TSN believes it took another shot to the chin from the NHL after failing to win the broadcast rights to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
No one is saying much publicly, but broadcast sources say George Cope, chief executive officer of BCE Inc., the parent company of the TSN and CTV networks, is not happy. TSN executives worried about the bidding process because Rogers Communications Inc. is in the first year of a 12-year, $5.2-billion contract for the NHL's Canadian national broadcast rights. But TSN expected the competition for the World Cup, which is being operated by both the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, to be a blind auction with the winner being the highest bidder.
The auction was held about 10 days ago and TSN's bid was between $28-million and $32-million for the two-week tournament, which will be held for the first time in 12 years. TSN executives were sure they had the highest bid but were informed by the NHL that Rogers was the winner.
"We were told the rights were being awarded to Rogers," Phil King, president, CTV, sports and entertainment programming, said Wednesday. "As far as we can tell, they [Rogers] seem to have a quasi right to match."
King declined to discuss the matter in detail. Bell Media officials are now wondering if a right to match offers for competitions outside of NHL games was written into the broadcast contract between the league and Rogers.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment and there was no response to a request for comment from Cope. BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.
While it is unlikely Bell Media will challenge the NHL's decision (the NHLPA's role in the process is unclear), this will not create a thaw in the relationship between the two parties. Those relations were torn apart in November, 2013, when the NHL announced it awarded its Canadian national broadcast rights to Rogers for the next 12 years, leaving TSN in the cold.
A broadcast source said TSN expected to lose between $8-million and $10-million on its World Cup bid.
The World Cup, which was last played in 2004, will be held at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.
Eight teams will participate – the national teams from Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, plus an all-star team made up of players from the European countries whose teams are not playing and a team of the best players aged 23 and under from North America.
There will be two groups of four teams for the round-robin portion of the tournament. Each team will play the other three teams in its group and the top two finishers in each group will play a single-game semi-final. The winners will play a best-of-three final for the championship.
The games will be played under NHL rules and with the league's on-ice officials.
At this point, the World Cup is expected to be played on an off-year between the Winter Olympics.
But the NHL has not committed to the 2018 Olympics yet. While the players love going, the NHL owners have never been enthusiastic about interrupting their season for three weeks with the IOC and the national sports federations getting all of the revenue.
Since the World Cup is operated jointly by the NHL and the NHLPA, they will split all of the profits evenly, which might change the players' mind about Olympic participation if the tournament is a success.