INDUSTRY REACTS TO ROGERS/NHL DEAL
Alicia Androich, with files from Chris Powell
November 27, 2013
Rogers Communications’ massive 12-year, $5.2 billion deal with the NHL – which gives it multi-platform rights through the 2025-26 season – were a major area of discussion within the Canadian broadcast and media marketing worlds yesterday.
Industry experts contacted by Marketing speculated about what this means for Bell Media’s TSN brand (can it really continue to call itself “Canada’s Sports Leader”?), why CBC continues to remain part of the equation, and just how Rogers plans to recoup its massive cash outlay.
IVAN FECAN, FORMER CTVGLOBEMEDIA PRESIDENT AND CEO
“It’s a game-changer. Sportsnet will now be #1 [in sports] because hockey is Canada’s game. From a marketing point of view, Rogers Media will have great power as they will control all the inventory – even the ads that appear on the CBC.”
LINA ALLES, MANAGING DIRECTOR, EXCHANGE TRADING, MINDSHARE CANADA
“[The deal] is not surprising since Rogers, with Keith Pelley and Scott Moore at the helm, has made no secret of the fact it wanted to build its sports offer. This deal has now positioned Rogers as a leader in sports content.
In English Canada this is especially great news for Sportsnet, as its offering has just improved dramatically. With the sub-license to CBC for the airing of Hockey Night in Canada, Rogers has made a very strategic move to ensure that it continues to reach a national audience and that the viewer experience remains unaffected.
In French Canada, TVA will be the broadcaster of hockey in Quebec – what a shift that will be. What happens to RDS – are they completely shut out? If that is indeed the case, this is a huge shift in the hockey paradigm in Quebec [and a] huge coup for TVA.
How will this affect our clients? It’s too early to say yet. One thing is certain: With change comes opportunity, so [there are] exciting negotiations ahead.
A MEDIA INSIDER WHO ASKED NOT TO BE ATTRIBUTED
“How TSN could lose both the Olympics and the NHL in 18 months is breathtaking. TSN can no longer call themselves Canada’s Sports Leader.”
BOB STELLICK, STELLICK MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS
A key question now is what this will mean for local NHL team rights, given that TSN is licensed primarily by the CRTC as a national sports carrier. Will TSN battle it out with Sportsnet for local rights? It feels a bit like the Molson/Labatt beer battle of a couple years back (at an exponentially higher cost).
Also, remember that all national NHL rights are split equally amongst all 30 teams, so the Nashville’s and Phoenix’s of the world will receive $14.5 million PER year for the next 12 years. This is a huge windfall for the U.S. based NHL teams.
Also interesting under the new “pick and pay” model [the CRTC is pondering allowing Canadians to purchase their TV services on an a la carte basis] coming out: TSN, at the moment, just has the CFL and World Juniors as marquee Canadian [sports] properties.
BRUCE NEVE, CEO OF STARCOM MEDIAVEST GROUP CANADA
“It’s great that the market has 12 years of certainty. No other sport property offers the power of hockey to drive cross/multi-screen engagement and the opportunity for additional on demand/original content, insider looks and personalities.
It’s powerful to have a single point of contact to unlock value beyond price and inventory. Clearly Rogers is no longer number two to TSN/RDS, but [has] a credible claim to ‘Canada’s sports leader.’”
SUNNI BOOT, CEO ZENITHOPTIMEDIA CANADA
It gives [Rogers] the continuity, so it allows them to build and to really promote and manage it. This is a multi-channel deal, and as channels grow, there are things probably that will be invented where they can put this content. It’s live content, and in a world that’s fragmenting, it’s fantastic. They’ve pieced out pieces to CBC, so it’s multi-national, it’s multi-language, it’s everything. It’s fantastic. I think it’s a terrific deal.
The other thing is people like Keith Pelley and Scott Moore, they come from sports so they know how to value it. I give Nadir [Mohamed, Rogers Communications CEO] and Rogers a lot of credit for supporting it financially. While everybody thinks it’s a lot of money, three to four years from now this will be a bargain. As our world fragments, this will be a content bargain [because of] everything that they can do with it.
Is this something clients want? Everybody looks at year-over-year pricing, so that will be a tough negotiation. I think the fact [advertisers] now have more platforms and more opportunities for participation could be good for some who maybe were not getting into hockey.
