The mandatory order is being registered with the federal court, which means if TVA defies it, it will be subject to contempt of court proceedings, and faces large fines.
The commission rejected TVA’s main legal argument, that the regulations imposing arbitrated settlements of carriage disputes are not allowed under the Broadcasting Act (emphasis in the original):
TVA’s position that the Commission does not have the jurisdiction to set terms and conditions of affiliation agreements is inconsistent with the broad power given to the Commission by Parliament to make regulations to resolve any dispute by way of mediation or otherwise. Given that terms and conditions, including rates, are fundamental to the resolution of carriage disputes, the interpretation urged on the Commission by TVA Group would render the regulation-making power set out in section 10(1)(h) empty of meaning, an absurd result that cannot have been Parliament’s intention.
Pierre Karl Péladeau’s arguments about how TVA isn’t getting enough carriage fees, or how Bell has been unfair, or how TVA Sports’s future is threatened, are not addressed in the CRTC decision, because they are outside the scope of the proceeding. They will be dealt with in the undue preference complaint and mediation or arbitration proceedings between the two groups.
The commission stopped short of its more serious threats, to suspend or even revoke TVA Sports’s licence. Even a temporary suspension during the NHL playoffs would have been devastating to TVA Sports, and probably led to its shutting down.
But it did reprimand TVA for its behaviour in this case:
the Commission is gravely concerned with TVA Group’s disregard for the Commission’s authority. Given the inflexible behaviour displayed by the licensee in respect of its regulatory obligations and the lack of a firm commitment to correct the situation, the Commission cannot be assured that TVA Group will respect its regulatory obligations going forward.
Quebecor’s decision to pull TVA Sports from Bell TV sparked a war of words, with both sides making claims (TVA’s more publicly), some of them contradictory. Who’s right and who’s wrong in this battle? I’ll do my best to break down some of those arguments below, and update this as more come to light:
Four days after it threatened Bell subscribers with on-air messages, TVA pulled TVA Sports from Bell TV on Wednesday at 7pm, as scheduled, the start time for the NHL playoffs.
Bell immediately announced that it would make Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360, which with CBC and City comprise all the channels carrying NHL playoff games, free for subscribers “temporarily.”
Québecor refuse l’accès à sa chaîne TVA Sports aux clients Bell Télé. C’est une mesure illégale. Bell veut s’assurer que les fans de hockey puissent regarder les séries et offre temporairement les chaînes Sportsnet, Sportsnet One et Sportsnet 360 sans frais supplémentaires.
In court, as Bell tried to get a court injunction for TVA to stop what it’s doing, Quebecor lawyers offered a truce, to bring back the channel at 6pm and maintain it until April 23 as the two sides negotiate with the help of the CRTC. Bell accepted on condition that TVA Sports accept a court order requiring the re-establishing of the signal, but Quebecor refused that condition.
In addition to ensuring Bell TV subscribers could get access to NHL playoff games, Bell Media acquired the rights to two additional Montreal Impact MLS games, another TVA Sports exclusivity, so they can be broadcast on TSN. That pushed the date of the next Impact game only broadcast on TVA Sports to April 28. Bell TV had said it would make TSN also available for free for Montreal Impact fans.
Bell customers got a pretty scary-looking message during the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game Saturday night on TVA Sports: The sports channel, which has the French-language rights to all NHL playoff games, will be removed from Bell TV as a way for Bell to “punish” those subscribers.
TVA also aired the graphic during La Voix, Quebec’s most popular TV show, on Sunday.
TVA airs a message attacking Bell during La Voix on Sunday, April 7, 2019.
Bell said not only is this message not true, it would be against CRTC regulations. The CRTC wrote to both parties twice to say that during their dispute, TVA is required to keep offering its channels to Bell and Bell is required to keep distributing them.
TVA said it doesn’t care, it’s pulling its signal anyway. Which means this dispute will quickly escalate in the legal and regulatory sphere.
Except it’s already escalated there, because this is a battle being fought on multiple fronts:
An existing CRTC process in which TVA complains of unfair treatment (currently in the reply phase)
A TVA lawsuit against Bell demanding compensation for its unfair packaging
A Bell request for injunction against TVA demanding the signal be returned
An emergency CRTC hearing called for next week in which TVA has been ordered to explain itself
Direct negotiations between Bell and TVA to reach a deal on carriage
TVA’s media campaign and Bell’s press releases in response, fighting in the public arena
Pierre Karl Péladeau’s lobbying of federal politicians to make changes to the CRTC’s dispute resolution process
Programming changes at Bell Media and packaging changes at Bell TV to mitigate the loss of TVA Sports for Bell customers
How long Bell customers will actually be without TVA Sports is anyone’s guess. But TVA says it’s prepared to do whatever it takes.
