It’s not news that hockey is a staple of the Canadian lifestyle. Whether everyone likes it or not, it’s stitched into the fabric of our national identity up here. Where and how we consume “our” game is huge news. (And while it’s not actually “ours,” best believe that’s the perception up here.)
So, when the collective We found out that Rogers bought the next 12 years of NHL rights for 5.232 BILLION dollars (ho-hum), the scramble for information began. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, men and women by the thousands screamed from their knees at the sky. If you’re one of those folks with scuffs on your pants from doing that, you can check out our story stack that’s compiling the news as it rolls in here.
But from a less newsy perspective, I wanted to look at how this actually affects the viewing experience of hockey fans north of the border. Because a quick look at the navel-gazing side is interesting, but not that relevant to most outside the media. Here’s a quick look: the rug has been pulled out from under a lot of great hockey people at TSN and CBC. It’s going to be musical chairs for them this upcoming summer, but while a lot of people may be hurt by the changes, there’s certainly not going to be less hockey jobs, so the qualified will almost certainly land on their feet (y’know, with SportsNet). Both TSN (Curling! CFL!) and CBC (News and stuff!) will likely survive, but in their own ways.
If you shove the business aspects aside, as so many people will because hey, why should they care, it’s tough to see too many negatives coming out of the NHL’s new deal. For all the poop that’s flying around, The Hockey Fan actually looks to come out smelling like roses. Not only is there still going to be a ton of hockey to watch, there’s going to be a ton more hockey on our sets. We’ll get to the details in a sec, but first the small emotional aspect from me, The Hockey Fan.
I grew up watching TSN first and foremost, and I’m sad for its loss of hockey games. I believe they’ve done it bigger and better than anyone in recent years (just think of the magnitude of their free agency and draft coverage), save for the beautiful property that is Hockey Night in Canada, which has also kicked gigantic quantities of bum.
Our junior hockey coach used to insist we open all the hotel room doors on our floor and crank up the volume on our TVs when the Hockey Night in Canada theme played. I’ve watched Bob McKenzie and crew since my family moved to Canada in 1989 or so (and I will continue to). Like most people, I just don’t love change so I’m a little bit pouty about it all, but I’m reasonable enough to step back and note that really…it ain’t all bad.
Yes, CBC will still have Hockey Night in Canada. For you, the fan, it doesn’t matter that suddenly they’re losing half their advertising revenue, because again: CBC will still have Hockey Night in Canada, and that’s what you care about. It will be expanded greatly (hopefully that doesn’t mean watered down) in that Rogers has the rights to use HNiC’s branding across all its Saturday night content, and note: the phrase “all its Saturday night content” being a thing means it’s not just one game anymore. You will have multiple viewing options, meaning Senators and Canadiens fans will be able to watch their teams play instead of the Leafs for a change. There will be no local blackouts, which is monumental news. And hey, if one game goes in the tank, you can flip to one that isn’t. Hurray for choice!
Here’s a sample Saturday schedule they’ve mocked up:
Games, games everywhere from the comfort of your couch. Meanwhile local bars feel a cold chill pass through their bones.
And as Tyler Dellow noted on Twitter, there’s the hope that TSN’s coverage could even improve because of all this – “I don’t know what kind of access TSN has to highlights but the one exciting thing about this is that TSN might cover the league critically.” Not that they didn’t before, but it would be neat if they kept their insiders and had less relationships to protect.
The possible cons, from what I gather:
* Most people considered TSN and CBC broadcasts to be better than Sportsnet’s. My guess is that Rogers is about to throw dat big boy money at their production and talent. If people need their James Duthie, best believe Sportsnet will offer him James Duthie Money, which will be a phrase that will enter the lexicon shortly after he makes the move (he may not, but we’ll just use him as an example for now). So, I expect better quality broadcasts.
* There are less options now, and people don’t like that. I dunno, but that is a thing. 31 flavors, and whatnot.
* Rogers can now say to other cable providers “If you don’t carry hockey people aren’t going to buy your service…” (I ain’t bundling with anybody if their TV package doesn’t include hockey) “…So give us a bunch of money for the hockey we own.” Best believe they’ll pass those costs on to you, which means your cable bill is probably going to go up at some point.
Message about hockey on TV seems pretty clear: you’re going to buy cable or not watch it.
— Chemmy (@felixpotvin) November 26, 2013
But really, what’s a few bucks if it comes with more games.
Then there’s secondary ways in which your hockey consumption might be affected: the salary cap? That’s goin’ up. And actually, it’s going up quick. I could see teams that didn’t love spending before huddling closer to the salary floor (it’ll take a good amount of spending if the cap is at 80 million in a few years as some have speculated), which is also going up, which could mean a bigger disparity in spending between teams.
But that’s an on-ice issue, and those are for dissecting at another time.
When the smoke clears on it all and next season begins, Canadians with cable simply get more hockey, and there isn’t much more to it. The League made a bunch of money which is great for stability, players will make more money, and northern fans get more puck. All because Rogers spent a handful of billion bucks.
I feel bad for TSN and CBC, and my friends that work at those places. But it certainly seems like it’s going to be a positive for the home viewer.