Lots going on in the sports broadcasting business in the past three weeks following the Rogers mega-bid to pick-up complete NHL national TV rights beginning next season. Mostly every sports broadcasting story reported in the mainstream media over the past couple of weeks is in relation to the fallout it has caused. Here is a quick roundup.
The NHL’s board of governors approved the Rogers/NHL contract by a vote of 29-0 at their winter meetings last week. That’s right, one team abstained. Ironically that team is the one that Rogers owns 37.5% of, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Damian Cox reports that Leafs CEO Larry Tanenbaum, who owns 25% of the team, abstained at the request of Gary Bettman after a contentious MLSE boardroom meeting between Rogers and Bell executives. Tanenbaum, who probably isn’t having a lot of fun at his job, must have felt like a middle school principal mediating between two kids after one stole the other’s girlfriend.
TSN has actually made the biggest news by re-signing James Duthie, Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger last week. The Globe & Mail article also reports that TSN is in negotiations with Pierre Lebrun and Aaron Ward. Yesterday Gord Miller joined the crowd that is staying at TSN. Reports indicate that Sportsnet really wanted Duthie to front their NHL coverage, which doesn’t bode well for Darren Millard. With Duthie off the market, Sportsnet could look to Elliotte Friedman or Ron MacLean to lead to hockey coverage.
One Sportsnet personality who does not have to worry about being replaced is Nick Kypreos. This article by Stu Cowan of Postmedia tells the story of how Scott Moore saved Kypreos from being fired at Sportsnet in 1999 after Globe & Mail media columnist Bill Houston reported Sportsnet was about to let him go. Kypreos is likely to take a central role in Sportsnet’s NHL coverage next season.
While Rogers have reportedly reached out to Duthie, they have not contacted the CBC’s Bob Cole about his future once the public broadcaster cedes creative control of Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers next season. Cole has called hockey on CBC Television for forty years, making him HNIC’s most senior on-air member.
Steve Lepore of Awful Announcing published a very interesting interview with Scott Moore, who is President of Broadcasting at Rogers. Moore, who used to work at CBC Sports, had a key role in bringing the new NHL contract to Rogers. In the interview Moore revealed that Rogers plans to broadcast an exclusive Sunday night game on City. Moore also revealed that Sportsnet will show games featuring two American teams on Friday nights, with a focus on star players.
This raises an interesting question about the future of Sportsnet’s Canadian Hockey League coverage, which would now compete with other NHL games for airtime on Sportsnet on Fridays and with both the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Blue Jays during the Memorial Cup. The current Canadian Hockey League national TV contract is up at the end of this season. With TSN froze out of the NHL, and already cashing in on ten days of junior hockey in December, picking up exclusive rights makes sense for them. However, as Moore pointed out on Twitter, Sportsnet has six channels.
Bell Media has acquired exclusive NFL rights on Sundays, Mondays and during the playoffs in a long-term agreement. CTV, CTV Two, TSN and TSN2 will combine to show games at 1pm ET and 4pm ET every Sunday afternoon. TSN will also continue to broadcast Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football, while CTV will continue to air the Super Bowl. Basically, how I understand the deal, is that two games will air in each market at 1pm ET and 4pm ET.
For example, viewers could get a game on CTV at 1pm ET, CTV Two at 4pm ET and a doubleheader on TSN. 1pm coverage is unlikely to change for most of the country as CTV and TSN or TSN2 already show games in that timeslot. At 4pm ET, I’d expect all markets Ontario-east will see games on CTV Two, while many markets Manitoba-west will see games on CTV. This is because there is little conflict with local news, except in Manitoba, and due to the lack of a CTV Two affiliate on the prairies. I could also see the 1pm ET game airing on CTV Two in British Columbia. Using this week’s NFL schedule, we could see something like this next season (I just threw this together quickly, so don’t read too much into it)
1pm, New England @ Miami – CTV Atlantic, Montreal, Northern Ontario
1pm, Seattle @ NY Giants – CTV Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Sask., Alberta; CTV2 BC
1pm, Buffalo @ Jacksonville – CTV Kitchener1pm, Chicago @ Cleveland – TSN
4pm, NY Jets @ Carolina – TSN2
4:25pm, Green Bay @ Dallas – CTV2 Atlantic, Ottawa, Toronto; CTV Winnipeg-west
If Bell hasn’t picked up enough new content with their new NFL television contract, maybe a baseball team would help fill the programming gaps. The Montreal Gazette’s Peter Hadekel raised the question last Thursday after a study was released that big-league baseball could be economically viable in Montreal, especially with a new stadium and an owner in the communications industry. While the Gazette report specifically mentions that TSN would benefit from such a deal, I think RDS is the network that would actually benefit the most. Considering that a Montreal franchise would go head-to-head with the Jays every night, they would likely gain little traction in English-Canada. Of course the question of whether 162 nights of programming for two networks is worth the investment of putting a baseball team in Montreal is just one of the many hurdles the project would have to clear.
Lastly, for those asking about a TV schedule for college football’s bowl games. Neither TSN nor Sportsnet has released anything official yet. However, expect a similar schedule to last season, with games split between TSN2 and Sportsnet 360, with the odd game on TSN. ABC will carry two games (Las Vegas Bowl and Capital One Bowl), with CBS and Fox having one game each (Sun Bowl and Cotton Bowl respectively). Regardless of any announcement from the networks, I will try to post a preliminary schedule by the end of the week.