(You can read more about my interview with TVA chief operating officer Martin Picard in this story at Cartt.ca, but I have lots of details below about the conflict.)
TVA Sports, which is aggressively fighting with RDS for broadcasting rights to sporting events that Quebecers want to watch, scored a pretty big coup today, wrestling away the national French-language Major League Soccer rights from RDS.
Similar to the NHL and other leagues, MLS sells a national package, which includes marquee matchups, events like the all-star game and all playoffs, while the team sells rights to other games in the regular season. (Thankfully, unlike with the NHL, we don’t have to deal with regional game blackouts with MLS.)
TVA Sports’s national rights deal is for five years, from 2017 through 2021.
On the English side, TSN extended its rights agreement for an unspecified number of years (but probably five as well). That means some Impact games (including most likely its matches against Canadian opponents) will continue to be aired on TSN. TSN has all the rights to Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps games, but the English-language package sold by the Impact for its remaining games still seems to be up for grabs.
Financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed, but there were rumours that Sportsnet might try to outbid TSN, and I’m certain RDS wanted to keep its MLS rights.
I won’t compare TVA and RDS broadcasts of Impact games, since everyone seems to have an opinion on stuff like that, but I will note that this means we won’t hear the voice of Claudine Douville doing play-by-play of Impact games anymore. When the number of female voices doing play-by-play can be counted on one hand, it’s unfortunate to lose one.
Radio rights, which are held in English by Bell Media (TSN 690 and CJAD) and in French by Cogeco (98.5fm, though it airs only select games), are unaffected by these deals.
We now know where the 2016 Impact games — at least those played in the MLS regular season — will be broadcast, on TV and radio, in French and English.
Like with the NHL’s national/regional split, the Impact’s MLS games are split between those whose broadcast rights are sold by the league (which partners with TSN and RDS) and those whose rights are sold by the club (which partners with TVA Sports).
RDS: 13 games plus playoffs
RDS announced it will broadcast 13 Impact games, including all MLS games against Canadian opponents (Toronto or Vancouver), plus all playoff games. Its schedule also includes 10 Toronto FC games (three of which are against Montreal) and 10 Vancouver Whitecaps games (one of which is against Toronto and one of which is against Montreal), for a total of 28 games. Games not involving Montreal will generally be put on RDS2.
The RDS broadcast team is Claudine Douville on play-by-play, with Jean Gounelle doing analysis, plus Olivier Brett and Patrick Leduc during pregame and halftime.
TVA Sports: 21 games
TVA Sports, meanwhile, has the remaining 21 Impact MLS games, including the two games at Olympic Stadium, and the season finale on Oct. 23. Most games will be on the main channel, with Saturday night games moved to TVA Sports 2.
The TVA broadcast team is Frédéric Lord on play-by-play, with Vincent Destouches doing analysis.
TSN: 10 games plus playoffs
Ten games will be carried in English on TSN channels, including the season opener in Vancouver, the Saputo Stadium home opener April 23 against Toronto, and the last home game of the season, also against Toronto.
The TSN TV broadcast teams are Like Wileman/Jason deVos and Vic Rauter/Greg Sutton.
TSN Radio 690/CJAD: all regular-season and playoff games
On radio, all games are set for broadcast on TSN Radio 690, though that will likely change when scheduling conflicts arise with Alouettes games, Canadiens playoff games (don’t laugh) and next season’s Canadiens games in October. (That goes for RDS as well.)
98.5FM: minimum 21 games
Only 21 games are set for radio in French, on 98.5 FM, though that’s more than last year, and the press release describes it as a “minimum”. That station doesn’t have a backup in case of conflict, so can’t really broadcast games when the Canadiens or Alouettes are playing.
Jeremy Filosa is the voice of the Impact for 98.5. Each match will have a 30-minute pregame show and a postgame show.
You’d think this would open up an opportunity for Montreal’s all-sports-talk station 91.9 Sport to pick up those games. But it hasn’t chosen to do so. Even if the rights are dirt cheap, it’s expensive to produce such matches. That said, the thing 91.9 needs most right now is marketing and recognition, and broadcasting games would be a big step in that direction.
