The National Hockey League’s record 12-year, $4.9-billion (U.S.) deal with Rogers Communications for all national rights to its games dramatically alters the media landscape for hockey in Canada.
That includes the NHL’s role on CBC.
CBC couldn’t meet the financial expectations of the NHL in the negotiations, according to Hubert T. Lacroix, President and CEO of CBC/Radio Canada. The deal gives them the NHL again for 320 hours per season.
“Given the NHL agreement with Rogers,” said Lacroix.
“We were happy to come to an agreement with Rogers to ensure all Canadians from coast to coast to coast would continue to have hockey available on Saturday night and through the playoffs. Partnerships like this one are a strategic way for CBC to promote the public interest in today’s broadcasting landscape.”
“We all recognize the value of Hockey Night on CBC,” said commissioner Gary Bettman.
But life is going to be different for their NHL coverage. Here is Lacroix’s internal memo to CBC staff, acquired by Atlantic Wire writer Connor Simpson.
“A day of mixed emotions for sure. Today, the NHL announced that they have chosen Rogers as the exclusive rights holders for NHL hockey in Canada going forward.
“While this isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, I'm pleased to say that through an agreement with Rogers, CBC will retain HNIC on Saturday nights, including 320 hours of prime-time hockey and the Stanley Cup Final for the next four years.
“This may not be the ideal scenario but, it is the right outcome for Canadian hockey fans and is an acceptable adaptation to the role of the public broadcaster in the modern world of professional sports rights. A world in which partnering with a wide array of other actors is a key to success.
“A little bit about our deal with Rogers. CBC pays no rights costs for the broadcasting of hockey games. Rogers is bearing the sole risk around hockey revenues; (they sell the inventory and keep the revenue – the overall selling process is yet to be defined), while we continue to make Canada’s game available to all Canadians wherever they live.
“It also provides us with a high-traffic place to promote all of our other fantastic Canadian content during a broadcast that brings the nation together week after week.
“I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the remarkable HNIC technical team at CBC, you are hands down the best in the business and I’m glad your hard work and talents will continue to be shared with Canadians through our new deal with Rogers.
However, starting next year, Rogers will assume all editorial control (all editorial decisions with respect to the content, on-air talent and the creative direction of HNIC – we have the right to be consulted and there is a commitment to excellence) under the new agreement.
“These negotiations were not easy. We had been in conversation with the league for a number of months to secure these rights ourselves; the CBC was prepared to do a fiscally responsible deal to preserve hockey on Saturday nights and to help the NHL to build the hockey brand through a variety of significant events and outreach activities. The NHL chose a deal with only one broadcaster – that’s their choice and that’s their prerogative.
“I want to personally thank the negotiating team of Neil McEneaney and Jeffrey Orridge who for months have poured so much smarts and passion into trying to make the best deal happen with the NHL, and for going the extra mile in securing our agreement with Rogers over the last few days (and nights) – thank you.
“So, what does this mean for the CBC going forward? While this deal will result in job losses, the staffing impact would have been much greater had we lost hockey entirely, as CBC is still producing hockey. Preserving HNIC also allows CBC to maintain a capacity to execute a sports strategy and fulfillits existing contractual obligations (i.e. Olympics, Pan-Am, FIFA)
“You probably have a lot of questions. There are still a lot of details to work out, but we’ll try to answer some of your questions later today at a town hall meeting at 1:30pm (details below). I hope you will take the time to join me, Neil McEneaney, Jeffrey Orridge and the rest of the team to give you a little more detail about the new deal with Rogers, and what the impact will be on CBC both now and in the future.”
So it sounds like Sportsnet takes over … well, everything. Editorial control, the way the games are presented and the advertising sales. And it sounds like jobs are going to be lost in what’s effectively a merger.