Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Canadian Hockey Television Hit by a Nuclear Bomb

Although this news has flown under the radar more than I expected, the news that Rogers Communications has been given a monopoly over NHL programming in Canada is going to have a huge impact on the game in our country. Rogers is paying $5.2 BILLION for this 12-year contract. Big bucks!

If you want to know the nitty gritty details about how this will affect the various stakeholders, William Wolfe-Wylie has put together a pretty good run down over at Canada.com.

For the Cliff Notes version, here is what is going to happen.

  • TSN will have *NO* rights to any NHL games. Remember, TSN is the prime sports network in Canada, and has always been #1. This will change. 

  • The CBC, the original broadcaster, will have no rights to NHL games. A special agreement between CBC and Rogers will allow Hockey Night in Canada to run for four more years, but after that? *poof*?

  • The CBC will get NO advertising revenue during that time, simply being paid to cover its costs. Given that hockey ad revenue is about 50% of the CBC's total revenue, Stephen Harper must be cackling with glee.

Who wins when monopolies exist? Hint: IT IS NEVER THE CONSUMER!

The media in this country is already consolidated amongst a very few parties, and Bell (TSN) and Rogers (Sportsnet) have a disproportionate share of the media pie. This deal just consolidates things even further, leaving consumers with less quality and choice.

Even as I watch less and less hockey than I used to, this deal still pisses me off. Here is why this deal is not good for the consumer.

  1. Hockey Night in Canada is dying. Yes, it'll have four more years, but Rogers will exercise full editorial control. HNIC has always been a high-quality broadcast, and CBC gives hockey a lot more respect than Sportsnet ever has.

  2. This may also help kill the CBC, which the current Canadian government would just love to happen. People will be laid off, and other programming will suffer. Hockey ad revenue helped the CBC produce other shows.

  3. More expensive for us? TSN is purely a national broadcaster, while Sportsnet does break up some of its programming into regional networks. If you want to see more games, you may have to pay for the other Sportsnet region channels. Ugh.

  4. On-Air Talent: Sportsnet's 'talent' is piss poor compared to TSN and CBC. Nick Kypreos is a buffoon, and Doug MacLean should have stuck to coaching. TSN has, by far, the best panel, and CBC is a close second, apart from Cherry. We might expect Sportsnet to hire some of TSN's talent, however.

  5. Less variety of broadcasts. It's great to see different productions and different viewpoints. With everything controlled by one broadcaster, you lose that. The lack of competition may also lead Sportsnet to stagnate with their on-air product, as they don't need to worry about what TSN is doing.

  6. Don Cherry: Yes, Rogers will likely pay him millions to pollute your eyeballs with his ugly suits and his Bobby Orr ass-kissing. Ugh.

The NHL is making an amazing amount of money off of this deal, and Rogers does have the infrastructure to bringing content to people that doesn't involve the TV. This deal shows, at least, that the NHL is still a player in the business world.

Still, shame on the NHL for choosing just one provider for the Canadian airwaves. Less choice is never good for the consumer, and this smacks purely of Bettman's one-dimensional thinking.