Rogers Communications Inc. has signed a new broadcast deal for NHL rights in Canada that will give them exclusive rights to all NHL games, on all platforms for the next 12 years. The deal effectively shuts out TSN, its chief rival, from NHL hockey games and gives it control over the Saturday night package currently airing on CBC.
Here's a quick look at how the deal could affect the average hockey fan in this country:
Less Don Cherry?
While the CBC will continue to carry Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights, that is pretty much the only place you'll be able to see "Coaches Corner" While the new deal gives Rogers the rights to all playoff games and the all-star game, it also gives them editorial control of the Hockey Night package. So while you will likely still see him on Saturday nights, come the spring, Don Cherry will effectively be shut down.
More Channel Surfing
The Rogers deal means hockey will be available on more channels and likely on more nights (all Sportsnet regional stations plus Sportsnet 360). Rogers says it will put another hockey game on Saturday night opposite the CBC offering, airing on its City TV stations. Does that mean City will get the marquee matchup of the night instead of CBC?
Shifting cable/satellite providers
The hard-core hockey fan likely has the complete hockey package currently being served up by the various providers. But the new deal will give Rogers control of the NHL Centre Ice package. Will they make that available to Bell TV subscribers? (Rogers makes it a point of pointing out that its FX cable channel is not available on Bell). If not, you will have to make a switch. As well, if you're a casual hockey viewer and don't subscribe to the sports package, you may be shut out of watching your favourite team.
Fewer airings of The Hockey Theme song
With the loss of the national package, TSN is limited to using the iconic hockey theme it purchased several years ago on its regional packages, currently limited to Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets offerings next year.
More hockey talk
Aside from actual games being played, get ready for more talking heads talking hockey, especially from TSN who are going to want to maintain their status as THE information source for all things hockey. Look for them to ramp up their news coverage - more analysis, more reports, documentaries, more hockey centric shows. The network did something similar when they lost hockey from 1998 to 2002. Don't look for any change in Trade Deadline Day or Free Agent Frenzy, in fact, look for the on-air battle between the two (TSN and Sportsnet) to increase when it comes to those properties.
More non-NHL hockey
With TSN still holding long-term rights to World Junior Hockey Championships and other Hockey Canada rights packages look for the network to put an increased emphasis on junior hockey. And then there is the future of the junior hockey package, currently residing with Sportsnet. If TSN takes dead aim at that package, it might allow them to focus on some the next generation of NHL players, giving them a national presence and building them up with an eye to their participation in Team Canada tournaments such as world juniors, thus extending that brand beyond just the Christmas period.
Changing the formula
With the new deal and all the digital rights associated with it, is this a chance for Rogers to change the way viewers have become accustomed to consuming hockey? We've become used to the usual game presentation with the first intermission interview and highlights and analysis. Is this a chance for them to think outside the box and do something new, utilizing all platforms?