the rights at all. A deal will have to be made, for lots of money, and without any new revenue to replace the NHL games, costs will have to be cut somewhere.

TSN is also going to have to balance the Canadian appetite for NHL coverage, with the fact that doing so would be giving more exposure to a league that just shut them out, and to a product that is owned almost exclusively by their biggest rival.

For Rogers, it’s obvious that this deal was a major coup. They’ve long had way too many channels with no real content and now that problem is solved. As long as the ‘Advertisers Loving Live Sports’ bubble doesn’t pop they’re in good shape. I can’t see why it would.

For CBC it’s pretty much the end, but it was going there anyway. The Bell offer supposedly cut them out of the deal entirely. Despite constant outcries for the end of Coaches Corner, or at least Don Cherry, I can’t see Rogers getting rid of a Canadian staple. The second intermission Hotstove panel is a different story. Expect more Nick Kypreos. Kypreos, by the way, was never a huge fan of the TSN guys, and was presumably reacted to the news of the mega deal with the enthusiasm of a student at William McKinley High.

One big change I could see happening, is that this could be the last season for Bob Cole, if that wasn’t the plan already. He’s been a polarizing figure for a while, and while he’s a legend (deservedly so) at CBC, it’s possible Rogers will have no trouble cutting ties with one of hockey’s all time great voices.

It is unlikely that TSN or Rogers knows for sure how they’ll move forward once the deal kicks in, but changes will be coming. Exciting times for sure.


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