TSN Left Out of NHL Broadcasting From 2014

The future of Saturday night games on Canadian TV.

The future of Saturday night games on Canadian TV.

UPDATE: See this post for the latest on the Sportsnet deal.

Sportsnet has confirmed the deal this morning. Rogers will own the rights to every NHL broadcast in Canada, paying $5.2 billion for the next 12 years. Rogers will sub-licence games to CBC for Hockey Night in Canada, playoffs and the Stanley Cup. CBC will no longer be the only network showing hockey on a Saturday night with City now in the mix (see graphic on right). Rogers has the exclusive window to broadcast any Canadian team on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday. TVA Sports will have French-language coverage.


“Hockey No Longer Lives Here” will presumably be TSN’s new tagline next fall. That after TSN lost NHL TV rights to CBC and Sportsnet. The news first surfaced when Bob McKenzie tweeted that two networks had acquired the new NHL national television contract that takes effect next season. That tweet, from hockey’s best insider, flew in the face of everything that everyone has reported in the past week. As recently as this morning, publications had reported that the NHL would sell smaller packages to CBC, TSN and Sportsnet to maximize exposure and revenue.

Well, it turns out that somehow TSN has missed out as McKenzie has now confirmed that CBC and Sportsnet have picked up NHL rights for 12 seasons beginning next fall. While more information will probably become available in the morning in terms of which network will broadcast which games. According to reports CBC will keep most of what they have now. Sportsnet will replace TSN as the national cable broadcaster, with Sunday night the likely landing spot for an exclusive weekly broadcast. Sportsnet will also likely have one exclusive conference final.

Steve Ladurantaye of The Globe reported Monday that CBC will like pay around $200 million per year. The Globe article also stated that the CBC could lose $175 million in advertising revenue without the NHL. So, it is clear that even at a $200 million pricetag the CBC would have been out almost as much money without broadcasting the NHL as it is paying the hefty fee the NHL is requesting to show games.

In another report earlier Monday, Chris Botta of Sports Business Daily reported that all three networks would get a slice of the NHL pie. In the piece Botta reported that TSN was likely to retain Wednesday Night Hockey and add the All Star Game. With the recent developments it is unclear whether Sportsnet will offer national broadcasts on Wednesday night or whether CBC or Sportsnet will show the All Star Game. Botta projected that Sportsnet and TSN’s deals would be worth over $125 million combined, which means Sportsnet likely paid upwards of $150 million for exclusivity.

In losing TSN, the NHL has lost a partner that revolutionized broadcasting of the league. Day-long trade deadline and free agent coverage were TSN innovations. As was TV coverage of the NHL draft and even the All Star Game fantasy draft. The NHL also loses TSN’s in-game coverage, which featured award-winning broadcasters like Chris Cuthbert, James Duthie and Bob McKenzie.

However, the bigger loss is undoubtedly for TSN. It’s not the end for TSN, as some were quick to project. They still have CFL and curling locked up in long-term contracts (which, yes, a lot of people do watch). TSN also has the World Juniors locked up for a decade in a new contract that kicks in this December. The NHL can live without TSN because the network will still bid aggressively in 12 years. That’s in comparison to CBC, who probably would be out of broadcasting hockey for good if they had lost NHL rights for over a decade.

So, to recap. TSN has the CFL through 2018, Season of Champions curling through 2020 and World Juniors through 2023. Those are the most valuable sports properties in Canada outside of the Olympics, NHL and NFL. The Canadian Hockey League will also sign a new contract in the coming year, which TSN is probably now very interested in.

TSN will have to worry about an exodus of its esteemed hockey talent following this season. Is there room for both Chris Cuthbert and Gord Miller at a network with no weekly national hockey broadcasts? I doubt it. Miller has worked at TSN since 1990 and called World Junior games since 2002; however, Cuthbert is TSN’s most valuable voice since he also calls the Grey Cup. I wonder if Miller and Ray Ferraro are a natural choice for Sportsnet’s primary broadcast crew. Another question is where will James Duthie go? Surely not back to SportsCentre. While he’d make sense at the helm of TSN’s CFL coverage that would come at the expense of long time TSN employee Dave Randorf. Maybe he’ll follow the example of fellow highly-touted TSN employees Dan O’Toole and Jay Onrait and look south of the 49th.

