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:

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 12.22.02 PM

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.

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.

Comments (31)

  1. My real questions and concerns revolve around streaming and their take over of GameCentre live. This is how I ingest most of my hockey and am now worried that it will be a rogers exclusive thing like Bell and and any TSN streaming. If it is stays the same I will be happy and if they remove the local blackouts I will be even happier.

    • I have the exact same question. I do everything by over the air/GCL, and I really hope I don’t have to get cable again to watch hockey.

  2. I hope that SportsNet does invest money into upping the production value of their broadcasts, but my only question is why the hell would they bother? They literally own all of the rights, they have zero competition.

    Why would they bother offering a ton of money to Duthie or someone of similar ilk when they can continue to have Captain Brain Damage and the Failed GM on their panel while they rake in the ridiculous advertising dollars that come with national sports broadcasts.

    • That is exactly my fear as well. Kypreos and McLean are brutal and I just refuse to watch them at any time before, intermission or post game.

  3. I dunno, an extra $14.5M/yr of HRR per team (436/30) will sure make that salary cap jump easier to withstand, given that the players will only get half of that.

    • I’m a dummy. Not an extra $14.5M, but whatever the difference is from the current deal. Still, the cap only goes up half of that difference; the other half goes right into the team’s bank accounts.

  4. While I’m not a sports viewer, let alone a hockey fan, I do enjoy the business of sports and the various machinations of such (including broadcast licensing rights).

    However, in all of the press releases, schedule “mock-ups” and internal memos I’ve read from both Rogers Communications and CBC/Radio-Canada, while it’s clear CBC will continue broadcasting “Hockey Night In Canada” ONLY on Saturday nights (7 PM and 10 PM Eastern/4 PM and 7 PM Pacific) as the rest of the nights are Rogers/TVA’s exclusive domain, I’m unclear on WHO will actually be producing the HNIC broadcasts on CBC. Can someone clarify that for me? Will it be Rogers, from its all-new “state-of-the-art” broadcast centre and then co-branded with Rogers and/or CBC’s logos on the CBC network or will CBC actually be producing the broadcasts? Given that CBC/Radio-Canada said they’re not paying Rogers anything for the broadcasts and the fact Rogers has total editorial control, I’m assuming that it would be the former and not the latter. In which case, we could see either (a) CBC losing Ron MacLean and Don Cherry to Rogers like it did when it lost Brian Williams to CTVglobemedia/Bell Media when CTV secured the 2010 and 2012 Olympic broadcast rights in Canada or (b) completely new talent/hosts of the HNIC broadcast on CBC.

    And, WHO owns the name “Hockey Night In Canada”? Is it the CBC or the NHL, which has licensed it to Rogers, who has in turn sub-licensed it back to the CBC, as per this agreement?

    Any thoughts from experts more qualified than me would be appreciated.

    Doug M.

  5. Best news? They have editorial control over HNiC.

    No more Cherry? Perhaps they can relegate him to an online version. Just program a muppet to blah blah blah about ex-Leafs & Bruins and rave about players using the ‘Bieska’ formula (http://canucksarmy.com/2013/11/18/canucks-army-contest-our-winning-entry-the-bieska-rating).

    Throw a bag of money at Cuthbert and put Mark Lee out to pasture. I can’t understand how someone who can’t differentiate between Dale Weise and Daniel Sedin (for an entire shift!) can continue to be employed by a national broadcaster.

    I’m already excited about the impending end of Glenn Healy & PJ Stock! Get Friedman on the SN panels and I’m set for life, no matter what the cable bill is!

    • Bad news for you. Cherry does work on Rogers radio networks currently if what I read is true.

      • NOOOoooooooo………..

        Well, whatever. I can skip him. And I can skip the intermission panels if MacClean or PJ or Healy are involved. Hurray for PVRs! Hear that Rogers? I’ll never watch an ad on your broadcasts if those clowns are involved!

        3 hours of Mark Lee is what I’m really hoping to avoid. How can someone make hockey feel so dull?

  6. I appreciate your effort to look at the positives here, but to me this is just the worst thing ever. I HATE Sportsnet’s broadcasts. They’re terrible. The reporters at ice level are good, everyone else is garbage. Listening to Nick Kypreos in the intermission is like some sort of punishment, but I don’t know what Canadians did to deserve it :(

    RIP TSN game nights </3

  7. In general, I’m not a fan of being shouted at, so Kypreos and MacLean don’t do it for me. They operate under the archaic assumption that the louder I say a point, the more valid it becomes.

    To your point, this could change as the talent shifts around, but right now, the blue collar culture of Sportsnet is far less interesting than the discussions and talent that appears on TSN.

  8. As much as I love Duthie… what about Bob McKenzie money? I’d say he’d be prime target number one. It’ll be really interesting to see, and I’m with the masses to get rid of the waste of space panelists on both SN and CBC save for Weekes and Friedge. I’m fascinated by this move especially given the stake that Bell has in different NHL teams but I’m no fancy big city businessman. Hell, I’m barely wearing pants right now.

    Consolation – hopefully that means no more Jim Hughson on Saturday nights for Leaf fans.

