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.
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.
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.