Remember the night of November 25th, 2013 everyone. It is a landmark in Canadian sports broadcasting that could lead to Sportsnet becoming the top-rated sports network in Canada. Of course this landmark is really just the latest occurrence in a trend that began in 2010 when Scott Moore left CBC and Keith Pelley left CTV to lead Rogers’ broadcasting division.

Burgundy to TSN… While TSN has lost hockey, they have gained Ron Burgundy. That’s right, the fake news anchor from the movie Anchorman. Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, will join Vic Rauter in the broadcast booth for TSN’s coverage of the first draw of the Olympic Curling Trials on Sunday afternoon. Now, I love Anchorman as much as anybody, but this is a ridiculous ploy for attention. It only promotes the idea that curling needs a gimmick to draw in viewers, which isn’t true in my opinion. Not only is TSN trying this gimmick, but they are doing it at the biggest Canadian curling event on the calendar. But then again, it’s a gimmick that will work because even I will tune in to see what Ferrell knows about curling.

Grey Cup ratings… An average of 4.5 million Canadians tuned into TSN for the 101st Grey Cup from Regina Sunday evening. That makes it the fourth most watched Grey Cup ever on TSN, which is mildly impressive considering it was a blowout by halftime. A ratings peak in the second quarter exemplifies this. But isn’t so impressive when considered that it is the lowest rated Grey Cup on TSN since BBM introduced Portable People Metres to measure audiences in 2009. Ratings are down a million viewers compared to last season, despite a victory for the league’s most popular team. However, regular season CFL ratings were up 4.3% this year.

56 thoughts on “TSN Left Out of NHL Broadcasting From 2014

  1. “In its current deal, TSN pays $40 million annually. Sources said that TSN’s reluctance to pay substantially more has been the biggest stumbling block in the league’s overall negotiations with the Canadian networks, but the issues are expected to be resolved in the coming weeks”

    Probably the only relevant quote from the SBJ article. I guess Bettman got sick of their shit and decided to bail.

    TSN still have regional rights to a few teams and will no doubt keep a couple of their flagship hockey shows, so it’s not like they are out of hockey completely, they are just taking a huge hit where it hurts most — ratings and advertising dollars.

  2. I can’t believe TSN is out of the national NHL scene. I’ve read Bob McKenzie’s initial tweet a few times and I can see that even then, he knew what time it was. I didn’t see City getting any NHL games given its relatively limited reach (Does it still lack a presence in the Maritimes?).

  3. So… goodbye TSN-Habs, TSN-Jets? What about RDS? Nobody touches it yet but I believe RDS will hurt more, much more than TSN if their NHL coverage is taken away. That of course, including their crown jewels, the complete coverage of all Canadien games, pre-, regular- and post-season.

    • I don’t think so…I don’t think this new deal included regional or French language rights, so TSN/RDS may still have a play there. Who knows, this may allow TSN to grab regional rights to a couple of teams in addition to the Habs and Jets. My question is what happens to the NHL Network?

      • Deal does include French language but not regional.
        All the western teams’ regional deals are locked up with Rogers till 2018 or 19 so no chance of TSN getting any of that for a while.

      • Looks like NHL Network will be replaced by Sportsnet NHL.

    • RDS can still have NHL hockey next year. 60 regional Habs games are still available and some regional Sens games too.

    • TVA and TVA Sports will show all national French-language games, and from the looks of the graphic above, there will be a French version of NHL Network.

    • TSN Jets will be available for at least 7 more years sure. A 10-year deal have been signed between the Jets and TSN for a minimum of 60 games/season in 2011.

  4. Not a death knell for TSN but it leaves them very wounded. As high-profile as the WJHC are, it’s a 2 week tournament with 6 Team Canada games. Because of the length, I certainly wouldn’t call it more valuable than the 162 game Blue Jays season and maybe put it on par of a full 380-game EPL season. Same for the Season of Champions. Unless they greatly extend the season (and I suggested on TSM that it’s the best option I can see), it’s just not enough programming to fill in the gaps.

