Tag Archives: NHL

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.

Posted in Canadiens, My articles, TV

The Rogers/TVA/NHL deal: What we know, and what we don’t

TVA press conference on NHL deal. Scott Moore of Rogers and Gary Bettman of the NHL join by videoconference from Toronto.

TVA press conference on NHL deal. Scott Moore of Rogers and Gary Bettman of the NHL join by videoconference from Toronto.

It’s the biggest media announcement of the year: A $5.2-billion, 12-year broadcast rights deal between Rogers Communications and the National Hockey league. Included in it are side deals with the CBC (which will air games but won’t get revenue from them or handle their staffing) and TVA, which becomes the official French-language broadcaster.

We’ve suspected for a while that the CBC wouldn’t be able to afford to keep its rights to Saturday night hockey and the Stanley Cup playoffs. But what’s most surprising about this deal is that Bell Media, which owns TSN and RDS, is also a loser here.

A lot of details are still to be decided. Regional rights to NHL games are up in the air. We also don’t know what rights-holders will do with those rights. What games will we see on City TV? On TVA? Who will be the on-air personalities and play-by-play announcers? We’ll start knowing that in the coming weeks and months.

Here’s a story I wrote for The Gazette about the French side of this deal and how it will affect Canadiens broadcasts. Pat Hickey also has his thoughts on the deal.

In short, here’s what we know and what we don’t know about this deal so far:

  • CBC will continue to air Saturday night and playoff hockey for at least four years. And the Hockey Night in Canada brand will continue. But that’s about it. Those programs will be run by Rogers, not CBC. Rogers will pay all the expenses, but also get all the revenue. (Which makes me wonder why CBC is bothering.) This puts the future of personalities like Ron MacLean and Don Cherry up in the air. It will also mean a huge loss of income to the CBC, which means cuts will have to be made elsewhere.
  • TVA gets 22 Canadiens regular-season games a year: TVA will get all national games, which includes all games that air on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights. (Afternoon games on those days are not considered national.) Whether these air on the TVA network or TVA Sports is still up in the air.
  • RDS gets 60 Canadiens regular-season games a year, plus all preseason games: But these will be available only regionally. So people west of Pembroke and Belleville, Ontario will see RDS blacked out during Canadiens games it airs. It’s unclear if Rogers, which has out-of-market rights, will provide another way for fans to access the games, and if TVA will be involved.
  • There will still be some NHL hockey on TSN. The channel has the rights to all regional Winnipeg Jets games through 2021, as well as some Maple Leafs games in the coming season and beyond. It currently airs some Canadiens regional games, but the future of that deal is unclear.
  • TVA gets all playoff games and all special-event NHL programming. The NHL draft, NHL awards, Winter Classic and NHL All-Star Game will now air on TVA Sports. TSN can keep its TradeCentre and Free Agent Frenzy specials, because those are news broadcasts and aren’t subject to exclusivity deals.
  • TVA will launch TVA Sports 2. This will be a multiplex of the TVA Sports channel, which means it will share a licence with TVA Sports. It’s a relationship similar to TSN/TSN2, RDS/RDS2, Teletoon and The Movie Network, where channels come in groups instead of individually. But TVA Sports 2′s availability will depend on deals Quebecor signs with distributors. (Having it on Videotron is a given, of course.)
  • City TV will air Saturday night hockey. It will be called “Hockey Night in Canada on City.” But the details, and how they will decide which games air on City and which ones air on CBC, are unknown. There are also musings about Sunday night hockey on the City TV network.
  • Rogers and TVA retain mobile and other video streaming rights. Streaming will probably be available, but likely through distributors and only to those who subscribe to the linear TVA Sports channel. On the English side, Rogers gets all the online and mobile rights, including the Saturday night games that air on CBC. This means an end to online streaming on CBC.ca for people wanting to catch out-of-market games. RDS’s deal with the Canadiens for rights to regional games does not include any mobile or streaming rights.
  • Rogers takes control of NHL Centre Ice, NHL GameCenter Live and will sell Canadian ads for NHL.com.
  • No changes to radio. Radio rights are unaffected. Cogeco announced last week a five-year extension to 2018-19 that will see Canadiens games continue to air on 98.5 FM in Montreal, 93.3 FM in Quebec City, 106.9 FM in Trois-Rivières and 107.7 FM in Sherbrooke. The deal for English radio rights for the Canadiens remains with Bell Media until 2018-19, which means they will continue to air on TSN 690.
  • Bell keeps The Hockey Theme.
  • UPDATE: The National Hockey League Board of Governors has approved the deal. Though the Toronto Star reports that the Maple Leafs abstained from the vote, apparently because of internal conflicts between its two main owners, Rogers and Bell.

