News from Canadian Upfronts: Citytv Gets 24/7; Is HNIC Next?

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?

20 thoughts on “News from Canadian Upfronts: Citytv Gets 24/7; Is HNIC Next?

  1. I really hope TSN gets it or CBC retains it, i can’t imagine having to listen to Maclean/Kypreos and most of all John Shanhon every Saturday Night!!!!!!!!!

    • I’m sure Sportsnet would snatch up most of TSN’s and CBC’s main guys if those networks lost rights. I could see Gord Miller, Mike Johnson and Bob McKenzie remaining at TSN, otherwise everyone else might leave. CBC would have no use for almost any of its HNIC staff.

  2. I’m highly skeptical that Sportsnet/CityTV shows 24/7 either uncensored or unedited. Like you say, with the Leafs in it, it’s going to be a high rating show, which means there is no chance they will run it commercial-free, so they either cut parts or make it a 90-minute show.

    At least it will be available online by various means in it’s original format.

    • Winter Classic 24/7 would give blockbuster ratings for City and will likely air edited in primetime. If I were in charge, I would also air it unedited late night, which would likely also get high ratings

  3. I’m a little confused here for sure is CBC at risk losing hockeynight in Canada and winter classic? That be just sad and very surprising. Hockey night in Canada has had so many of the best memories for NHL on saturday nights and losing the theme song was sad enough. I like sportsnet for soccer but I really don’t think it be the same for NHL. TSN does a good job, and don’t mind them. But CBC is the
    best memories for sure. Sportsnet doesn’t even show leafs game nationally like atleast I get jets here for tsn channel which I love. I think this would be a huge change and CBC hockey night in Canada has to stay. TSN hockey next best, sportsnets doing great with soccer and like that but if they get this for hockey that be pretty crazy.

    • Money seems to talk if Rogers and/or Bell decide they want to blow a CBC bid out of the water. I think the one thing CBC has going for it is the amount of air time they are willing to devote to hockey… wall to wall in the playoffs, Saturday night doubleheaders, occasional weeknight games. If Bell (CTV) or Rogers (City) were to get over-the-air rights, you can bet neither would be willing to devote as much air time to hockey, especially during the week/playoffs when they usually are simsubbing some American shows. And for Rogers there’s the issue they seem to be trying to address of adding stations so they have a wider reach.
      If CBC does lose the rights, life goes on. I remember 10 years ago there was a great cry on the French speaking side when the 50 year tradition of “La Soiree du Hockey” on SRC came to an end with RDS becoming the exclusive national partner of the Canadiens and the NHL in Canada. As long as every game is on TV is really all that matters as far as I’m concerned.

      • Agreed. 60 years of history is one of only a few things CBC has going for it. They lost Olympics, CFL and curling (not to mention French hockey) in the past 10 years to CTV/Bell. No reason why they can’t lose English NHL rights to them either.

        I honestly don’t really care where the games air either. I’d prefer CBC or CTV to Rogers, but I’m sure Sportsnet would have better production levels if they hired CBC/TSN employees (both on and off camera).

        CTV and City would certainly have no problem with showing doubleheaders on Saturday. Its Canadian content and will get 5x (or more) the ratings of the repeats they show now. Either way TSN or Sportsnet would probably show secondary games (Habs/Sens/Jets) as well. They might even try staggered start times (like March Madness).

        CTV and Citytv are mostly done with US programming by the second week of the Conference Finals. So they could at least show some games from one series. Regardless of who wins rights I think one Conference Final is going to become cable exclusive. The Stanley Cup Final would fit on either channel as well. Otherwise, I think most playoff coverage would be on cable. Which is a problem for both TSN and Sportsnet. TSN because they only have two channels and Sportsnet because they have to show the Jays every night.

        That is where I think CBC comes in to any bid. What if a deal was worked out where CBC could have 1 game per week (either on Saturday or Sunday) plus at least one playoff game a night in the first round, one or two second round series, a Conference Final and at least some of the Stanley Cup.

