Details of Sportsnet’s New NHL Broadcast Agreement

Sportsnet officially announced their new broadcast contract with the National Hockey League this morning. And the scope of the new deal is much wider than I could have imagined when news of it first broke 12 hours ago. Sportsnet has bought rights to all nationally-broadcast NHL games for 12 seasons beginning next fall. Sportsnet also picks up rights to the NHL All Star Game and Entry Draft. Rogers will also take over operation of NHL Centre Ice and GameCentre Live in Canada. Rogers is paying $5.2 billion for rights to every game for 12 seasons. The NHL will receive approximately $300 million next season, with fees raising to $500 million by the end of the contract.

Coverage on Saturdays and Sundays will begin at 4pm Eastern. Sportsnet has exclusive national coverage on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Sportsnet will also launch a new studio that will host all NHL on Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. As part of the deal Rogers will sub-license some Saturday night coverage to the CBC. Two games every Saturday will air on CBC, with the rest airing on Citytv and Sportsnet. This eliminates the need for regional broadcasting. Sportsnet will assume complete creative control over all Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. This means the future for CBC’s hockey talent is uncertain. It also means that Sportsnet will have the pick of all on-air personalities at TSN and CBC for their new broadcasts. Games will air on CBC, Sportsnet, SN1, SN360, TVA, TVA Sports, TVA Sports 2, as well as other potential channels on Saturday nights.

Keith Pelley, who was key in the plans for how Sportsnet will cover the NHL, was also the head of the Olympic Broadcast Consortium’s Vancouver 2010 coverage. Sportsnet will aim to offer Hockey Night in Canada in a similar fashion with all networks pooling resources and cross-promoting. Pelley set a new standard for Olympic broadcasting in Canada and is looking to do the same for hockey. Since the Sportsnet deal with CBC only came together in the past few days the broadcasters haven’t decided which CBC on-air personalities will transfer over to Sportsnet.

Sportsnet will get to show 30 Leafs games nationally (some could air on CBC) as part of the new agreement. Sportsnet will retain 26 for regional consumption beginning in 2016, with the other 26 airing on TSN regionally.  Since TSN has regional rights to 60 Jets games, the Jets will appear on Sportsnet a maximum of 22 times. It is unclear how many games for each of Canada’s other five teams will air on Sportsnet. TVA will pick up rights to 22 Montreal Canadiens games, most of which will air on their over-the-air channel on Saturday nights.

The sub-licensing deal with the CBC is one of the most intriguing aspects of the deal. The CBC will have around 320 hours of primetime hockey. That probably equates to around 50 regular season games and 50 playoff games. There is no word yet on how CBC and Sportsnet will split-up the playoffs, except that the Stanley Cup Final will air on CBC. The sub-license will last for four years; however, in a news conference Rogers Media President Keith Pelley said that he hopes the deal with CBC can extend beyond four years. The CBC and Sportsnet will also work together to acquire and broadcast other major sports properties. Sub-licensing deals are already in place for the two networks to split the Grand Slam of Curling and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

In a letter to CBC employees President Hubert Lacroix outlined what the four-year deal means for the public broadcaster. CBC will no longer assume any control over production or content, although Sportsnet will consult with them. CBC also will not make any advertising revenue from the broadcasts; however, they also are not paying Rogers or the NHL a cent to show the games. Lacroix also notes that the loss of advertising revenue will mean job losses at the CBC. These additional cuts come on the heels of CBC Sports cutting costs just two years ago due to a lack of funding.

This is a very complex deal and there are many questions that still need asked and answered. It is a complete game-changer in Canadian sports broadcasting and will result in many changes at CBC and TSN. I’ll leave the speculation, and there is lots of it, for a later date (and the comments section). I do plan to look into the effects this deal will have on all networks, but especially the CBC, in the coming weeks.

35 thoughts on “Details of Sportsnet’s New NHL Broadcast Agreement

  1. Rogers better keep Ron and Don on during the first intermission.

  2. CBC will be a shell of itself. RDS has lost monopoly type market share but can hold on with regional Habs action. Sportsnet & TSN will exchange their current position in the market.

  3. Keep Ron, dump Don.

  4. Though i do like the work Darren Millard does, I am really hopeful Ron Maclean is the lead host for Saturday on HNIC.

    I know this will be a new era on HNIC, but really, what makes it special is the tradition it has and Ron is a big part of that Tradition.

    I am hopeful he isnt just relegated to do just the 5 minute 1st intermission segment with Grapes. He is more useful than that.

    I think he is the right person to tie all the games and networks together on what is usually the NHL’s busiest night on the sked.

    I think honestly he can be even better with a better group of people to work with. I mean the HNIC panel as it is currently structured is weak at best.

    But i am not a real fan of the SN one either. I think if they mix it better with better former NHLers, who happen to be better analysts, that would make for a much better show.

    for SN, Kypreos is fine, but hearing Cox, Shannon or Morrison tell us how a team or player should play hockey is kinda dumb for me. I am hopeful the likes of Aaron Ward or Darren Pang or Ferraro will jump ship join the conglomerate.

  5. “CBC also will not make any advertising revenue from the broadcasts; however, they also are not paying Rogers or the NHL a cent to show the games.”

    Assuming this is accurate then what is the benefit for CBC? If they are not getting advertising revenue then what is the financial incentive to show the games?

    • In the deal they will still be allowed to promote other CBC shows during the broadcast….so that has to be worth something? Plus HNIC is their brand, so perhaps they will still get a percentage of merch sales? There is quite a bit of HNIC swag for sale out there.

    • To keep brand awareness? So CBC doesn’t become completely irrelevant (at least in terms of sports)

      • I can’t think they are willing to give up six hours of ad revenue each Saturday, along with three hours worth about 50 times each playoff season just to build brand awareness. There has to be more to this deal, financially.