What has been reported but not confirmed:

  • How much TVA is paying Rogers. No comments, despite repeated questions. We know that the Rogers deal is for more than $300 million a year, and that it includes the sublicensed deals. The Globe and Mail reports it was $120 million a year, though because they lost regional Canadiens games to RDS, that number has dropped to $52 million a year, reports Radio-Canada’s Martin Leclerc. To give some perspective, TVA Sports’s entire budget for 2012 was $30 million.
  • How much Bell (TSN) and CBC were willing to pay. The CBC said it couldn’t meet the high bidding of its competitors in a fiscally responsible way, and they’re probably right about that. Radio-Canada’s Martin Leclerc reports that Bell’s final offer was $5 billion, very close to the Rogers bid, and that Bell wasn’t given a chance to match what Rogers offered.
  • How much RDS is paying the Canadiens for its regional deal. Martin Leclerc of Radio-Canada says RDS’s deal for 60 regional games a year is worth $68 million a season, or about $1.1 million a game.

What either hasn’t been decided yet or hasn’t been told to us:

  • Details of the negotiations. Though this Maclean’s story has some general idea (Maclean’s is owned by Rogers) and the Toronto Star put together a timeline of the talks between Rogers and CBC. There’s also this story talking to Rogers executives.
  • How English regional Canadiens games will be split up. In English, TSN carries some Canadiens games regionally on a special channel. It’s unclear what will happen with them next season.
  • How out-of-market games will be distributed. The NHL’s deal with Rogers says there won’t be regional blackouts for the games Rogers owns rights for. But there are still regional rights deals. So I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. Rogers owns NHL Centre Ice and out-of-market games, so we could see a different situation than we’re used to. It seems clear that games carried on Rogers won’t be regionally restricted, but for those carried by its competitors, it’s unclear. Rogers has said it’s too early to tell what they will do with these rights.
  • Whether games will air on TVA. A sample schedule published by Rogers suggested Canadiens Saturday night games could air on the over-the-air network, but TVA president Pierre Dion said they haven’t decided whether to use it yet. There are good arguments for and against airing Saturday night and playoff games on the conventional network. Keeping them on TVA Sports would drive subscriptions to the specialty channel. But with the games available in English on CBC and/or City, that effect will be mitigated. There’s also a huge promotional value for TVA Sports by putting big games on TVA. The decision will also depend on how many games TVA will get the rights for.
  • What happens to hockey on CBC after four years. This deal includes a strange agreement with CBC that sees the games continue to air on the public broadcaster and carry the Hockey Night in Canada branding, but under the control of Rogers, not the CBC. This means the CBC doesn’t have to worry for now about filling Saturday nights on their schedule. But otherwise there’s no real advantage here. And because Rogers has its own over-the-air television network, it doesn’t really need CBC, except to reach areas of the country where City doesn’t have local stations. But Rogers says the plan is not to phase out the CBC, and the deal will probably be renewed unless there’s a dramatic shift in the way people watch television.
  • What on-air talent will look like. We have almost a year before this deal comes into effect. That leaves plenty of time for TVA Sports to poach more personalities from RDS, and similarly for Rogers to grab people from CBC and TSN. (Apparently there will be discussions with Don Cherry, and others have already expressed interest.) Who does play-by-play is up in the air. UPDATE (Jan. 13): After losing Michel Bergeron and Félix Séguin to TVA, RDS says it has multi-year deals with its on-air personalities.
  • The future of shows like 24CH: These aren’t broadcast rights deals, but they are deals between broadcasters and hockey teams, so you can imagine that there will be more such deals with TVA and fewer with RDS. The next season of a 24CH-like show could be airing on Quebecor-owned channels.
  • How plans for the Nordiques are affected. Quebecor has made no secret of its desire to bring the National Hockey League back to Quebec City. TVA’s Pierre Dion wouldn’t make any comments about the Nordiques today. But while this deal is great news for TVA, and national rights to a theoretical Quebec City franchise would likely be included in the TVA deal, this is probably bad news for the Nordiques for two reasons. First, it means that TVA no longer needs another NHL team to drive subscriptions to its sports channel. And second, revenue sharing on this national deal means that every NHL team becomes several million dollars a year richer. Even with an inevitable salary cap hike, this will mean less pressure for struggling teams to sell to new owners who would relocate them.
  • What happens to rights for other sports. This deal will mean a huge shift in programming, which will undoubtedly have consequences. TVA and Sportsnet will have less money for other sports like UFC, MLS, NBA and baseball. And TSN/RDS will be desperate to add high-value content to replace lost hockey games. We could see some of these rights go back to Bell. A first step has already been taken with Bell winning rights to 4pm NFL games from Rogers.
  • How many jobs are lost or gained. CBC has said there will be job losses as a result of this deal. (This story explores the consequences for the CBC in more depth.) For the rest, we don’t know yet.
  • How much more consumers will have to pay for Sportsnet and TVA Sports. Neither Rogers nor Quebecor can simply absorb the extra costs in this deal. Ad revenue will surely go up, and they’ll be creative about platforms, but expect both companies to take a harder line during negotiations with distributors. TVA Sports gets about $5 a year on average from each of its 1.6 million subscribers, compared to RDS, which gets $30 a year on average from 3.5 million subscribers (for both RDS and RDS2). Sportsnet gets $17 a year per subscriber (for the regional channels, which doesn’t include Sportsnet One, Sportsnet World or Sportsnet 360), plus about $10 a year from its 6 million Sportsnet One subscribers. TSN (which includes TSN2) gets $26 a year from its 9.2 million subscribers. Expect the gap to narrow significantly as deals come up for renewal.
  • Who will be carrying TVA Sports by next fall. The big players in Quebec all have the channel: Bell Fibe, Shaw Direct, Videotron and Cogeco, plus Telus and Rogers. But major players like Shaw cable, MTS, SaskTel and Eastlink still don’t have it. Francophone Canadiens fans outside Quebec will have more trouble, as will anyone with analog cable.
  • How much money (if any) Rogers and TVA Sports will make on this deal. That, of course, is the biggest question, and the one nobody can answer. Analysts take a lukewarm look at this deal, neither loving it so much (because of its high cost) nor hating it so much (because of all the benefits it brings). All we can say for sure is that this is a big gamble, and both broadcasters will need to be very creative to make it work financially.