The good news is that there’s little change from last year. All 82 games will be broadcast in English, and 40 of those games are national.
The bad news is that there’s little change from last year. The other 42 games are still regional, inaccessible to those west of Belleville, Ont., unless they fork over big money for NHL Centre Ice.
Actually it’s somewhere between 40 and 42 games, because some of those regional games involve other Canadian teams (which means they’ll be available in those regions): Both games against the Vancouver Canucks are regional, one of two games against the Calgary Flames, and one of four games against the Ottawa Senators. Both games against Edmonton, both games against Winnipeg, and of course all four games against Toronto are national.
Regional games for the most part are on Sportsnet East, but like last year, they’re using City Montreal as a backup when Sportsnet carries baseball or NFL football in the fall. A total of 11 games are planned for City Montreal, the last one on Dec .17.
For national games, a similar situation to last year, with 10 Wednesday night games on Sportsnet and 20 Saturday night games to be decided on a week-to-week basis. (Expect Leafs games on CBC and Canadiens games on City again.) There are also two Thursday night games in October on Sportsnet 360. No games are scheduled for Sportsnet One.
Rogers Hometown Hockey continues this season, but moves to Sportsnet from City now that Rogers has decided to go back to imported dramas and comedies on Sunday nights. The six Sunday night games are all national.
Broken down by time, 39 games start at 7pm Eastern, 30 at 7:30pm, three at 8pm, three at 9pm, two at 10pm and two at 10:30pm. The only afternoon games are the Winter Classic at 1pm and the two Super Bowl matinees at 2 and 2:30.
TVA/RDS share unchanged
On the French side, it’s still 22 national games plus all playoff games for TVA Sports and 60 regional games plus all preseason games for RDS.
Like last year, the national games in French include all Saturday night games plus the season opener. But because the Canadiens are playing in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, that gets added to the national roster in both languages. This means TVA Sports will have 20 Saturday night games instead of 21. (There’s a Saturday afternoon game, which is national in English as part of Hockey Day in Canada, but remains regional in French.)
When TVA Sports launched, people wondered if it could fill 24 hours. When it acquired NHL rights, it had to expand to two channels even though it only really had scheduling conflicts on Saturday nights.
TVA Sports 3 will come online on April 15 on Videotron, Rogers, Bell Fibe/satellite and Telus Optik TV. It will be free to all subscribers who have TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 in their packages. (Some subscribers have TVA Sports but not TVA Sports 2, and probably won’t get this new channel.)
In the two weeks leading up to that, from April 2 to 14, TVA Sports and TVA Sports 2 will have a free preview. (There’s only one Saturday night Canadiens game in that span, the season finale against the Maple Leafs.)
The most interesting thing about TVA Sports 3 is that it’s a temporary channel, and will be removed at the end of May, when the first two (three?) playoff rounds are over and there aren’t any more scheduling conflicts. That doesn’t mean it can’t return in the future, though. There’s a lot of sports out there.
If you only have TVA Sports, by the way, there’s probably no need to worry. They haven’t put any Canadiens games on TVA Sports 2, and there’s no reason they would start now. (RDS only moved a regular-season Canadiens game to RDS2 once, and that was during the World Series.)
Yes, it’s necessary
TVA Sports 3 is needed because there are situations, especially in the first round of the NHL playoffs, where two channels isn’t enough. Last year, TSN had to give away a playoff game to Sportsnet because it had the Raptors on the main network and it couldn’t put two simultaneous games on TSN2. (Now that TSN has five channels, that’s no longer a problem.)
The NHL tries to schedule the playoffs so there is as little overlap as possible, but when western conference teams play 8pm or 9pm starts (because many teams are in Central or Mountain time zones), you can have three going at once.
And jokes aside, TVA Sports does have rights to other sports. It has some Impact games, some Blue Jays games, some NFL games and some tennis events. It still has a long way to go to catch up to RDS, but it’s working on it.
Three channels might seem like a lot, but there’s a long list of sports channels in Canada owned by Bell and Rogers:
Bell (English): TSN1-5, ESPN Classic, plus minority stakes in NHL Network, Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and CTV and CTV Two can air sports programming
Bell (French): RDS, RDS2, RDS Info
Rogers (English): Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet One/Vancouver/Oilers/Flames, Sportsnet World, OLN, plus minority stakes in Leafs TV, GOL TV, NBA TV, and City, OMNI and FX Canada can air sports programming, plus its deal with CBC for hockey
And on top of that there’s NFL Network, MLB Network, Golf Channel and others with English programming that TVA could pick up the French rights to.