    • You are right. Even if you combine the Juniors, IIHF Worlds and six major Season of Champions events, that’s only about 8 weeks of programming from December (end of CFL season) until May. Their winter schedule is very bare.

  5. SN will for sure need to upgrade their on-air talent for hockey.

    They currently have:

    Vancouver – John Shorthouse, John Garrett, Dan Murphy
    Calgary – Rob Kerr, Charlie Simmer, Roger Millions
    Edmonton – Kevin Quinn, Louie Debrusk, Gene Principe
    Toronto – Joe Bowen, Greg Millen, Paul Hendrick
    Ottawa – Dean Brown, Denis Potvin
    CHL – RJ Broadhead, Sam Cosentino, Rob Faulds

    Hockey Central – Darren Millard, Doug MacLean, Nick Kypreos, John Shannon, Jeff Marek, Scott Morrison, Christine Simpson, Gord Stellick

    While the CBC has

    Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy, David Amber
    Mark Lee, Kelly Hrudey, Scott Oake
    Bob Cole, Garry Galley, Cassie Campbell
    Brown, Millen, Mitch Peacock
    Rick Ball

    Studio: Ron Maclean, Don Cherry, Andi Petrillo, Elliot Friedman, PJ Stock, Kevin Weekes, Healy

    Only some of the guys at CBC are really suited to be national broadcasters. They will need for sure a 2nd lead play by play guy to join Hughson. I predict half of the CBC commentators will be retained.

    Almost all of the SN commentators are suited for regional action as they just are not that good.

    there could be an exodus at TSN. People like Ray Ferraro, Aaron Ward, Mike Johnson, Martin Biron could find their way to SN. Ferraro and Simpson are the two best Color guys but they desperately will need another to call the action.

    As you can see from the list above, SN is really lacking former players on their panel so those from TSN will help.

    You wonder too if Steve Koulas, Jamie McLennan, Craig Button and others will move over as well.

    Then there are the insiders, Dreger, MacKenzie, LeBrun, will they stay at TSN?

    I’m predicting Gord Miller and James Duthie move down south and work in the states. Maybe with NBC.

    this is going to be one intriguing year to see how this all plays out.

    • Sportsnet and CBC will probably need to combine for 5 crews for regular season. My guess is the play-by-plays are Hughson, Ball, Lee, Brown and Quinn. Could see them going for Gord Miller as well. Everything else is really a guess at best. Could see Hughson/Simpson and Ball/Ferraro as top 2 crews though.

  6. A few thoughts:

    – SN better step their game up because they currently rank dead last in terms of overall NHL presentation IMO.
    – I’d bet TSN bids on the CHL package and does their best to shove it down Canada’s throat, using NCAA football in the US as a model. They pretty much singlehandedly turned the WJHC into what it is today, using nothing but blanket coverage and mega hype. As decent as the numbers may be, Bell won’t see the same ad dollars on CFL and curling that they did with NHL on TSN.
    – I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end for HNIC on CBC. Losing Saturday exclusivity is a big knock, even if they retain a mediocre Canadian matchup.

    • It IS the beginning of the end for HNIC on CBC the way the deal is structured. The sub-license is only for four years and Rogers retains all ownership and risk (CBC pays nothing to broadcast the games, Rogers holds all the ad inventory to sell for revenue).

      Basically it’s just a bridge for Rogers to beef up City’s presence and work out any bugs before broadcasting it all. I’ll be shocked if there is NHL hockey on CBC past 2017.

      • I doubt that the CBC would get any the rights after the four years due to the price Rogers was willing to pay for the rights. It’s way more than the approximately 5 Billion paid in total from the NFL networks.

  7. TSN will need to get CHL and elevate the coverage, look at taking over SN’s funding of the curling tour, elevate Team Canada hockey women & u18 men’s coverage, get NFL Thursday night away from SN and even the late Sunday games, elevate figure skating coverage, elevate their EPL coverage by showing all matches on tv rather than tsn.ca, pick off SN’s Champions League stranglehold, fully leverage their World Cup rights post 2014 and get in bed with CBC for Olympics coverage.

