NHL - Rogers exclusive TV deal bad for Canada

NHL - Rogers exclusive TV deal bad for Canada
Posted on November 29, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on November 27, 2013
Letter type:


Ottawa Citizen

I was in complete shock yesterday when I heard the news of the NHL's exclusive deal with Rogers Communications for the rights to all NHL games, on all media platforms and languages across Canada for the next 12 years. Having worked for Molstar in Toronto on Maple Leafs broadcasts and on the TSN.ca web team for a few years, my mind turned immediately to the many people I know who work in the television broadcast and internet communications of NHL hockey. This deal means many of them will lose their jobs.

Hockey is Canada's national sport. From a media perspective, hockey is the life blood of Canada's sports broadcasters like TSN, RDS, Sportsnet and CBC. Because this deal will gut and then kill off Hockey Night in Canada after four years--a Canadian institution--and because it may put TSN and RDS out of business altogether, this exclusive deal amounts to a monopoly of the broadcast of Canada's most beloved activity at the professional level. It will, as all monopolies do, translate into an increase in the cost to consumers to watch NHL hockey games.

We don't allow monopolies in any industry because competition is good for consumers. Why then should the broadcast rights to the most widely watched activity in Canada become subject to a monopoly? How does this benefit Canadians?

While Rogers will argue all games will be accessible across multiple platforms, Ie. if you can't get the game on TV, you can watch it online. Many people do not and will not consume hockey online. Especially those without a lot of money or without high speed internet access. Kids from underprivileged families, many of whom can't afford to play organized hockey anymore, will not be able to afford to watch the games now either. Even people like me who are media tech savvy or who are baby boomers, will not consume hockey games online because its not our tradition to do so.

Our tradition is to watch NHL hockey on Saturday night, with our families or at a pub or bar with our friends, as we have done for decades. Not on Friday night or Sunday afternoon. Who cares about national coverage of NHL games on Sunday? In our home, we watch football, the Good Wife and Homeland on Sunday, not hockey.

Because it is a monopoly of broadcasting rights, I believe this deal represents a grave threat to Canadians, hockey in Canada, our national traditions as they pertain to hockey, and the many Canadians to whom hockey plays an important part in their lives and holds a special place in their hearts.  The very people who have funded the NHL from its inception.

James O'Grady

Nepean Minor Hockey Association alumni
Ottawa Senators Season Ticket Holder



Related article

Related article:

About The Author

James OGrady's picture

I am the founder of Unpublished Media--A social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack... More


Here is my response to my friend Mike Smith's post on this deal (http://bit.ly/1a4Y0rU). It provides more insight into why I feel this deal is really bad for Canada:

Thanks for posting your letter Mike. As a Sens fan and a fan of hockey in general, I have to disagree with you. Not only is this deal bad for hockey fans in Canada because its a monopoly and will undoubtedly lead to higher prices to watch games on TV and online, but its also a huge threat to Canadian culture because it will mean the end to a Canadian institution in Hockey Night in Canada and our national tradition of watching NHL hockey on Saturday nights.

The Senators are paying dearly at the box office this year by going with a schedule heavy with Friday night and Sunday afternoon games rather than Saturday night games. Why? Because most Canadians (and Ottawans) who watch hockey don't watch on Friday night or Sunday afternoon. Its not their tradition to do so. Saturday night is hockey night in Canada as much today as it was 50 years ago.

Multiple media platforms is good but not under the control of one media firm. Canada is not the US. Our population is still small enough for monopolies to be easily created, especially in media, which is why we have national rules preventing monopolies in our country. Competition is also good for consumers. This deal throws these values out the window.

I could care less about Leaf and Hab fans and I really don't think their interests should take precedence over Sens fans in Ottawa. I've hated both teams since I was born (I used to cheer for any team playing against them before the Sens rebirth). Do you think the NHL would be better off without Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton in the league? Because that's what will happen if their markets are eroded. Why do you think we had media blackout regions in first place?