A petition has already started to ask — well, it doesn’t say who it’s asking, but presumably the NHL — to reverse its decision and put Canadiens games back on RDS. This obviously won’t go anywhere. The NHL isn’t going to walk away from a $5.2-billion deal.

What’s funny about this is that the reaction to RDS losing the Canadiens is similar to the reaction when it won Canadiens rights in the first place. Before the 2002-03 season, Saturday night games aired on Radio-Canada. When RDS picked up the rights to the entire Canadiens package, there was nationwide outrage. Heritage Minister Sheila Copps even went to the point of demanding Radio-Canada explain itself in front of a hearing. The summer 2002 controversy led to a deal between Radio-Canada and RDS to air Saturday games on RadCan, but eventually all 82 regular-season Canadiens games became exclusive to RDS.

Posted in Sports

Flyers win Stanley Cup

... or not.

On second thought, maybe it’s cruel to throw in the faces of these poor players and fans that they came so tantalizingly close to winning the Stanley Cup and their dreams have been irreconcilably crushed, yet again.

But then, these are the Flyers we’re talking about.

Posted in Media, Opinion, Sports, Technology

NHL can make history by opening up

This video is one of many, many parodies of the National Hockey League’s History Will Be Made ad campaign for the 2010 playoffs.

Some are hilarious. Some are awesome to watch. Some are head-scratchers. Some talk about the history that wasn’t made. Some are bitter (with reason). Some look like they’ll be killer until a monumental letdown at the punchline.

Some make fun of officiating. Some make fun of journalists. Some just make fun of Ryan O’Byrne.

As the playoffs come to an end, the NHL is tooting its own horn about the campaign, and specifically about the fan-produced videos, which are made possible mainly by the simplicity of the ads’ creation – just a piece of video with cheap old-movie-style effects, played backwards in slow-motion with a piece of instrumental music.

It’s a case study for the power of viral marketing, and how giving people the power to make their own media can be better than making it yourself.

But while these videos are all over the place, the NHL didn’t make it easy for people to use the source material, and the thing executives are heralding now could soon become illegal.

Digital locks

The Canadian government recently introduced a bill, Bill C-32, which would update the Copyright Act to reflect changes in the digital age. I won’t go too much into the details (feel free to read Michael Geist if you want to learn way too much about it), but there are two provisions that are pertinent here. One makes it legal to do mashups under certain circumstances (one being that it’s not done for profit), which is certainly welcome.

