The big news from the Canadian upfronts (among many pleasant surprises, to be honest) is that Rogers has acquired Canadian rights to HBO’s 24/7 Winter Classic series for this season. With the Toronto Maple Leafs playing in the Winter Classic, the series will certainly rate will with both Canadian consumers and advertisers. I don’t doubt that TSN and HBO Canada would also love to have it. The four-part series will air on both Sportsnet and Citytv.
In the past 24/7 Winter Classic has aired on HBO Canada, without ads and unedited. While it is great news that the series is now available to more Canadians, I hope that Rogers can (or will) show it uncut. RDS hasn’t edited out profanity when they’ve shown the series in past seasons.
What is even more interesting are the rumours swirling about Citytv expansion into Atlantic Canada. Recently City added SCN (an educational broadcaster from Saskatchewan) and Metro 14 (an ethnic channel from Montreal) to their list of affiliates. This gives Citytv over-the-air coverage from Montreal to Vancouver. All that’s missing are the Atlantic provinces. The biggest problem for Rogers is there are no existing stations for sale in the Maritimes. CBC, CTV and Global all want to hold on to the stations they currently own. There are no independent stations to buy (save for NTV in Newfoundland, which is useless in the other three provinces).
It seems the only option for Rogers is to launch a new station, pending CRTC approval. Bell and Shaw, which own the existing local stations, would certainly contest considering they already struggle for profit in the small Martime market.Rogers likely could gain approval with promises to show local programming though. This is something they fail to do in other Canadian markets.
There are two reasons why an affiliate in the Maritimes is vital for Rogers. The first is sumsubs, where CTV and Global have an advertising advantage. Rogers gets no advertising money from Atlantic Canada as locals watch programs like Person of Interest and How I Met Your Mothers on CBS, due to the lack of a Citytv affiliate.
The second, and more important, reason is so the CBC becomes redundant in the next round of NHL TV rights bidding. It is now clear to me that Rogers might want to bid on rights by themselves. Otherwise I don’t see why they bought these two stations in Saskatchewan and Montreal. Sure having national coverage is nice. But, using that national coverage to carry the most coveted prize in the most coveted sector of broadcasting in the internet/PVR era is even more important. This could result in another Bell/Rogers bidding war. The question is will either partner with CBC to keep down costs, and get a leg up, on their competitor?