This deal is about nothing more than greed. Plain and simple. I believe its ramifications will have tremendously harmful long term effects on Canada, Canadians, as well as our hockey heritage and traditions, because it guts and then destroys Hockey Night in Canada and with it, 75 years of Canadian tradition. 75 years is half the time Canada has existed. For a young country, destroying our family traditions that revolve around our national sport of hockey, will significantly impact our nation. I have no doubt about it.

Having worked at TSN and Molstar on Leaf broadcasts at an earlier point in my life, I know the sports broadcasting industry. I know what this means to many people working in it, people I worked with like Elliot Friedman (who came up through The Score by the way), and whom I consider friends. As someone who is pro-Canada, who has played hockey abroad and who is political aware, I am very concerned about what this deal will mean to Canadians' and our family hockey traditions.

The NHL could have achieved the same objective for the same amount of money if they had bundled it together with all Canadian media companies instead of choosing the easy way out. A course of action that threatens the very future of our national sport in Canada.

Rob Dekker

I agree, I am not sold on the viability of this deal.

I also am very happy that I am not using Rogers for any of my services - prices for every platform they have will have to increase to support the Hundreds of Millions that they are paying the NHL for 12 years. This deal will ensure I do not switch to the Big Red.

I do not know how this will benefit those of us that do not subscribe to sport channels and rely on the Free channels for the exposure to hockey I seek.

This will end up having the same effect of last weekends Grey Cup. I did not watch it as I was out for dinner - however if I was I would not have watched it as I do not subscribe to TSN. The Grey Cup championship, like The Stanley Cup should be available to ALL...airing it on a 'subscriber' channel will prevent that from happening. I foresee this happening in 4 years when the CBC no long has hockey on the schedule.

david weiler

hey james, no into, body or conclusion. just a quick insight.

Gidday fellow Canadians. To me, this Rogers deal means very little. It is sad to learn that some Canadians may loose their income. Hockey is a great sport but hey! there's more to life out there eh. I've taught kids forest science for years and it surprises me how much they know about sports in general but very little about other equally important interests. Hockey has become an increasingly expensive indoor sport that fewer Canadians can participate in. Have we lost our way? Traditionaly we played outside and simply for the fun of it. Over the last few decades, hockey has taken on a whole new commercial direction. Good for some I suppose. I do however enjoy playing and helping coach my sons hockey team which somedays becomes a whole family affair. I suspect along with many other Canadians, I will certainly miss the odd Don & Ron on Saturday nights watching a decent playoff game after catching a few walleye.
Respectfully, D.J. Weiler

It has become more commercial David. I think, as you say, its an indication that we have lost our way. I have organized a Hockey Day in Canada shinny tournament every year for the last three years here in Nepean and I can tell you, its really fun to play outside. The game is quite different when its played on an outdoor rink.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Brad Rach

This is a great post. With all of the knee jerk reactions to this announcement, it is nice to see a well written piece looking at the issue.

David Mackey

I can't say I was shocked at the deal. It seems to me that it is in the best interests of the NHL & Rogers to create a monopoly where they can maximize their economic advantage.

I do, however, share your concerns about the future quality and cost of the NHL product that Canadian consumers will receive. There are few incentives for a monopoly to deliver the highest quality product at the lowest cost to customers. Time will tell.


One big point you are missing here is that the Rogers deal is for national broadcast rights only. So really not a monopoly. There are still regional broadcast deals that teams can negotiate as they see fit (ie. with TSN or Sportsnet). The Sens, for example, whose regional deal expires in the next couple years, will have both Rogers and TSN bidding for broadcast rights. Given their loss of the national contract, I suspect TSN will make a big push.

And while you're very likely right that the Rogers deal will mean cost increases, we can't lose sight of how much more Rogers will be providing. And while there will for sure be layoffs at CBC Sports, TSN & RDS, Rogers/TVA are most definitely in major hiring mode.