    • Bob is an interesting case. His most recent tweets sound like he’s dug in his heels and will stick with TSN. Time will tell…

  9. Yeah I hope I can still see big Bobby Mac in the future. I’ve grown up with him my whole life.

  10. more hockey is great for the cable subscriber but in todays world of the internet one can easily stream any game from their laptop/desktop/ipad etc. ive already debated terminating my cable subscription based on this fact but was only reluctant too because i’d be missing HNIC and the TSN panel. Sportsnet in all its glory has only drained and watered down its recent acquisitions (looking at you Score) to the point i cant bare its interface and especially their coverage, as many of you have pointed out. like any big corporation that holds a monopoly in its given field they only care about the numbers instead of putting out a competitive product. the sheer lack of competition will only lead them to further disregard what the viewer wants and thats improvement, even if its a genuine good product to begin with. thats why ive always praised the work at TSN, they have always made the best effort to improve on things, especially the small things, whether one notices or not, it improves the average viewers experience. HNIC has done remarkably well considering their financial constraints. on the other hand Sportsnet and Rogers has only been wary of their overall numbers rather than the product they put out. Its a Canadian company ran on an American business model but atleast the American sports providers are consumer conscientious and provide the best product they can put out there where as Sportsnet just eats up everyone elses meal and serves meatloaf.

  11. Good for us short term but the long term implications are terrible. Rogers owns the NHL in Canada, there is no legal way for Canadians to watch the NHL that Rogers doesn’t profit from. They have zero incentive to improve and maintain their production after the initial welcome mat period. Four years in Bob Mc and Freidman cost too much? Cut them. Having one company literally own the entire market will lead to higher costs and lower service in time. The removal of regional restrictions is a carrot before a rather large stick. Would not be surprised if it is a temporary one as well.

    • Rumours around already that the regional restrictions will only be removed for an extra price.

    • Well put Scott. I did a quick internet search for the broadcast rights from MLB, NBA and NFL and those leagues have at least two media companies supplying programming. In theory, that competition for viewership and ad dollars is incentive to strengthen the product.

      If Rogers is the sole carrier in Canada, then what is its incentive to improve the product? All they have to do is not ruin the product; with the appetite for the sport in this country being what it is, it would be difficult to provide hockey that most fans think unwatchable.

      While professionalism inspires any given worker to do his or her best, my concern is that Rogers is a publicly traded company. All such entities have a natural incentive to maximize te return for their stockholders. I fear that cheapness will win out.

  12. So after all that headshaking over how kids are being priced out of playing hockey in Canada, and how the high costs have increasingly made it the domain of those with money, now this will also apply to even watching it? If you don’t have cable, too bad, no hockey for you (or rather, one game per week, take it and like it, peasant)? Well done, guys, take good care of that national pastime of yours.

    • There are plenty of ways to stream games online with decent quality. Just have Internet and you are set.

    • No offence, but how is that any different from before? TSN is a cable TV station, so right now the only games for non-cable subscribers are Saturday’s on HNIC?

  13. People like Don Cherry and hate Kyper.. weird.. Kyper is like a young version of Cherry.. yell until it becomes true. i’m a little nervous about all this.. does anyone remember when the Score used to be fuckin awesome.. i watched it at least 12 hours a day when i was a kid and young adult, but then Kouleas left, and then Rogers bought up the place and i don’t know what the fuck happened, but i cant watch the score anymore.. only reason i still come to this site is because of JB

    • I, for one, hate both. My greatest hope is this means Sportsnet revamps everything, getting rid of McLean and Kypreos on their end, but also Cherry, Stock and Milbury on CBC. They’re all idiots. We need more guys like Friedman.

      • Kevin… give your head a shake… Ron Mclean has mentored ldiot Freidman for years. Ron knows everything about hockey, Elliot just thinks he does… They will still need an ex-NHLer for “authenticity”… take your pick.

        • sorry, misunderstanding/spelling error – I meant Doug MacLean (former Blue Jackets GM) who works for Sportsnet, not Ron MacLean.

          Having said that, I do still think Friedman is an excellent analyst, and the only good part about HNIC. MacLean I find mediocre, he panders too much to the idiots. Healy sometimes is good, but often bad as well. It’s really just the three failures: failed coach (Cherry), failed GM (Mike Milbury), and failed player (Stock).

          There have to be plenty of intelligent hockey people out there who would be much better options than those three….

  14. Yuck. Sportsnet sucks. They better do a make over of their current broadcast, just horrible.

  15. Now Peter Lombardi can get that promotion he always dreamed of, calling NHL games.

  16. Canadian Anti-Trust laws…Exclusive Dealings.

    Exclusive dealing is the practice of requiring or inducing a customer
    to deal only or primarily in products of the supplier by means of
    more favourable terms or conditions.
    Exclusivity agreements are subject to review if:

     the supplier is a major supplier of the product;
     the practice impedes entry or expansion of a firm or product in a market or has some other exclusionary effect in the market;
     the practice is likely to substantially lessen competition.

    Another step in the concentration of media ownership in Canada.

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