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Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

The Potential Fallout From The MLSE Deal

The new Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will be a powerhouse in the sports media world. The most powerful media companies in Canada will now be joined at the hip. It’s hard to say how this will change things in Toronto and Canada but I’m gonna put a few theories out there on how it might affect various parties.

THE POTENTIAL JOINT BID FOR NHL RIGHTS

For Rogers, it makes all the sense in the world to do a joint bid on NHL rights but does Bell want to help out their largest competitor? True, they will now be long-term financial partners, but is it worth it to help each other out? The short answer appears to be yes. A potential bid helps Sportsnet greatly, but if it means that CTV and TSN are virtually guaranteed NHL rights, then Bell should work with them. It would pretty much lock out CBC and give the companies a strangle hold on the sports market.

CBC

The CBC might be the group most impacted by this deal. Having Rogers and Bell come together might make it very difficult for Hockey Night in Canada to continue. If the two parties bid together on national rights, CBC might be done. CBC’s only hope might be for the league to take bids on over the air and cable rights separately. Another possibility is for the league to sign a deal with CBC before anyone else gets a chance to make a bid. That happened last time around, but I find it hard to believe that the league will pass up the potential to make some serious cash. A Rogers/Bell bid would certainly break the bank open. Another option, and it is a wildcard, is to woo Rogers and get them on board with CBC. Sportsnet is loaded with former CBC execs and it’s hard to predict if the folks at Sportsnet are essentially ready to cede the national sports market to TSN. Regardless, it doesnt look good for CBC. The tradition might be coming to an end.

TSN & CTV

This deal only strengthens TSN. A joint bid by CTV, TSN and Sportsnet pretty much locks them in, assuming it gets to that point. TSN would also likely get the most games out of that deal. TSN is already the dominant sports network, and this helps assure that to continue. There’s also the strong possibility that TSN may gain some regional rights in the future. TSN has been aggressive in this market, and TSN has aired the Leafs regionally in the past.

For CTV, this gives them the potential to dominate the Canadian TV market even more than they do today. The thought of the playoffs on CTV surely makes CTV executives drool. True, they would have some scheduling issues, but a joint bid would likely alleviate most of those issues. As long as they get the bulk of the playoffs and a weekly game, it’s a big win for their network schedule.

SPORTSNET

This is where things begin to get interesting. Maple Leafs games are the jewel of Sportsnet Ontario. Sportsnet has been ultra aggressive the last few months, adding talent and re-positioning themselves as a legitimate competitor to TSN. If everything goes just right, this deal should keep the Leafs on SNO long-term in some form. Additionally, a potential joint bid for NHL rights might be on the table. Sportsnet would likely be the secondary partner in any Rogers/Bell bid but any hockey programming is a good thing for them. A partnership with CBC looks good on paper but it’s hard to see how it works financially.

LEAFS TV & REAL SPORTS

One area of contention between the parties could be those regional rights. For Bell, they would gain little from Leafs games airing on SNO. They might want the games on a network where each party has a stake. So here comes Leafs TV to the rescue. Sure, Leafs TV lacks some distribution but it might be the fairest place for the Leafs games to air. It’s true that losing some or all Leafs games on SNO would be a blow to Rogers but Leafs TV needs a boost. Rogers might be willing to give up some games if they can gain a national package for Sportsnet. One thing to keep in mind is that Sportsnet’s Leafs rights deal still has some time left on it so don’t expect any changes in the short-term.

As far as the future Real Sports cable channel goes, that’s likely done. I’m not sure it has any future since it was largely being created to compete with TSN and Sportsnet. I suppose there’s still the possibility of it being green lighted but it’s not looking good at this point.

LEAFS RADIO RIGHTS

This is another potential issue since Rogers and Bell each have their own sports radio stations that are salivating to air Leaf games. Corus and AM 640 might as well pack it in now. Nobody expected them to retain the rights before and this pretty much seals that. Supposedly, Rogers Sportsnet 590 The Fan and TSN Radio 1050 will share the rights, splitting the games evenly. According to the Toronto Sports Media Blog, the NBA Raptors will do the same once their deal is up. That will certainly make things interesting but it its the fairest way to do it.

TIRED OF THE LEAFS YET?