Don’t expect Canadiens on TVA
Since the TVA NHL deal was first announced, people have been asking about Canadiens games on the main TVA network. Rogers even assumed it would happen in some early schedule mockups, and TVA never ruled out the possibility.
The press release isn’t clear, but seems to imply Canadiens playoff games will be on TVA Sports. Remember that Quebecor spent a lot of money securing these rights, and no NHL team draws francophone audiences nearly as much as the Canadiens. If they’d gotten all 82 Canadiens games, then a Saturday night free-to-air game might have made sense, but as it stands it needs Canadiens fans to subscribe to the sports channel.
Things might change if the Canadiens go deep in the playoffs. Most if not all Canadiens playoff games should be available for free in English on CBC or City, so casual fans jumping on the bandwagon might decide to forgo a TVA Sports subscription and just watch the games in English. If the Canadiens make the Stanley Cup final, TVA might decide that advertising revenue for such a huge audience outweighs the potential gains in temporary TVA Sports subscriptions.
Like much of the city, I spent Wednesday evening sitting in front of the TV welcoming the official return of NHL hockey, curious how it would look in the new TV environment. Unlike much of the city, I constantly switched between Rogers Sportsnet and TVA Sports to try to evaluate both networks at the same time. Here are some thoughts on how it went.
Note that I’m not a hockey expert, or an expert on hockey broadcasting. I can’t tell you which panelist’s comments were more insightful, or which play-by-play guy described the game better. I look at this with the eyes of the casual fan, and that’s how I’m evaluating this.
Both networks are just starting off 12-year deals that are costing them a nine-figure number. So naturally the season opener pregame started months ago. I only tuned in for the last 45 minutes or so, and both networks took advantage of this time to sell themselves and their plans for the coming season. Sportsnet was a mix of old faces from Hockey Night in Canada, new faces from Sportsnet that were less familiar to Canadiens fans, and faces from elsewhere like Darren Pang. There was Elliotte Friedman with his sit-down interview. And the $4.5-million studio and its bells and whistles saw some use, though not as much as we might have expected.
On TVA Sports, a new set that actually looked quite professional, and a panel of experts that when it comes down to it doesn’t strike me as much different from the panels you’ll find on Sportsnet or RDS.
At 7pm on Saturday nights was when CBC would give us a hockey montage to set the mood. Sportsnet didn’t go that way on this night, instead going with a monologue from Marc Messier about how great hockey is. It fell a little short to me, lacking emotion.
TVA Sports also had the better computer-generated graphics that followed, though everything repeatedly exploding and coming back together may have been a bit too much.
Rogers’s big new studio in the CBC building in Toronto didn’t get much use after the pregame show, and seemed to be limited to a desk with four chairs behind it. Maybe that will change on Saturday, but I felt they weren’t using it to its fullest potential.
TVA Sports’s studio looked quite nice. Not spectacular, but nice enough that it looks like they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it professionally.
Sportsnet viewers were treated to the recognizable voices of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, who have done this countless times before and just picked up where they left off.
On TVA Sports, it was the first big night for Félix Séguin and his partner Patrick Lalime. Though Habs fans have gotten used to hearing Pierre Houde calling their team, I don’t think it’ll take that much getting used to the new voice.
Or at least I thought that until the first time Séguin said “lance … et COOOOOMPTE!” That’ll take some getting used to after years of Houde’s “et le but!” (Even Séguin needs to get used to it apparently. He let out an “et le but” when the Canadiens scored a surprise goal in the last minute of play.)
Sportsnet and TVA Sports clearly based their scoreboard graphics off the same software, with just the logo and the language different between them.
The graphics are block-ish, but they present the necessary information.
I should note that neither channel uses its own graphics for less important games. The late game on TVA Sports 2 just used the same Sportsnet feed with the same English graphics. Sportsnet One showed a late U.S. matchup that just piped in NBC Sports Network. It goes without saying that they don’t supply their own broadcast team either.
The giant Sportsnet hockey studio seemed pretty small during the intermission report, which mainly focused on a few talking heads around a table. Maybe it’ll be more impressive on Saturday nights, but I felt as though a first impression was wasted here.