Personally, I think there has to be a real message challenge here: ‘How am I going to break through if I’m the advertiser?’ From a media perspective, I can get them the audience, I can bring them the right thing, but I think when you’ve got this much hockey, you’re going to have that much more hockey clutter. [The questions become] ‘How do I break through? What do I do? What is the story I’m telling?’
[Rogers will] do wonderful things with it. They’re going to have more commentary on the players, on their lives, and if you look at their properties you can see not just Sportsnet or Sportnset magazine, but maybe Chatelaine will do something. They’re going to be pretty creative with it. I think it’s pretty amazing. I wish I were staying around just to negotiate the darn thing. I love this kind of stuff. It’s what media is. This is the Hollywood of what we do.
Has this deal pushed Sportsnet to the #1 sports media brand in Canada?TSN has a huge history and legacy, and ties with ESPN, so it will be hard to unseat them. But this is going to take [Sportsnet] a long, long way to making it one of the top brands – if not over the years, the top brand.”
FRED FORSTER, CEO OMNICOM MEDIA GROUP CANADA
I think it’s interesting that the CBC is tied into the deal, and it occurs to me that is an NHL directive – as part of doing this deal they needed to maintain that asset as a national Canadian footprint with the CBC. I think that was quite telling in how these negotiations continued.
But I also find it quite ironic that Bell is completely shut out now of hockey rights in an era where they’re half owners of MLSE with Rogers. Only in Canada…
Will this deal make Sportsnet Canada’s #1 sports media brand?I would say that there’s no doubt about it, because hockey is the cornerstone of having a number one sports network in this country. It’s the biggest audience draw, it’s the biggest numbers on TSN, it’s the cornerstone of TSN and it’s going to be a problem for them.
How do you think advertisers will feel about this deal? Will your clients be thrilled that it’s a one-stop shop and Rogers means hockey?Yes and no. It’s not like we’re not doing multiplatform deals now; everything we do is multiplatform. It’s just that now it’s going to be multiplatform with one ownership group. Potentially it’s problematic because basically you’ve erased any negotiation leverage you might have with multiple stakeholders in hockey. But it remains to be seen.
They’ve got a lot of content and platforms and they’re going to want to monetize it, so what’s the relative value to something else? Again, it really depends on the individual client.
CBC is still part of the deal. Why?I’m speculating that part of the problem that Rogers has is that they don’t really have a national conventional network per se. So the NHL, I think, was reluctant to take their number one asset, Hockey Night in Canada, and put it with a broadcast entity that would reduce the reach overall. You can talk about online and digital platforms all you want, but I’m sure that came up as a sticking point in the negotiations, and once they got past ‘You’re not going to have Hockey Night in Canada,’ then they struck a deal. It’s a real coup for Rogers.
What do you think TSN may do to try and recover?It’s hard to say. I haven’t had the chance to dig down and look at what it does to their schedule, what they would potentially replace it with, how they would potentially compete against hockey. They’re not splitting it anymore. Rogers is going to take it all, they’re going to put it on Sportsnet 360, they’re going to put it on Sportsnet, they’re going to put it on City, they’re going to put it everywhere they can, and no matter what TSN does, they’re going to be competing against hockey on any given night. If I’m TSN, I don’t think I have the answer just yet. I don’t know how big a hole it leaves in their schedule.
From an advertiser perspective, because they’re going to try and pass on the cost, there won’t be a lot of appetite for healthy cost increases. There’ll be a real challenge or breakthrough because exclusivity and all these other things we paid for… that’s going to be a challenge.
STATEMENT FROM BELL MEDIA
“We congratulate the NHL on this announcement. We submitted a bid we believed was valuable for the NHL and appropriate for our business, but were ultimately outbid.
In hockey, our partnerships with the Leafs, Jets, Canadiens, Sens, and Hockey Canada [including the World Juniors] remain core to our TSN and RDS TV, radio and digital properties.
With an on-air broadcast team unmatched in terms of talent and experience, and our extensive array of pro sports content, we’re committed to TSN remaining Canada’s Sports Leader.”
Disclosure: Rogers owns Marketing and MarketingMag.ca