The real negative out of this deal is likely for the fans. Prices will probably go up but even more, accusations of Toronto bias will only get stronger. It might be hard to take these companies as neutral parties since they will be directly benefitting from the Leafs. Besides that, the Leafs might get even more coverage on each network.

Personally, I think they will be able to be fairly neutral on the subject. Yes, the Leafs will dominate the media market, but it’s been that way for years. This deal won’t change that. Besides that, thanks to the internet, the place to find news and info for each team is much wider than ever before. If fans think a party is being biased, go get the info from someplace else. I don’t think the Leafs will be able to censor all parties in the media even if Brian Burke would prefer that.

Bottom line, this deal is all about the money and everyone involved stands to gain a lot except for the fans. The shareholders will love it, the suits will love it, the accountants will love it. The fans, on the other hand, might get the short end of the stick. Time will tell whether this deal pays off for long suffering Leaf fans everywhere.


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PR on Maple Leafs Sale to Bell & Rogers

I’ll have my thoughts on this deal a little later on but here’s the link to the Toronto Maple Leafs Press Releases on Rogers and Bell buying into Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment.. Bell, Rogers, OTPP and Larry Tanenbaum each have their own press releases. Additionally, the link takes you to a stream of the press conference.

Here are couple of financial highlights from the Rogers and Bell press releases. From Rogers –

Rogers’ net cash commitment, following a planned leveraged recapitalization of MLSE, will total approximately $533 million, representing a 37.5 percent equity interest in MLSE, and will be funded with cash on hand at closing. In a concurrent transaction, KSI Investments, owned by Larry Tanenbaum, will increase its current 20 percent ownership interest in MLSE to 25 percent.

From Bell –

Bell’s net cash commitment, following a planned leveraged recapitalization of MLSE, will total $398 million, representing a 28% equity interest in MLSE, and will be funded with cash on hand at closing. Through a co-investment arrangement with Bell, the BCE Master Trust Fund, an independent trust that holds and manages pension fund investments serving the pension obligations of BCE Group pension plan participants, will contribute $135 million toward the MLSE acquisition. The total investments by Bell and the BCE Master Trust Fund equal the 37.5% equity interest to be acquired by Rogers.

On top of that, CBC sent out its own statement on the matter –

“I would like to congratulate Bell, Rogers and Larry Tanenbaum on their deal announced today. To know the ownership of Canadian teams will be kept in Canadian hands is great news,” said Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president CBC English Services. “Increasingly, sports rights deals are dependent on strong partnerships. We are proud of our partnerships with Rogers on the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2014 and with Bell as we prepare our joint Olympic 2014/2016 bid.”

 

 

Tessa Bonhomme Joins Leafs TV

This is slightly dated news but I was away from the computer during the weekend so in case you haven’t heard, Tessa Bonhomme is joining Leafs TV. Bonhomme is coming off a victory on CBC’s Battle of the Blades and is one of Canada’s top women’s hockey players. The CBC exposure helped raise her profile even more and the Leafs are taking advantage of that.

Bonhomme will be a host and analyst during Toronto Maple Leafs pre and post game coverage along with reporting on Leafs TV’s “Leafs Today” and “Leafs@practice” along with hosting Toronto FC coverage on GOLTV Canada. She will also write for mapleleafs.com

 
 