  4. This attempt to get CityTV national has a backstory I didn’t know about. Was on Twitter and someone was writing during a CRTC hearing about Rogers trying to get that Saskatchewan station. Usually pretty dry stuff. But this popped up from Keith Pelley. We have ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ to thank for this push to get CityTV across the country.
    And to be totally honest with you, the light went on during “Canada’s Got Talent” when we did not have national distribution. We went to advertisers and on three occasions, three national blue-chip advertisers turned us down because we didn’t have that national distribution.

    That would explain a lot. I still too am trying to figure out “how” this Atlantic Canada expansion would happen but if 3 big companies turned down Rogers they’re going to try and find a way. Follow the money trail. lol.

    • Doubt they’ll start a new station. Could be something as simple as putting City Toronto on basic cable. Rogers is already the cable company in NB and NL and they’re on good terms with Eastlink in NS and PEI.

      • Yeah, I thought of that as well. Only thing is it does nothing for sports rights or simsub rights. They already have Sportsnet East, which is in the basic cable package for everyone except those with Bell TV or Fibre Op (I think) here.

        • Are there not any kind of independent stations in the maritimes? I know you said NTV won’t work out there.

          • No. There are numerous CTV, CBC and Global stations. They all show the same content, save for local news on CBC and Global (CTV is the same 24/7, except for ads). Otherwise, just NTV in Newfoundland.

            There is a small community channel in St. Andrews, NB. I suppose they could try to buy it and put repeaters across New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. I don’t think the main station has a very strong signal.

  5. Rogers’ expansion of the Citytv network across Canada is not only for getting the HNIC package. I have heard through my contacts that the expansion also helps Rogers increase their chances of bidding and becoming the prime network for the Olympics

    • Rogers wants no part of the 2014/2016 package, and I believe this is one of the reasons why. There was a clause in their agreement with CTV that they could only bid on 2014/16 if they bid with CTV again. By backing out, they not only got out of that clause, but also allow CBC/Bell to lower the cost of bidding a bit (and thus, the IOC’s expectations). If there is one thing I know about Pelley and Moore, it is they both believe in the value of the Olympics and hockey.

      Doesn’t have anything to do with your comment, but I saw elsewhere online someone mentioned Rogers could be interested in the CFL. I don’t buy that for a minute. Pelley has publicly stated they have no interest because they already have the Jays six nights a week.

  6. I hope that CBC retains the tradition of Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday nights. It would be a shame to see the CBC lose a big tradition. On the cable side of things, I would like to see Sportsnet steal the rights away from TSN. Those are just my personal preferences.

    • Sportsnet taking the national rights from TSN happened from 1998 to 2002. During that time, TSN was confined to regional coverage of the Canadiens and Leafs.

  7. First of all, Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) is the only Citytv affiliate that is only offered on cable and satellite.

    Secondly, I have heard speculation that Rogers’ expansion of the Citytv network across Canada will also allow Sportsnet’s NHL regional games that are currently on the secondary channels (Sportsnet Flames, Canucks, Oilers, and Senators) be put on the Citytv stations instead. The ratings on the secondary channels have been lower than expected. In addition to that, the expansion also helps Rogers increase their chances to bid for other sports properties such as the 2018 Olympics and beyond.

  8. Another comparison of Citytv and the CBC. Each province west of New Brunswick except for Ontario and Saskatchewan has the same amount of Citytv and CBC stations.

    For British Columbia, each network has two affiliates. For Alberta, there is one Citytv affiliate in Medicine Hat. The CBC has one affiliate for Alberta and Saskatchewan in Lloydminster. There are two CBC stations and one Citytv in Saskatchewan. Manitoba and Quebec have no affiliates.

    The major difference between the two networks is in the province of Ontario. Citytv has only one station and that is in Toronto and no affiliates. The CBC has three stations located in Toronto, Ottawa, and Windsor plus four affiliates.

  9. CBC will have no choice but to partner with another network in order to protect its HNIC package. Could that be with TSN or with Sportsnet who knows….SN has been pretty vocal on wanting HNIC and Scott Moore was in charge of CBC Sports so maybe a connection between the two is being looked at who knows. I just do not see CBC losing hockey – considering it makes up a hell of a lot of $ for programming on CBC. If it goes, so does a lot of Canadian content and that would be bad for CBC and for Canada as a whole.

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