To: Keith Pelley, President, Rogers Media
Hey Pells: Welcome to Week 1 at Rogers, previously known to you as the Evil Empire. You'll no doubt be checking out the floor plan of the Rogers campus on Bloor Street. The locked room is where they count the money. You probably saw that the Rogers sports media empire made a lot of money last year. More than TSN, your old haunt. Yikes.
That's the good news. The bad news is that some people watching Rogers's customer service of late are wondering if your new company has lost its mind. The reception for Sportsnet One's launch continues to make Barack Obama's approval ratings look robust. If you've received even a fraction of the mail Usual Suspects receives from people wanting to cancel Blue Jays tickets, cancel Rogers phone service or egg the corporate offices as a result of The One's launch then you'll know what we mean. There's anger in TV land.
Take this past week. The Blue Jays' division matchups with the Rays (two games) and Yankees (one game) were devoted to The One - the channel you can only get on Rogers Cable. The one you get only if you subscribe for more than basic Rogers cable. It did not go over well. Our inbox bulges like Hurley's jeans on Lost. Viewers have now figured out that Rogers made a choice as it waited for rival carriers to pick up the (current) free signal. Alienate Blue Jays fans now or alienate NHL fans when their teams' games don't appear as promised on The One in October. Apparently, Rogers chose baseball fans as the lesser of two bad options.
This all presupposes that you'll be able to sweet-talk the Bells, Cogecos, Shaws, etc., into picking up The One by October's NHL launch. If that doesn't happen, Stephen Harper may want to re-think cancelling that long-gun registry thing.
Then there's the general weltschmerz surrounding Sportsnet itself. Frankly, the whole operation looks tired. When you ran TSN, it never looked tired. Silly sometimes. Maple Leafs-obsessed. Michael Landsberg's wardrobe. You know what we mean. Right now, there's not enough energy being generated to power a dim LED. Outside of Nick Kypreos, no one breaks a story. Name one programming innovation they've made or one compelling star they've created. Take as long as you need.
Then there's the FAN 590, also known as Bob McCown and the Other Guys. It appears that the crucial fall ratings book is starting without a permanent host for the morning drive show. While the optics are terrible as one potential candidate after another says nyet, at least you're not losing ratings. The previous incarnation always languished about five games out of the wild-card position.
Still, TSN is rumbling about a competing network to take you on. And the right morning show added to McCown would make Rogers some decent dough. And make you look good. So make a few calls to the fifth floor. If money's a problem, grab a few bucks from that locked room down the hall.
We see you're also responsible for Paul Beeston's Cadillac, aka the Rogers Centre. From your days as the put-upon tenant with the Argos, you'll know that the Buffalo Bills experiment initiated by the sainted Ted Rogers is as popular as a skin rash with Torontonians. The Bills stink, the city's indifferent, the stadium's sepulchral and the prices - even after reductions - look like they were dreamt up by Toronto City Council.
Unfortunately, you're committed to sending a very large Brinks truck to Orchard Park for another two years. (The $78-million you sent to the Bills in your Q1 2008 financial report was more than the Bills' entire operating income in 2006.) As one of the more staunch CFL guys in your TSN days, you might want to suggest Rogers get out of the NFL shell game. Toronto's not going to get the Bills when Ralph Wilson shuffles off his mortal coil, the IOC is not going to build Toronto a new stadium for an NFL team, the city's broke and who wants to be perceived as the prime suspect in wounding or killing the CFL business model?
After all, you've never stuck with a loser for long. Or with a winner, to think of it. Must be off. Glad to be of service.