It is massive and complicated, but the NHL rights deal indicates a couple of things right off the bat.
Since Rogers already dominates baseball, the NFL, and pro soccer broadcasting, the Toronto-based company may slowly strangle TSN for programming, meaning the channel that started it all in Canada may wither away.
And, expect to see even more of the Toronto Maple Leaf (Rogers basically owns them) and Vancouver Canucks (they play in the Rogers Center) than the overload we now experience and much less than the nominal amount of air time they now get for Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
Part of what’s in play that guarantees that outcome is that TSN is still clinging to some rights to broadcast the Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.
Of course, Rogers will showcase as heavily as possible its, “brand,” – the Leafs, and the Canucks in their branded facility. They bought the right to do that, so they will, and fans of the four teams which now seem left in the cold can whine all they want, but put up with it.
How much, down the road, will all this cost viewers? Well, Rogers’ sports channels are already, “premium,” channels pre-paid by cable/satellite TV users and it is certain the Bay St. Behemoth of Sports Broadcasting will want to leverage its monopoly on Canada’s favourite viewing sport to increase its non-ad revenues.
Rogers did not allocate $5.2 million in an effort to lose money, or even maintain current profit levels.
I will not be surprised to learn that Pay-per view playoff games are part of the long term planning that went into the deal.
As for Hockey Night in Canada as an iconic CBC fixture, well, that, too is likely to go away before the deal needs to be renegotiated. What’s left of the broadcast will be fully controlled by Rogers, meaning familiar names and voices will likely be replaced by lower-rent (if not necessarily worse) announcers and the fate of dandy Don Cherry is still up in the air.
A corollary to that will mean CBC, which most Canadians still consider an absolute national necessity, will be less able to create or foster the Canadian programming which has made it so because of the loss of its best source of advertising revenue.
Stay tuned, if you must.
• I felt badly for Trail Smoke Eater Curtis Toneff when he was traded away a couple of weeks back. He really liked being here and was performing very well for the Smokies.
Not so much, now. Toneff is suiting up for Spruce Grove, the only Junior A squad in the country giving Ft. McMurray competition for top spot in the national rankings, in the Alberta Hockey League and looking forward to the rest of his last junior season.