    At the margins, they can use NBA & college basketball & football to fill air time and benefit from a handful of games that will get solid ratings.

    • Problem is most of those are long-term plans. Sportsnet has NFL and Champions League through 2016, I think. And no way they give up on the curling. They own it, so they’d have to sell it to Bell and that will never happen.

    • Rogers just renewed the Sunday NFL package for four years, so that isn’t going to happen. Hard for them to elevate EPL when they only have two channels, one of which always has their flagship program on it (SC).

  8. Good riddance to ‘Toronto Sports Network’.

  9. I wonder if some TSN guys will go to NBC instead of to Sportsnet

  10. There isn’t a TVA Sports2 (yet). they barely have enough programming to fill one station right now, although during hockey season they will apparently.

  11. Here’s my question because if I understand the deal correctly, NHL Game Centre Live will now be produced by Rogers.

    Given that Rogers is a cable company, is it not a possibility (and a strong one at that) that they proceed to neglect, if not outright eliminate the usefulness of Game Centre Live in order to force people to subscribe to a cable package from them where they have a cable TV presence? I could easily see them driving the knife into GCL and quite possibly doing the same to Bell by demanding higher carriage rates for the Sportsnet channels.

    I don’t see this deal as a win for the fans in the long run.

    • My guess is there are requirements set by the league such as Game Centre can’t be done away with.

    • I see no chance of that happening.

    • That was my concern too.

      As GC exists now, any nationally televised game – or game regionally broadcast in your area – is blacked out. If you have GC in Toronto, for example, you can’t use it for any Leafs games, any TSN or CBC games, which includes all playoffs. Though there are ways around the blackouts.

      I read one article that stated there will no longer be any blackouts. But with Rogers now managing GC in Canada, if the service is no longer subject to blackouts it’d be the biggest incentive ever for NHL fans to leave cable.

      That led me to think Rogers would limit Gamecentre usage to Rogers customers, as they’ve done in the past with the Jays and MLB.tv. Where all Jays games are blacked out nationally on MLB.tv, but if you were a Rogers customer you could access the Jays MLB.tv feed via a Rogers account log-in.

      But Rogers cable isn’t available nationally, meaning it could be limited to just Rogers customers. But again I don’t see them giving it away for free to existing customers, as they’ve always nickle and dimed previously. To watch Jays games on your phone which you could watch on your PC for free required a $5 app purchase, for example.

      What I suspect is that Gamecentre will increase in price to Canadian customers, with a discounted version available to Rogers customers, possibly a free or further discounted version available to cable customers.

      Either way, if you’re a current Gamecentre user and not a cable subscriber, like I am, I can’t imagine this deal will at all benefit you.

  12. I’d hate to see MacKenzie or Dregher lost to the states. SN better hire these 2 for sure.

  13. Let’s just hope TVA and Sportsnet do this thing professionally and with quality. Watching any games this year on these networks compared with the professionalism of TSN and RDS…let’s just say it looks very cheap and quite an amateur hour…

  14. My guess is that this will be Bob Cole’s last season.

    • Could be a change for the better. After watching more American feeds with American commentators, I’ve found that Canadian commentators like Cole and Hughson are vastly overrated.

      Ideally, it’d be better if every team had their own commentator compared to the CBC or TSN method where you have one broadcast team doing all or nearly all games regardless of the teams involved. You’re never getting a Vancouver broadcast team, just the TSN or CBC broadcast team.

      You notice the difference when you have a pairing that does one team exclusively.

  15. So are games on City and CBC going to be branded under Sportsnet? (i.e. graphics, scorebugs, etc.)

    • I’m wondering the same thing. I would bet City would be branded under Sportsnet. (Similar to how the “NBA on ESPN” airs on ABC). CBC on the other hand, I’m not so sure about.

  16. Burgundy will also be presenting ESPN’s SportsCenter next week.

  17. Another gimmick would be for TSN to have Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) in the booth with Rauter and Ferrell.