        • Exactly how much is that ad space worth if they lose 90% of the Saturday audience?

          • It’s still worth more than zero. There has to be some financial incentive for CBC. Is Sportsnet paying them, akin to an infomercial?

            • I don’t think there does. The incentive is CBC gets 6 hours to promote their programming which would get very little attention otherwise. And they don’t have to fill all those hours of primetime in the spring with new programming (or repeats).

  6. What happens to games on team specialty channels? (ie: LeafsTV)

    • Leafs TV will no longer have games, but that is a separate issue. TSN and Sportsnet Ontario agreed to divide the 52 Leafs regional games equally starting in 2015 when Bell/Rogers bought MLSE.

      Otherwise regional deals remain in tact.

  7. Hughson and Simpson were together on Sportsnet before they were a broadcasting duo on CBC.

  8. 2 questions, Does Sportsnet/CBC buy back the rights to the Hockey Theme? Second, Will early season Blue Jays games go to One and/or 360 while the main Sportsnet shows the playoffs?

  9. Sportsnet will need more top-tier on-air talent to make this work, so hopefully some people like Bob McKenzie mutually agree with TSN to break break their contracts and move over. I really hope so because the Sportsnet crew is one that I have never enjoyed, especially Kypreos. It’d be great I think if they could somehow gracefully retire Ron and Don and make Elliote Friedmann into the host role on the CBC.

    At least there’ll be hockey on TV on Sunday nights now!

  10. I guess Rogers has 4 years to find a way to expand their current City Network, most notably the Ottawa Market.

    • Ottawa isn’t a big problem. Can always add a re-transmitter of Toronto. Atlantic Canada on the other hand will be tough to crack.

      • Ottawa has had a repeater station for City since the late 90s. It would be nice however if we have a local City station in the future. If Rogers cannot get a City station in Atlantic Canada within the 4 year timeframe, then I think there’s a good chance Rogers sublicenses games to the CBC a second time.

      • That would mean at least 4 more re-transmitters would be necessary to fulfill some of the CBC markets.

  11. Rogers agreement with CBC kind of reminds me of when RDS took control of all the French language rights in 2002. RDS didn’t have as much availability/subscribers outside Quebec back then so they continued to allow SRC to air Saturday night games for a couple more years in a simulcast arrangement until SRC was phased out of the picture completely. I believe RDS controlled those productions as well using the RDS commentators in the booth but did allow some SRC people for the intermission segments and they were still branded as “La Soiree du Hockey”.

    So my question is what happens to the other 60 Montreal Canadiens games on French television. If RDS retains those do they become regional (ie blacked out outside the Habs region) since RDS is no longer a national partner. Sens games on TVA Sports are currently blacked out outside the Sens region.

  12. Using this coming Saturday as a sample, i’m going to guess how the division of the games, if all are to be shown Nationally, would happen.

    Van vs NYR 2pm – Sportsnet
    Pit vs FLA 7pm Sportsnet
    Buf vs NJ 7pm Sportsnet1
    CBJ vs Bos 7pm moved to 2pm in the afternoon and shown on sportsnet1
    Tor vs Mon 7pm CBC
    Was vs NYI 7pm City
    Phi vs Nas 8pm Sportsnet 360
    Chi vs Phx 8pm sportsnet NHL
    Min vs Col 9pm moved to 930 and shown on Sportsnet1
    Cal vs LA 10pm CBC
    Ana vs SJ 10pm Sportsnet

    Wouldn’t shock me though if there are time changes made to the games to accomodate TV scheduling. like for example the Wild/Avs game which is scheduled for 9 being bumped til 930. And perhaps the Bruins game being moved to the afternoon.

    That would be some crazy day of hockey and that would be every week.

    • Wouldn’t the flagship games such as Tor vs. Mtl be on the main Sportsnet channels?

      • Could be or could not be. They haven’t been specific about if the primary game will always air on CBC or Sportsnet, or if it will alternate.

        I think there will be at least 4-5 Canadian games every Saturday now. 3 at 7pm and 1 at 10pm (and sometimes a matinee). So this season’s schedule will provide little insight into what Rogers will do.

        • For Saturdays next season, I think there will be the normal two or three games with the odd four games involving canadian teams at 1600h Pacifc. There will be two games with canadian teams at 1900h more often. The western teams and their fans do not like those morning road games or home matinees on Saturday.

          • My guess is the western teams will often play on Sunday nights too. But I agree, since Rogers can put one game on CBC and one on Sportsnet it is likely that two games involving Canadian teams will air at 10 ET more often. But I think it depends on if Rogers would prefer a game at 3pm ET, not what the teams would prefer, honestly.

  13. Still no further details on Gamecenter or online streaming.

    I shouldn’t be surprised, but disappointing that despite all the coverage it is all so heavily pro-cable subscription that the biggest, most unspoken aspect of this deal is how much more it strengthens cable’s grip over consumers.

    As a non-cable customer that relies on Gamecenter, I can only assume this will negatively affect people like myself.

    • I wouldn’t expect that kind of information to be announced until the off-season. I doubt Rogers have even come up with a 100% plan for television side of things yet, let alone the online and mobile aspects.

  14. @seroevo On the other hand, Sportsnet has a much better record for putting stuff online. It’s mostly so far been soccer, with Sportsnet World Online, as well as a lot of Canadian national teams on their regular site. I think they may stream a fair bit of tennis as well. So they have the experience doing it, both for free and as a paid service. They may also be able to tap into CBC’s experience streaming HNIC, which has been great for many years. There’s reason for hope. Who knows – maybe they’ll even make it possible to subscribe online to your local team’s games?

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