Thoughts On Ratings & Other Stuff

Time for some random thoughts on a Monday afternoon –

  • First up, there’s some ratings news. And for the second time in a week, the NHL and NBC have some egg on their face. The much ballyhooed Discover Thanksgiving Showdown drew a 1.0. That’s pretty much on par with what the NHL on NBC averages every single week during the regular season. I can’t say I’m surprised. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this is was a regular game with a fancy name. NBC and the league could’ve saved their hyper promotion and fancy Macy’s float and gotten the same rating. 1.0 is pretty much the norm for hockey ratings and there’s not much of a ceiling above that no matter what type of gimmicks you add. Unless you put the game outside, ratings aren’t going to get much better.
  • Just to finish up on U.S. ratings, many people are trying to blame last Monday’s disappointing ratings on people not knowing the game was on. That excuse doesn’t fly with me as Versus was scheduled to air a game on that night anyhow. If Sid’s return drew so poorly, what would’ve the Boston/Montreal game drawn? After all, that game was not going to air in the Boston market, similar to the Penguins/Isles non-exclusive matchup. It just seems to me that NHL ratings have largely plateaued and outside of the playoffs and regional coverage, things aren’t going to grow very much short-term.
  • Going back to the Thanksgiving game, I thought NBC had a good idea on its hands with the players introducing themselves. It was a little sloppy, would’ve been much better with everyone doing it, not just one member of the line, but I’d like to see it some more. Some minuses were that they hyped Tim Thomas to death and he wasn’t playing. Another one was Mike Emrick. I normally enjoy Doc but he seemed rusty. I wonder if it’s because he hasn’t worked much the last few weeks. his “1-0 Boston” after the Wings scored was one thing, but he seemed to ramble and just didn’t seem very sharp to me.
  • Moving on to Canada, I thought Elliotte Friedman’s Inside Hockey segment on Dr. Ted Carrick was very interesting. But it needed to be more balanced. It sounded too much like an infomercial for Carrick and his education institute. Carrick’s work is considered pretty controversial and that should-be mentioned. Many of Carrick’s peers have questioned his credentials and the science behind him. I realize it was a short feature, but I don’t think it was made clear in the segment that not everybody in the medical field supports Carrick and what he’s doing. There’s conflicting data out there and someone should-be on there to challenge Carrick’s unusual beliefs.
  • Watching The Hotstove the last few weeks has really made me miss the old Satellite Hotstove. It was truly regional and was loaded with scoops. How Friedman didn’t punch out Glenn Healy a few weeks ago is still a mystery. Many of the breaking news and scoops from that segment have given way to more analyzing and bickering.
  • On that note, I’ve really enjoyed watching Scott Morrison on Sportsnet. It continues to baffle me how CBC totally wasted his talent during most of his time with HNIC. He knows his stuff and should’ve been a regular Hotstove panelist. He’s been a nice addition to the Sportsnet team and has given them some much-needed credibility.
  • And finally, if you haven’t read Rick Westhead’s story on the Maple Leafs and their future broadcast plans, go do it now. It’s hardly a secret that MLSE wants to launch a new RSN even though Leafs TV has largely failed to take off. What’s MLSE and Real Sports going to show outside of the Leafs and Raptors? I’m not sure there’s enough programming there. It makes a ton of sense but the summer will be a very sad time on that network. It’ll take some serious cash to make it work and it will be interesting to see if MLSE thinks its worth giving up all the promotion they can get from Bell and Rogers, not to mention their lucrative rights fees.
 

A Few Thoughts

I have a few thoughts of my mind on this Wednesday afternoon, so lets get to them.

  • The debate over Dave Feschuk contacting James Reimer’s mother is a good one. I can see both sides. Feschuk is just a journalist trying to get to the bottom of a story. The Leafs haven’t always been forthcoming about this situation so Feschuk needed to find a better source. It’s debatable whether he made the right choice but I can see why he did it. The fans want more info and Feschuk was trying to deliver.
  • What I don’t like about this debate is having people like Don Cherry chiming in on the subject. Cherry isn’t the best person to be talking about accountability. He’s constantly stereotyping and doesn’t hold back. Just on Saturday night, he felt the need to mention that a player “had no visor”, as if we couldn’t see that. It was hardly necessary but if Cherry feels the need to call out journalists, then perhaps he needs to hold himself a little more accountable with his silly comments.
  • How awesome is Kenny Albert? Albert is one of the busiest people in sports and he called Monday night’s NHL on Versus telecast. He’s great at whatever sport he’s calling and is always prepared. I’d love to see Albert call more games for Versus but he’s already insanely busy.
  • Versus had a very big Saturday. The Boise State/Texas Christian college football thriller drew over 1.2 million viewers. That’s the third largest viewership to ever watch a college game on Versus. It peaked at over 2.2 million viewers and the network was in the top 10 in key demos for the night. It just shows the strength of college football and why Versus really needs a big get in that department. It’s too bad they lost out on the Pac 12 since it leaves Versus with very few ways to grow.
  • Versus really lacks in the college basketball department. While the net airs football nearly every week, their basketball coverage is much more sporadic. The good news is that Versus is teaming up with HDNet to air the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s not much, but it’s a start since there are some decent teams involved. Versus is also adding to its action sports programming as much of the Dew Tour will be moving to the channel from Speed and Fuel TV.
  • Versus has also capitalized on Bob Costas’ interview with Jerry Sandusky as they re-aired the interview in its entirety and Costas made an appearance on NBC SportsTalk. A very smart move and I look forward to seeing more of Costas on the network with his new monthly shows this spring.
  • It was good to see Neil Smith back on NHL On the Fly last week. Smith can be sorta odd in how he communicates, but he’s a pretty good analyst. I’d like to see him on more often but he’s pretty busy as the GM of the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors.
 

