Posted in TV

RDS to keep 60 Habs games a season until 2026

They won’t say how much it cost, but RDS has bought the regional rights to all 60 Canadiens games not guaranteed to TVA Sports, and this until the 2025-26 season.

The deal, announced at 6pm on the Friday before Christmas, also includes an unspecified number of all preseason games each season. But Saturday night games, and all playoff games, remain with TVA.

The deal also applies only to “the team’s designated broadcast region”, the same region that the TSN Habs channel is limited to — Atlantic Canada, Quebec and eastern Ontario (going as far west as Belleville and Pembroke, so basically identical to the territory of Rogers Sportsnet East). So if RDS puts these matches on its main channel, that channel would have to be blacked out in the rest of the country. That’s almost certainly going to be the case, because the Canadiens is what RDS is all about. Bell Media spokesperson Renee Rouse confirmed that the network will be blacked out outside its regional market.

It’s unclear at this point how or if people in southern Ontario and west of there will get their Canadiens hockey in French. Rogers owns the rights to out-of-market games, but any French airing of those games on either Rogers or TVA channels would need to be blacked out in eastern Canada. Right now, out-of-market games are only available on the expensive NHL Centre Ice package, and it’s very possible that will continue.

Asked about out-of-market games, Rogers spokesperson Andrea Goldstein tells me that Rogers does indeed own the rights in both languages. But “it’s still early days and we’ll be announcing our programming plans in the coming months.” That sounds promising for the possibility of some non-Centre-Ice option for expat francophone Habs fans or those in places like northeastern Ontario.

When the Rogers deal was announced, we were promised no regionalization or blackouts, but since this is a regional deal, and there will indeed be blackouts, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make sense, unless Rogers plans to offer out-of-market games on a different channel.

Either way, for the first time in a decade, all Canadiens games won’t be on the same channel in French, and RDS’s Canadiens games won’t be available nationally.

The RDS/Canadiens statement also makes no mention of mobile rights, online streaming, video-on-demand or any other type of rights to those games. Bell Media’s Rouse confirmed that they have not acquired any of these rights. So if you want to get that Tuesday night Canadiens game on your smartphone, you’ll still have to deal with Rogers and Quebecor.

Bell also announced that it has retained the naming rights to the Bell Centre until 2028. Bell owns 18% of the Canadiens, which may or may not have been a significant factor in all of this.

UPDATE (Dec. 27): Martin Leclerc of Radio-Canada says the broadcasting deal is worth $68 million a season, or about $1.1 million a game. He makes the case that neither TVA nor RDS should expect to make their money back.

16 thoughts on “RDS to keep 60 Habs games a season until 2026

  1. Mario

    Concerning blacked out markets, if they subscribe to NHL Centre Ice or online onNHL GameCentre, wouldn’t they be able to still watch the games?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Concerning blacked out markets, if they subscribe to NHL Centre Ice or online onNHL GameCentre, wouldn’t they be able to still watch the games?

      Almost certainly. My question is whether Rogers (which would manage NHL Centre Ice) would have the ability to make out-of-market games by Canadian teams more accessible, or allow TVA to do so.

      Reply
      1. Josh

        I’m skeptical. What would be in it for Rogers in that scenario? And if they were to allow access to those games, why would they do it only for Habs games, and not all games?

        I’m having a hard time coming up with a reason that they would do this.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I’m skeptical. What would be in it for Rogers in that scenario?

          Money. The calculation is pretty simple: If Rogers could make more money on advertising from airing a Canadiens game with wide distribution than it would get in extra NHL Centre Ice subscriptions, it will probably do it.

          We don’t know how much RDS pays for Canadiens rights, but numbers around $15 to $20 million have been thrown out. Divided by 100 (to account for playoff/preseason games), that’s about $200,000 per game. Their ratings varied but let’s say it’s around 500,000 for weeknight games during the regular season. That means it feels it can get about $0.40 per viewer per game through a mix of subscription fees and advertising revenue. A report a while ago said RDS doesn’t make money directly from the games, but does overall. So let’s assume it gets the equivalent of about $0.25 per viewer per game. With about 12 games a month on average, that’s about $3 per viewer per month just in advertising.

          NHL Centre Ice costs about $30 per month depending on provider. If we assume (based on pulling a figure out of my ass) the distributor keeps $10 of that, that means $20 a month for NHL Centre Ice.

          Then the question comes to how many people will use either. If, say, having the Canadiens only on Centre Ice means there would be 10,000 more subscriptions to that service, that means $200,000 a month to Rogers. But if 100,000 people in the Rest of Canada watch the Canadiens game in French on a special cable channel, that means $300,000 a month to Rogers.

          A lot of these numbers are pure conjecture, so don’t make too many assumptions based on them. But it’s a demonstration of how the math could work out so that it would be more profitable for Rogers to make the games more accessible.