The other is a much-criticized provision that, put simply, says that you can’t circumvent a digital protection measure or “digital lock” on copyrighted content. That program you use to download DVDs to your hard drive? Illegal. That program or website that allows you to download YouTube videos? Illegal. It doesn’t matter how easy it is to circumvent the lock, as long as the copyright holder tries to lock something down, you’re not allowed to have access to it. And you can’t have access to the tool that circumvents that measure either.

Among the most protective copyright holders are sports leagues. Before live broadcasts, many of them include a reminder that videos, photos or even descriptions of the game (by this they usually mean radio play-by-play) cannot be retransmitted or republished without the express written permission of the league. Though the NHL isn’t as bad as Major League Baseball of the National Football League, those same conditions apply.

Except for recording off a TV, there is no easy, legal way of downloading video of these iconic (or just funny) NHL moments of history in order to create these mashups. Even buying a DVD wouldn’t make it legal under this new law because those DVDs have digital locks. Creators have to first get access to the videos through some grey or black market – or find a way to circumvent or break the digital lock – before they can create their mashup. Some methods are really low-tech (like pointing a video camera at a TV screen), while others are the result of what might be considered hacking.

Let the people create

Here’s a radical idea: The NHL should post short video clips of the greatest moments in hockey history in open formats and without any copy or access controls (UPDATE: They’ve already done this with the music used). Let them import the video directly into iMovie or Final Cut or Windows Movie Maker and have fun with them. Don’t force your fans to jump through hoops to participate in your marketing campaign.

Rather than cut into their profits, this could instead drive interest in the NHL. Seeing a 30-second clip of Bobby Orr scoring a Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal and flying through the air could lead to people wanting to watch the whole game, or at least wanting to buy tickets to the next Bruins match. Seeing a three-minute montage of great Orr moments would have a similar effect.

The same could be done for recent highlights. Thanks to Yahoo Sports, bloggers and others can post highlights of the previous night’s game and discuss them. But while those videos are embeddable – and that’s a pretty big step already -they’re not downloadable.

Where the NHL will make money is in ticket sales, merchandising, and exclusive broadcast deals for live games. It’s not in 30-second highlights of history that everyone can see on YouTube already anyway. It’s not like you’re getting compensation when those highlights appear on the nightly news.

Put it out there. Let your fans play with your golden moments. Like with the History Will Be Made campaign, you might be surprised how creative they can get with them.

Posted in Canadiens, Media, Opinion

Kovalev is better than Ovechkin

At least that’s what NHL all-star ballot stuffers think. Because of rampant stuffing from Canadiens fans, and then counter-stuffing from Pittsburgh Penguins fans, the Eastern Conference starting lineup has four Canadiens players (Alex Kovalev, Andrei Markov, Carey Price and Mike Komisarek) and two Penguins players (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).

Though Habs and Penguins fans should be embarrassed by this, the fault lies in the National Hockey League, which setup a system of unverified voting for its all-star lineup and even encouraged people to vote as many times as they wanted.

Maybe it’s time to realize that online voting isn’t a proper way to poll the public on anything.

Posted in Business, Media, Navel-gazing, Opinion, Sports

Declining sports coverage

The Globe and Mail has a piece about how U.S. newspapers, facing budget and staff cuts, are reducing the amount of coverage they are giving to NHL teams (via Habs Inside/Out). Some are only covering home games, some aren’t covering their own NHL teams at all. Instead, they focus on baseball, basketball and football, which are much more popular and sell more newspapers.

We can poo-poo them, as we live in the hockey capital of the universe where each paper has about a half-dozen people covering every home game and at least one on the road for every away game. But while our hockey coverage remains strong, other sports like NBA, soccer, NFL football and others have fallen off the radar, and coverage of major-league baseball has virtually disappeared since the Expos left town.

And sports, like cars and movie listings and crosswords, are supposed to sell newspapers, generating the revenue to offset the cost of investigative reporting, arts coverage and editorials. When even they are getting cut, you know there’s something seriously wrong.

I’m still, to a large extent, a rookie in this business. I have no recollection of the good ol’ days when newspapers spent like drunken sailors, had hundreds of reporters and essentially controlled the news.

Instead, I live in a world of increasing cutbacks, threats of more cutbacks (or worse), rising prices, fewer voices, more wire service copy and newspapers struggling to get by with their massive bureaucracies and middle-age staff, their future extinction seemingly a foregone conclusion.