Leafs TV Airing Toronto Practices

It’s not likely to be much of a trend but James Mirtle has a story up, detailing how Leafs TV is now broadcasting home practices. Leave it to Toronto to come up with this but since Leafs TV always needs programming, this is a novel way to go about it. From the article –

Not that they show everything. Because Leafs TV is the broadcasting arm of the team, they adhere to the team’s wishes in terms of how much makes it to air.

Once practice ends, however, player interviews are broadcast mere minutes after being taped and coach Ron Wilson’s daily press conference is shown live. Analysts then break down what was said, much like they would between periods of a game.

It’s too early for any ratings data from the shows to be available, but Leafs TV host Paul Hendrick said Monday he feels it’s been a successful endeavour so far.

“It’s just an opportunity for programming,” Hendrick said. “There are guidelines with it and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t show too much. It’s not always easy.

“But Leafs fans have such an insatiable appetite. We’re just trying to feed it as best we can.”

In certain cities, NHL practices do draw large crowds. Some teams actively promote sessions on Twitter and on their sites, to encourage fans to watch. Televising practice takes it to a whole new level.

 
 

Rants, Raves And Some News

Here’s a some rants, raves and some news on a Tuesday morning:

  • NHL Live debuted an improved set yesterday. They are still stuck in a shoebox studio but it is a definite improvement. The regular addition of Bill Pidto as host should help as he has great chemistry with E.J. Hradek. They still need to work on getting better guests and better fan interaction. Since the move from XM, the show has lost much of that.
  • NHLN’s ticker continues to bother me. I don’t need it running the entire time during games. Also, the dreaded Twitter scroll from the NHL Awards and Draft is back. Like then, it just shows the same tweets over and over again. I’m not against showing tweets, but they usually aren’t relevant at all and showing the same ones for five hours straight is silly since Twitter is all about real time news and thoughts.
  • Jamie McLennan made his NHL Network debut last night. He’s been doing work for TSN Radio in Toronto. I would rate his debut as a C+. A better broadcast partner than David Amber would’ve helped as would another analyst in the studio. That said, I’d like to see more of him.
  • NHLN is still struggling when it comes to content during its intermissions. Instead of allowing McLennan some TV time, we were treated to a months old NHL.com video segment featuring Hradek and Mike Johnson at the R&D Camp during the second intermission. It was some stale television. The good news is that Kathryn Tappen will make her NHLN debut with an interview segment tonight.
  • Props to the Leafs TV team as they had a solid broadcast. Props also go to teams that have jumped on the streaming bandwagon. The Leafs streamed their game last night, but it was mired with technical issues. The Sabres streamed their game with a Jumbotron feed with audio fed from the radio broadcast. That’s all you need. It appears that the majority of teams will stream at least one preseason game this year and that’s a good thing.
  • In case you missed it, TSN officially announced the addition of Marc Crawford yesterday. He will make his debut on Wednesday night when Boston faces the Senators. As I mentioned before, he’s a great fit to replace Craig MacTavish. Also, it appears that Aaron Ward will make regular appearances on the TSN panel this season with Mike Peca busy as general manager for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
  • In some interesting news, Puck The Media breaks the news that Bob Harwood is joining the Hurricanes as a reporter. This seems like a missed opportunity for some of the league’s national rights holders as Harwood is a terrific reporter. With CBC needing some more talent, it makes you wonder why they didn’t go after Harwood. Surely, he’s a better fit than Mitch Peacock. Same goes for NHLN which is where Harwood worked during the Stanley Cup Final. He was a definite upgrade to their broadcasts. Congrats to Bob and to Carolina for an excellent addition to their already strong broadcast team.