There’s something to be said for the old “dance with the one who brung ya” adage. There’s also something to be said for just throwing yourself into the arms of the highest bidder.
Very late Monday night, news spread that the NHL had gone decidedly in the latter direction. For all of TSN’s unwavering support and uncritical reporting during two lockouts, for all of TSN’s hard work turning the NHL into an honest-to-goodness golden goose, for all the work TSN does promoting World Junior Championship stars as future NHL stars, for more than 60 years of partnership with CBC… the league was unable to turn down the money.
Maybe there’s more to it than the money. Maybe Rogers has some great plans and great ideas. At the moment, though, they’re just splattering “MOAR GAMES!!!” everywhere they can. Since that’s the only promise they’ve made, let’s start there.
Let’s look at the chart above, the one the league peddled all day Tuesday.
That’s 10 games in English and six in French. I sure like the sounds of having 10 options. But where’s Rogers going to come up with 10 broadcast teams worthy of national coverage like that? CBC struggles to find four during the first round of the playoffs, and TSN doesn’t even use four–they relay American coverage for many of their games. Is relaying someone else’s production Rogers’ idea of building their NHL coverage brand? Cause that’s a bad idea.
If Rogers is going to rely on relays, that defeats the NHL’s desire to have one company carrying the load.
It was the league that wanted to put all of its rights in the hands of one media company over multiple platforms, says Pelley. “It was their decision. The NHL was proactive on that.”
Of course, this article indicates Rogers platforms would only have been carrying five (four English, one French) of the games in the chart. Which CBC already does pretty regularly on Saturdays with good afternoon matchups. So let’s not get our hopes up too much about that “MOAR GAMES!!!” thing just yet.
Now that we’ve punched a hole in the only thing they’ve told us so far, some questions:
Why did the NHL want to get all of it’s content into the hands of one media company? MLB gets by just fine using Fox Sports, TBS, and ESPN for national games. The NBA’s deal with TNT and ESPN sure works out well for them. And the NFL was able to expand it’s already impressive media reach to Thursday nights by cooperating with ABC, Fox, ESPN and NBC. Insert sarcasm font: Clearly, the NHL knows something all those other leagues don’t.
What does the Wednesday, Saturday/Sunday provision mean? Will the traditional Tuesday night Habs game disappear? What games can I see on the other four days of the week? Will there be no hockey those days? How does that mean “MOAR GAMES!!!”?
As a fan of some of Sportsnet’s other properties, I’m curious. What will become of the already inconsistent Friday night CHL game? And the Subway Super Series? And the Blue Jays? If there’s a night with five NHL playoff games, what channel will I find the Blue Jays on? Will NHL games bump NBA basketball, NCAA basketball and football, and CIS football from Sportsnet 360?
Are Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos now the broadcast face of the NHL? And how does Sportsnet plan to show all these games without cannibalizing their own audience? Since Rogers has the NHL rights for every platform, will Centre Ice go away in Canada? With no broadcast competition, how do we know Rogers will strive for excellence for the next 12 years? Any Rogers Wireless customer can tell you they certainly don’t in that field.
Speaking of which, will Rogers cable, internet, or wireless customers get perks that I don’t? I can’t even get Rogers cable where I live, and I rather enjoy using a cell provider who wasn’t sued for falsely claiming to be Canada’s most reliable network. But who’s going to stop them? (I know, I know, the CRTC’s supposed to make sure that stuff won’t happen)
This is a massive project for Rogers. I sure as shit hope they were able to answer some of these questions for the NHL before the league execs dived into the pile of money. Of course, with the league’s track record for caring about fans, it’s hard for me to imagine they ever even asked.