The NHL has sold exclusive Canadian broadcasting rights for the next 12 years to Rogers. CBC gets to keep broadcasting Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays, but Rogers will hold complete control over the program, and will (I think) collect all the ad dollars. The deal is kind of strange, really.
I think it’s good for hockey, but probably bad for the CBC in the short term. Some people are upset because TSN has done such a great job with hockey over the last few years—and they really have—but I assume Rogers is going to invest heavily in their hockey product and will make it just as good. Honestly, I’m hoping they add some fresh faces to the mix (and preferably get rid of John Shannon, who I’m not sure has ever actually watched a hockey game).
My concerns about CBC are similar to those of Wade Rowland.
The danger seen by supporters of public broadcasting is that CBC programming winds up being indistinguishable from commercially-sponsored programs on private networks, and many would argue that this is already the case. When that happens, justifying the annual federal subsidy of $1 billion to the public broadcaster becomes difficult, if not impossible.
The answer proposed by public broadcasting supporters has been for the CBC to get out of the advertising business completely. This would require, at minimum, a doubling of the annual Parliamentary appropriation, which could be financed through a targeted tax on media distributors such as Bell and Rogers.
The new NHL deal might be just the ticket to making this possible, at last. Without NHL, the CBC will be forced to plot a new strategy, and the best one involves getting out of advertising.
The timing of the deal is also interesting as it comes on the heels of the first concussion lawsuit against the league, which is only the beginning of what I assume will be a long process.