TVA Sports didn’t wow me with its Coach’s Corner-style first-intermission starring Michel Bergeron. But it was better for the second, featuring Paul Houde talking about how many points the Canadiens should need at key points of the season if they expect to make the playoffs, and Joel Bouchard with a brief on-ice segment about goalie strategy. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to see more of.
Sportsnet didn’t have much of a postgame. Five minutes after the end it had to tee up the late Canucks-Flames game. But the panel took a few minutes to discuss what happened and what it means for both teams.
At TVA Sports, the late game was moved to TVA Sports 2, allowing it to run Dave Morissette en direct, the postgame analysis show. It was fine, but talking heads who are experts on the NHL don’t wow me, especially when the same thing was happening on RDS and TSN.
But there were some odd moments. Like Sébastien Benoit in a bar in Boucherville passing the microphone around asking people what they thought of the game and getting two-word answers of approval. By all means show us reaction shots from Montreal bars, but no need to shove a microphone in their faces if they have nothing intelligent to say.
Overall, I’m hoping Sportsnet shows more pizzazz on Saturday and Sunday, but if not I think we can live with its broadcasts. TVA Sports clearly showed it put in the effort, and had some strong points that Sportsnet didn’t have, even though it has a smaller audience and budget.
But I’m just some guy on the Internet with an opinion. What did you think of the broadcasts?
Updated Sept. 5 with Rogers-Canadiens regional deal, as well as additional national games for Oilers, Flames and Canucks. Also includes information about out-of-region coverage where two Canadian teams face each other, and information about where some games are national in one language but regional in the other.
The final piece of the puzzle as far as the NHL schedule is concerned has finally been revealed with the publishing of regional broadcast schedules. This allows us to break down who will broadcast what where, and I’ve done so below for the seven Canadian NHL teams.
As previously announced, Rogers has all the national rights to NHL games, which includes all Saturday night games and all playoff games. Beyond that, it gets a bit complicated (some games are national in one language but not the other, for example). Regional games will be viewable in the team’s region (here’s a map of the teams’ regions), but those outside will need to fork out cash for NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre to see all their team’s games. (Or maybe not? Rogers still gives me a coy “details will be announced in the coming weeks” when I ask about that.)
TSN has decided to assign its three regional rights packages to specific channels: Jets on TSN3, Leafs on TSN4 and Senators on TSN5. The five-channel TSN system launches on Monday on every major TV provider in Canada except Videotron (which tells me it’s in discussions to add the other three channels).
Below are how the TV and radio rights break down for each team. They include regular-season games only. Preseason games are regional, and subject to separate deals. All playoff games are national, so their rights are owned by Rogers in English and TVA in French.
Radio rights are not subject to regional blackouts. Listed is their local station only and does not include affiliates.
With less than 24 hours until it becomes the official national French-language broadcaster of the National Hockey League, TVA Sports has announced details of its plans for the upcoming season, including which Canadiens games it will air nationally.
The schedule is much less complicated than the one Rogers announced last week. TVA Sports will carry the season opening game on Wednesday, Oct. 8, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And it will carry all 21 Canadiens Saturday night games, for a total of 22. All other games (including all preseason games) will be carried regionally on RDS. (A Saturday afternoon game on Super Bowl weekend is regional and so will be on RDS. It’s the only Saturday game that won’t be broadcast nationally.)
TVA Sports will also broadcast the NHL Winter Classic, all outdoor matches and all playoff games, including the Stanley Cup Final, as well as special programming like next year’s NHL Draft, the NHL Awards and the NHL All-Star Game.
The schedule creates an interesting situation where there are 10 games (mainly Wednesday and Sunday night games) that will air nationally on City and Sportsnet in English but only regionally in French. (We still don’t know how people outside the Canadiens’ region, which ends in eastern Ontario, will be able to watch the team’s regional games, in either language.)
In all, TVA estimates it will have 200 regular-season NHL games on TVA Sports and its soon-to-launch companion channel TVA Sports 2. Add about 75 playoff games and QMJHL games, and that’s lots of hockey
Séguin, Lalime lead broadcast team
TVA also announced the broadcast team for its Canadiens Saturday-night games. As previously announced, Félix Séguin (that one, not that one) will be the play-by-play man for those 22 matches. He’ll be joined by Patrick Lalime as an analyst. Also on the team are hockey insider Renaud Lavoie, who will take a position near the players’ bench, and Elizabeth Rancourt, who will recap other NHL matches (similar to what Andi Petrillo did at Hockey Night in Canada).
