It’s not news anymore. If you haven’t been living under a rock recently you would have heard that Rogers Sportsnet bought the Canadian national rights to all NHL hockey games for 12 years starting at the beginning of the 2014-15 NHL season.
The deal was for $5.2 billion, a number that, quite frankly, I can’t even imagine in monetary form.
But the biggest question is, what will TSN broadcast for the next 12 years in their timeslots previously reserved for Canada’s favourite professional sports league the NHL?
Well, I’ve come up with some ideas as to what they could possibly, maybe, perhaps use to try and fill those timeslots. The first, and most obvious substitute, would be the American Hockey League. The biggest problem is that it’s called the American Hockey League so let’s just scratch that one out. The next suggestion would be the Canadian Hockey League and it’s children the WHL, OHL and QMJHL. Now I, for one, would enjoy this simply because I love watching Junior level hockey. However, the talent, for the most part, is not there and, let’s face it, if Rogers Sportsnet is broadcasting a Leafs vs. Habs game on national television who in their right mind would opt to watch the Kamloops Blazers take on the Red Deer Rebels?
The third hockey option is, of course, European hockey. But European hockey is a different animal. There is less hitting, less fighting and more finesse and offensive flare. In short, it’s something that would make Don Cherry’s heart (and head) explode. And then there is also the time problem. European hockey is played during primetime in each of their respective countries. So when a game, say, between Linköpings HC and Frölunda HC is played at 7:30p.m. in Gothenburg, Sweden, it’s actually played at anywhere from 10:30a.m. to 2:00p.m. in Canada depending on where you are in the country.
The other option, if TSN were to go the European hockey route, would be to rebroadcast recorded games at primetime. The problem with that, however, is that anyone could check online to see the score of those games and then switch over to Rogers Sportsnet to watch some good old NHL hockey.
So with the hockey options exhausted, what else can TSN turn to in hopes of combatting Rogers Sportsnet and their NHL coverage? Well, they could try to broadcast more NCAA basketball and football. There is a market for it in Canada, but the same problem is presented here. Who will watch an NCAA basketball game between Grambling State (who?) and South Dakota State (what?) when the other option could be the Calgary Flames taking on the Edmonton Oilers in the Battle of Alberta?
So then you take a look at other professional sports. There is the NBA. Sure, if you were TSN you could load your schedule up with NBA basketball. But what teams would you focus on? The Cleveland Cavaliers because of their Canadian content? The Toronto Raptors with their sad excuse of a basketball team? Or would you, as TSN, turn to Major League Baseball and broadcast, starting from late February, spring training games all the way through to the World Series? That would be a solid option if not for the fact that NHL teams would be in playoff push mode when the most trivial MLB games were being played. Once again, TSN has to face the music that the NHL regular season would be much more important to viewers than a pre-season game between the Toronto Blue Jays split squad and the Tampa Bay Rays split squad.
So to wrap it all up, Rogers Sportsnet has TSN beat in every possibly way when it comes to viewers during winter. The only way TSN will be able to come out ahead is if Rogers does something completely idiotic and forces 30 plus million people away from the NHL.
If you still don’t understand, let me explain it in poker terms. TSN is all in with a 2-7 (offsuit). Rogers Sportsnet has called with a Royal flush. It’s pretty much all over for TSN.