          The biggest factor might be the availability of games in English. If Rogers wins the English regional rights to Canadiens games and doesn’t apply blackouts in English, then francophone fans will probably be more likely to just watch the game in English than subscribe to NHL Centre Ice.

          Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Could Rogers broadcast Habs games in RDS region if its in English?

      Sure, if it has the rights. TSN currently has regional broadcast rights to (some) Canadiens games in English. We don’t know about next year yet.

      Reply
  2. Marc

    Bell/RDS certainly pulled off a coup d’état of sorts to TVA. And Peladeau strongly believes that 22 regular season games and the playoffs (if the Habs make the post-season) will yield a gain in subscriptions to TVA sports?

    I wouldn’t bother.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      And Peladeau strongly believes that 22 regular season games and the playoffs (if the Habs make the post-season) will yield a gain in subscriptions to TVA sports?

      Since 22 is greater than zero, yes. Not everyone will subscribe to the channel, but those who are big sports fans and have channels like RDS2, RDS Info, Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet One on their cable package will probably add TVA Sports as well if they haven’t already.

      Also keep in mind that it’s not just 22 Canadiens games. It’s all national NHL games in French. Every team, and all playoff games. This isn’t a trivial win for TVA.

      Reply
  3. reddymade89

    In answer to some of your questions rds paid 90$ million for the 60 games…..quite an increase considering they were paying 30$ mil for all habs matches and all the nhl and all the playoffs!
    Word on the street is that tva will put some if not all matches on the regular (free) network.
    As for habs matches outside of qc apparently they aren’t all that profitable. No one really seems to be able to explain how this makes any sense economically…..apparently at 30$ mil a year rds made a very slim profit…..so how any one an will make money at 4 times the price is a good question. Advertisers pay for a demographic and eyeballs, so they’re not going to pay 4 times the price for the same numbers. I keep hearing the phrase “new revenue streams”……Much as ctv tried sell off the rights for the london olympics after taking a bath in vancouver I predict rogers and tva will be trying to sell off rights in a few years. The big winner in all of this is of course the nhl.

    Reply
    1. mephistau

      Comme le CH est profitable et que Bell détient 18% du CH, tout deal de TV est du profit pour Bell.

      Si TVA paie 100M$ ça fait 18M$ pour Bell.
      Si Bell (RDS) paie 90M$ ça fait 16M$ pour Bell.
      Donc 90M$ – (18M$+16M$)=56M$
      C’est plus que le 30M$ (déjà que Bell faisait un retour via le CH pour ce montant) mais quand même.

      C’est le coût (retour) de TVA que je ne comprends pas.

      Reply
  4. Mario D.

    Very happy about that in a way. RDS has much better quality coverage and TVA sports has all the rejects from other stations …Unfortunately it does confirm that most of the viewers will have to get a sport package to see all the games. It was obvious that someone had to pay for that huge deal and as usual the consumer gets the bill !

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Very happy about that in a way. RDS has much better quality coverage and TVA sports has all the rejects from other stations

      Don’t make the mistake of comparing RDS to TVA Sports as it is now. TVA Sports is two years old, and the addition of hockey games will come with significant investment in programming.

      When RDS acquired access to Canadiens games in the first place and La soirée du hockey ended on Radio-Canada, there was a similar outcry that the network that gave us bowling and mini-putt was a bad place to air Canadiens games. It even became a political issue. RDS now is far improved from that of a decade ago.

      You might consider some of TVA Sports’s talent as “rejects from other stations”, but I wouldn’t qualify people like Renaud Lavoie that way. And Michel Bergeron is hardly a “reject” from RDS.

      Reply
  5. Mario

    In the Rogers/TVA deal they retain the digital rights to all NHL hockey including Habs regional games, correct? if so, does that mean TVA could do the Habs regional games but only make those available on Centre Ice / Game Centre and mobile apps for their Videotron customers?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      In the Rogers/TVA deal they retain the digital rights to all NHL hockey including Habs regional games, correct?

      As I understand it, yes.

      if so, does that mean TVA could do the Habs regional games but only make those available on Centre Ice / Game Centre and mobile apps for their Videotron customers?

      Not really, for two reasons. One, I don’t think Rogers would accept that these things wouldn’t be available to its customers. But more importantly, the CRTC doesn’t allow this kind of exclusivity. Videotron would be obligated to offer mobile rights to its competitors at commercially reasonable rates.

      Reply
  6. Mario

    When the Rogers/TVA deal with the NHL was first announced in November, speculation was that Rogers had a sub-licensing agreement with TVA worth $120 million. But in the event TVA did not secure the Habs regional package, TVA would be paying less than $120 million. Does anyone now how much less?

    Reply

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