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.

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“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.

Post-Long Weekend News and Notes

EDIT!! I forgot to include one news item. This is why you shouldn’t blog at six in the morning. See point below.

• It is becoming more and more common to see bloggers slowly moving their way up in the digital world, from no-names living in their parents’ basement to B-list television stars. The biggest Canadian names to make this transition happened last week when The Basketball Jones finally broke their summer silence and announced they have joined NBA TV in Atlanta under the new name of The Starters. I became a fan way back when J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas were filming daily podcasts in their apartment (even before that, it was audio only). Along with producers JD and Matt Osten, they joined The Score in 2010 where their daily videos were professionally filmed/produced and they co-hosted Court Surfing each week. Along the way, Trey Kirby joined them from Yahoo Sports and Score employee Leigh Ellis made up the sixth member. With Rogers buying The Score, their future seemed up in the air and hence the move to greener pastures occurred. Here’s the video announcement from the NBA on TNT crew:

• If you’re a Buffalo Sabres fan and happen to live within 50 miles of the city, Bell TV has some good news for you as they will show 50 games during the regular season on a free specialty “Sabres TV” channel on both Bell Fibe and Bell Satellite. The 50-mile radius is from Fort Erie and Niagara to Stoney Creek just south of Hamilton. I’m sure all the folks in Windsor would love to see a similar deal made with the Detroit Red Wings, which has a much larger fan base on this side of the border than Buffalo.

• Bell has also made a deal with the NBA that will allow Bell customers to watch new weekly NBA content on their phones and tablets, featuring player profiles, rookie features and courtside content; and Bell Mobile TV will have daily NBA highlights during the regular season and playoffs. Sadly, there is no mention of NBA League Pass finally being available to Bell customers, which I’m sure NBA fans would rather have than the new lame options listed.

• Fox Sports in the US have acquired the rights to the German Bundesliga and DFL-Cup competitions beginning in the 2015-16 season. GolTV in the US and Canada are both the current rights holders, so this change down south could also see a change of rights holders in Canada (hopefully going to Sportsnet and not beIN Sport), and will turn GolTV Canada into an even sadder and more pathetic channel than it currently is.

• In a sign of how bad the Canadian men’s soccer team currently is, their international friendly against Australia (in England) at 3pm ET today (Tuesday) will be streamed live on sportsnet.ca and replayed on Sportsnet 360 at Midnight ET. France/Finland, Spain/Georgia, and England/Poland are showing on the Sportsnet family of channels, and I don’t doubt that all three could garner better ratings than the CMNT match.

• For those missing watching former Sportscentre anchor Jay Onrait on their screens every night (though it appears Fox Sports Live is doing a pretty good job of posting highlights of Jay and Dan most nights), Onrait has a new book coming out next month which should tide you over. Anchorboy: True Tales From The World of Sportscasting is currently available for pre-order from HarperCollins Canada and will no doubt be a hilarious read… presuming you’re a fan of that type of humour.

• And finally, Sportsnet continues to piss off two fan bases. Firstly, college football fans by showing duplicate programming on Sportsnet One and SN 360 on Thursday nights instead of the NCAA game of the night, as well as removing Saturday night games from their schedule at the last minute. SN spouted about their extensive NCAA coverage after picking up ESPN’s College Game Day, but have failed miserably so far. TSN on the other hand, after getting off to a slow start, showed more games this past weekend than SN has all season.

SN also is making viewers’ eyes and ears bleed for another MLB post-season as they subject us to the awful MLB International feed for the NLCS series instead of TBS as we endure the ramblings of the always-terrible Rick Sutcliffe. Combined with the graphics and production values of an early 90s high school broadcast, it’s almost enough to make you want to find an illegal stream online. SN even knows how bad it is as they use the TBS feed when showing highlights during the game.

Sportsnet Adds Brier and Scotties Playdowns

Some relatively important curling news breaking today. Sportsnet have announced they will broadcast provincial playdowns for the Brier and Tournament of Hearts (Canada’s national curling championships) for the next ten seasons, beginning in 2013. Sportsnet will broadcast the men’s and women’s playdowns in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, which are generally seen as the three most competitive provinces, beginning this January. Sportsnet will also add the B.C. Championships in 2014.

Earlier this year Sportsnet also purchased the Grand Slam of Curling, so in total the network will broadcast 7 curling events this season.

Here is the press release.

In a continued commitment to growing the sport of curling in Canada, Sportsnet today announced a 10-year multiplatform agreement for exclusive Canadian coverage of the B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario Provincial Curling Championships. Under terms of the agreement, Sportsnet will partner with the four provincial governing bodies – Curl B.C, Alberta Curling Federation, CurlManitoba, and Ontario Curling Association – to deliver the men’s and women’s championship events on television, online and mobile platforms.

This marks the first time the Provincial Curling Championships will be delivered nationally across Canada.

Coverage begins in January 2013 with the Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario women’s events, followed by the men’s events in February.  Sportsnet’s deal for the B.C. Provincial Curling Championships begins in 2014.  Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

“As curling’s popularity continues to grow at an impressive rate, Sportsnet is committed to providing curling fans with increased access to high-calibre events such as the Provincial Curling Championships,” said Navaid Mansuri, Vice-President of Finance and Sports Programming, Sportsnet. “By building on the growing popularity of the sport, these agreements allow us to expand our curling coverage while elevating the profile of these events, as well as the sport of curling across Canada.”

The Provincial Curling Championships are an annual event that showcases curling’s most elite athletes from across the country. The winners move on to compete in the national championships: Tournament of Hearts (women) and Brier (men).

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of Sportsnet’s recent purchase the Grand Slam of Curling. Announced in August 2012, Sportsnet now wholly owns and operates the elite series of men’s and women’s curling events which are part of the World Curling Tour.