Dave Morissette will host TVA Sports’s postgame show.
Fans vote on games
Another thing TVA announced is that it will allow hockey fans to choose which games are broadcast on TVA Sports for some nights. It didn’t specify which nights, but assume it’s those in which it’s not obvious which team would be most popular among viewers.
TVA specifically notes that, when the Canadiens aren’t playing, it will focus on games involving the Canadiens’ rivals, particularly the Leafs and the Bruins, and those of particular interest to Quebecers, including the Colorado Avalanche (because of Patrick Roy) and Pittsburgh Penguins (because of Sidney Crosby). No mention is made of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which was also popular in Quebec but much less so now that Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis are no longer on the team.
TVA says it will announce full details of its NHL schedule by the end of July. It had previously confirmed that it has no plans to put any NHL games on its over-the-air network, even though games will be free-to-air in English on Saturday nights.
UPDATE (Aug. 5): TVA Sports has published its full schedule, which has games on almost every night through the season. Fan-voting night is Monday, but not all Mondays, and none before January. And TVA has already narrowed down the voting to two games for each of those nights.
Described in a TVA Sports memo filled with hockey metaphors as “our new top-line player”, Ecclissi spent more than 20 years on the sales team at CFCF and before that with CBC in Montreal. At TVA Sports, he’ll be part of a new dedicated (but small) team that will be trying to make money off all the NHL games that the network will add next season.
“I have been recruited as a sales consultant / representative to help generate sales, introduce new clients and use my experience to help the Sales Director build an effective, knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales team,” Ecclissi tells me. “This is an exciting challenge, it’s like starting up a new company.”
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.
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. We’ll start knowing that in the coming weeks and months.
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, 52 Ottawa Senators regional games for the next 12 years, 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. Rogers retains both national and regional rights to all teams west of Saskatchewan.
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.)
The conventional TVA network won’t air hockey games. New Quebecor CEO Pierre Dion made it official on May 6. The company plans to use Canadiens games to push subscriptions to TVA Sports, trying to put it above 2 million (even though the games will be on free TV in English). Putting Canadiens games on TVA would eliminate the biggest incentive to subscribe to TVA Sports, since weeknight games will still be on RDS. It’s unclear if this is absolute, or if some games (and/or playoff or Stanley Cup final games) could still air on TVA.
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 to all games. 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.
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:
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 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:
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.
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 happens to Hockey Night In Canada personalities like Elliotte Friedman, Andi Petrillo, Bob Cole, Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Kelly Hrudey, Scott Oake, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, David Amber, PJ Stock, Kevin Weekes and Glenn Healey. Some have other jobs within CBC or other sports media, but others could end up as free agents to be picked up by TSN or Sportsnet.
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) and the loss of hockey was a major reason for 657 full-time-equivalent job cuts announced in April 2014. For the rest, we don’t know yet, and a full accounting might never be possible with 100% accuracy.
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.
Michel Godbout has found a new career opportunity over the horizon
Quebecor’s soon-to-be-launched TVA Sports specialty channel isn’t just looking to RDS hockey analysts like Dave Morissette and Yvon Pedneault (or La Presse’s Réjean Tremblay) for on-air talent. Their hiring spree has also poached CBC Montreal’s sports anchor.
Michel Godbout confirmed Monday that he will be leaving the CBC to join the TVA Sports channel set to debut this fall. His last day is July 30. (He was cut off early: see below)
Godbout (who is, as you can imagine, fully bilingual) worked for 15 years at Radio-Canada and then CBC Montreal – most famously as the evening news anchor between 2005 (when Dennis Trudeau retired) and 2009 (when Andrew Chang and Jennifer Hall took over a revamped newscast). He starts an anchoring job at TVA Sports on Aug. 22.
No word yet on who will replace Godbout permanently. CBC Montreal News Director Mary-Jo Barr is on vacation until August.
You can follow Godbout on Twitter at @GodboutSports (fortunately he won’t have to change that name – but expect it to be a bit more francophone in the future).
UPDATE (July 21): Thursday was Godbout’s last day. He says during an interview this morning on CBC Daybreak that he gave his two weeks’ notice on Friday (July 15), but was told that Thursday would be his last day, being let go because he was leaving for a competitor.
Godbout had a brief goodbye on air with Debra Arbec (Andrew Chang was off):