  18. TSN still has the Jets regional games until 2021 and will have Leaf regional games next season and beyond.

  19. One thing that few are talking about is how do the Blue Jays feel about the boatload of cash Rogers is laying out. I mean,up until 2 days ago, the Jays were the darling of the Rogers empire. And now they have been pushed to the kids table. Does this mean no money for AA to make any moves? And what does Sportsnet do in April and May and October when the seasons over lap? Which property g0es on the main channel and which gets relegated to Sportsnet 360?

    • The main channel are the 4 regional ones. Anyone that would have those would also have 360. The only issue is SN One, which last I knew required an additional subscription fee by consumers.

      As for overlap, here’s how it’s worded above:

      “Rogers will sub-licence games to CBC for Hockey Night in Canada, playoffs and the Stanley Cup.”

      That implies that CBC would still carry at least some playoff series. In the playoffs, the first round (lasting 2 weeks) is the only one with 4 games per night, but not all simultaneously (especially not with the new division alignments) and fewer games once teams start getting eliminated.

      Rogers has at least 3 networks in any given region (regional East/West/Pacific/Ontario + One + 360), so if they hand off a few series to CBC for the first round, Rogers should be able to manage the rest of the playoffs AND still air Jays games across their own properties. But anytime they have some scheduling issues, they have the CBC there to catch the overflow.

      • thats for conlficts on a Saturday night…what about the other 6 nights of the week when the CBC can’t help….also if you put the jays on a regional channel, in place of Calgary vs Minnesota on a Wednesday night, what does that say about the team?

        • Why can’t the CBC help on other nights? I’m sure they’ll still have playoffs almost every night during the first and second rounds. Jays games will probably air on ONE or 360 in the spring. Regionals, CBC and 360 or ONE (on non-WWE and UFC nights) will probably have the hockey.

        • CBC has hockey games on any night during playoffs, not just Saturdays.

          The overlap between baseball and the start of hockey playoffs ranges from non-existent to only a few days. The overlap between the end of baseball and the start of hockey isn’t even an issue unless the Jays make the playoffs.

    • Same concerns about money for the Blue Jays were raised when Rogers spent over $500 million for a stake in MLSE and when they bought The Score for $90 million. Yet, the cash was still there for the Marlins and Mets trades less than a year later.
      I don’t think you can look at it as an either/or proposition with a company as big as Rogers.

  20. If Rogers some how gets a Nfl team i do think that will be the end of the Jays.

    • The Bills are locked into their lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium through the 2020 NFL Season I believe and the current commissioner Roger Goodell is from Western New York. So it would be very difficult for a new owner to move the Bills out of Buffalo until the 2020 NFL Season is finished. Also, there are these three obstacles working against Toronto in their quest to get an NFL team: 1) Terry Pegula (current owner of the Sabres) and Tom Golisano (former co-owner of the Sabres) could easily make bids of their own to buy the Bills and keep them in Buffalo & Western New York. 2) The NFL does not plan on having expansion franchises (relocation is not out of the question). 3) The CFL would be opposed to an NFL team in the Toronto market.

    • Rogers can’t buy an NFL team anyways, so this is a non-starter.

      • That’s true. It would have to be individual such as Larry Tanenbaum or somebody else who would be interested.

  21. Will Sportsnet be keeping their regional commentators (i.e. Joe Bowen, Dean Brown, John Shorthouse, etc.)?

    • They will all still have regional games to call, so I don’t see any of them leaving. My guess is Brown will continue to do Sens games on HNIC as well. Not sure if any of the others will be involved in the national broadcasts. My guess is maybe Quinn, but they probably don’t want Habs fans to complain when Joe Bowen does a Habs-Leafs HNIC game, for example.

  22. Good post. My guess is Hughson/Simpson will the Rogers A-team. They used to the the lead pairing when Sportsnet last had NHL rights. I think Ferraro does end up with Rogers. As for Miller, keep in mind with the CFL expanding by a team next year there will be more football games to call and he could also do regional hockey and more international stuff. I think he stays. Cuthbert is the interesting one. He stays for CFL, but what else might they get him to do? Does he do NBC work again? Does Miller? Lots of questions. I think Duthie ends up at NBC.

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