And, like hundreds of newspaper managers across the developed world, I have no clue how to fix it. Or even if that’s possible. (Though if I did know, I could make millions…)

Kind of a sobering thought.

But then again, I’m an eternal optimist. And I’m naive enough to think that I can help them get through this slow crisis, so that’s what I’ll do in my own little way.

Posted in Canadiens, My articles

NHL free agency explained (I hope)

The Bluffer’s Guide this week, courtesy once again of yours truly, is about NHL free agency, which began on July 1 as it does every year. Our beloved Canadiens got its star power-play quarterback snatched away, but have acquired a thug enforcer to toughen the team up.

Because NHL contracts are complicated, I figured some training might be useful for us less-than-insane fans and well-wishers. In order to do that, of course, I had to read the collective agreement that was signed in 2005 after the lockout.

Unfortunately, I failed to realize that the agreement is over 450 pages long (PDF).

Didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. And I’m sure I still got a bunch of things wrong.

Not that I’m worried. If I fail at journalism here, I can always sign in Russia, right?

Posted in Opinion, Sports

Salaries in perspective

As the NHL free-agency period began yesterday, and players’ contracts expired allowing any team to sign deals with them, some pretty wacky numbers started to appear:

  • $8.7 million/year for Evgeni Malkin
  • $7.45 million for one year for Marian Hossa
  • $7.1 million/year for Brian Campbell
  • $4.1 million/year for Mark Streit
  • $4.5 million/year for former Canadiens goaltender José Theodore
  • $5 million/year for former Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet

And yet, someone is going to make more next year than all of these people put together: Rush Limbaugh. And that’s not even including his $100 million signing bonus.

Posted in Canadiens, TV

TSN gets 15 Habs games a season

TSN and the NHL have reached a contract extension through 2014, which provides the network with 70 regular-season games, of which 15 involve the Canadiens. That puts us second behind the Leafs (no surprise there). The remaining Canadian teams get 10 games each. (We’re assuming, of course, that there will be some overlap as the teams face each other)

The deal also opens a (slight) possibility of TSN covering a Canadian team during the playoffs. Basically if all three teams in one conference (Leafs/Sens/Habs or Oilers/Flames/Canucks) make it three teams make it to the playoffs, the CBC will pick two and TSN will get the third. If it’s four, CBC gets the fourth pick, then TSN, then CBC, then the last two go to TSN. Previously, CBC had rights to all playoff games involving Canadian teams, as well as the entire Stanley Cup final.

The Globe has details (thanks Josh)

The deal also gives TSN “broadband rights,” which might mean being able to watch some games online. But the media release doesn’t go into detail about that.

UPDATE: The NHL has also renewed its agreement with its “official beer sponsor” Bud Light, which will see crappy American beer marketed all across the league.

Posted in In the news, My articles, Sports, Video

TWIM: Violence in the NHL

For those wondering, today’s paper has another Bluffer’s Guide from yours truly (Page B5, but not online) about violence in the NHL. It deals mainly with Chris Simon, who was suspended for 30 games (the longest suspension the NHL has ever given for an on-ice event) for stepping on another player’s foot with his skate. This, after he had just come back from a 25-game suspension (which itself had set a record) for a deliberate slash to the face.

The debate over the level of acceptable violence in the NHL is going to continue forever, and probably only get worse, until the seemingly inevitable point where someone dies on the ice as a result of a slash, a collision or a fight. Players (at least those who speak out publicly) tend to be in favour of fighting because they think it regulates tempers and protects star players. That is, until they themselves become the victims of violence.

Others, like Gazette columnist Pat Hickey, say this is all nonsense. Football doesn’t allow fighting, and it’s a much more physical sport.

UPDATE (Dec. 25): The Toronto Star says the NHL only pretends to hate fighting, while Dave Stubbs reminds everyone of Billy Coutu, who was banned for life in 1927 for attacking a linesman off the ice (though he was reinstated 5 years later to play in minor leagues — he never played an NHL game again). This is why we hear the term “on-ice” in most explanations.

Posted in Canadiens, On the Net

At least the Habs logo is Number 1

According to the very scientific method of a poll on a blog, the Canadiens logo beat out the 29 other NHL teams logos in a head-to-head competition to win the title of NHL’s best current team logo. (I guess there really is a website for everything online, even one devoted to NHL team logos.)

Also be sure to check out this gallery of Habs logo and uniform concepts, including some disturbingly sacrilegious massacres of our dear CH.