Tuesday, December 17, 2013
ROGERS AND THE NHL AND THE EXPLOSION OF LIVE SPORTS COVERAGE
Full disclosure: It's been so long since I wrote a blog that I actually forgot the password part of the sign in process. Writing, for me, is usually cathartic. I enjoy the outlet it provides, and usually it helps me work through the issue I'm writing about. Plus there's nothing wrong with brushing up on the old vocabulary skills. However, a combination of writers block and a loss of interest in writing kept me away from the keyboard.
Even though it is a couple of weeks late, the story of Rogers lifting the NHL TV contract away from Bell, while at the same time hitting a major artery of the government sponsored CBC and its iconic Hockey Night in Canada brand proved to be too irresistible not to write about. Plus, in allusion to my prior point about writing helping me solve a problem, this may help as I cannot seem to figure out whether or not the new agreement means more or less opportunity for a guy like me who currently resides at the OHL and AHL level in an on-air capacity.
First of all it is no surprise that the rights fees were so exorbitant. 5.2B is a staggering sum, and it blew the CBC out of the water, and depending on reports, did the same for the Bell Media bid, or just edged it out. However, live sports is one of the few visuals that is consumed live, and therefore is not subjected to the whims of the PVR, which more often than not skims through the advertising that drives the bus for revenue in television programming. Have you ever tried to watch a game after it has already been played? The majority of people would say no, and I would hazard to guess that those who did try to watch it after the fact either found out the score or did not enjoy it as much.
Live sports programming also offers an experience now comparable to seeing the game live. Interactive features are a part of a broadcast, and the quality of television out there enhances the viewing experience. Sports bars who want to thrive in a competitive and crowded market get it. They show multiple games on a multitude of different large HD screens. Also, live sports offers simulated and virtual ads on the TV screen that are not overly distracting to the viewer, thus providing an additional revenue stream for companies like Rogers who have invested heavily in live sports.
The other interesting factor from everyone from a casual viewer to a sports media enthusiast and to on-air personnel is the talent shuffle that may occur as a result of the seismic shift in the broadcasting landscape. While Rogers struck the first blow by wrestling away the national rights for hockey for 12 years, TSN struck back by locking up their on-air elite talent as Darren Dreger, James Duthie, Pierre LeBrun and Gord Miller re-upped with the company. Other TSN/Bell Stalwarts such as Ray Ferraro and Chris Cuthbert are likely next on the agenda. One wonders if Rogers is satisfied with their current on-air people and those of the CBC, or will they look outside the hallowed Rogers campus to new voices. This is where everyone who has ever covered a sporting event gets invested in the decisions made. No doubt Rogers' Scott Moore and Keith Pelley have been inundated with demo's and resumes.
It is tough to predict the direction Rogers wants to go. They have talent with expiring contracts on other networks to look at, as well as their own people. If I could play talent scout/on-air production coordinator, here are a few educational guesses:
1. Nick Kypreos- Sportnset- He has been talked about a lot since the acquisition, and his role could be expanded to that of Don Cherry if the network sees fit. He's improved immensely since he started on TV and seems to have a great network of contacts.
2. Doug MacLean- See above. MacLean also has cache with the average viewer as a former GM/Head Coach and Assistant Coach. He's antagonistic and bombastic, but smart and is not afraid to be opinionated.
3. Elliote Friedman- Has had the luxury of appearing on the Rogers brand a lot as a fill-in host of Prime Time Sports as well as high profile roles with the CBC. With Rogers failing to land James Duthie, he could be the main host and anchor for the coverage
4. Jim Hughson- Canada's premiere game caller came from Sportsnet to the top job at CBC. Expectation should be that he will have a pivotal role with Rogers once Hockey Night on CBC is completely done in four years.
1. Bob Cole- the venerable signal caller is CBC to the core. While his call remains high energy with the knack for hitting the high spots, he is slowing down in terms of name recognition. Also, does not seem to fit a Rogers profile per say. That said, he still could be kept on the CBC games, but at 80 years old, retirement may be at hand.
2. Don Cherry- Not an octogenarian yet but very close. The antagonistic Cherry might be one Rogers wants to distance themselves from because of his affiliation with CBC. When you create a brand, you may not take the dominant personality from the prior brand, especially one as controversial as Cherry.
3. Ron MacLean- See Cherry. He's CBC to the core, so the same reasoning that applies to Grapes applies to MacLean. He may find work at CBC after hockey because he's a pretty versatile performer
4. Daren Millard- originally thought to be a winner, the fact that it was publicized that Rogers went after Duthie may lend credence to the belief that Millard is not their guy. Only time will tell.
1. All the play by play callers and analysts currently at Rogers. Are they strong enough for a more national focus or not? Guys like John Shorthouse (Vancouver) Kevin Quinn (Edmonton) Rob Kerr (Calgary) Dean Brown (Ottawa) and Joe Bowen (Toronto) will be under scrutiny from a play by play perspective. Brown is likely the safest as he's done Sportsnet and CBC broadcasts.
2. Andi Petrillo- The talented performer has plenty of work with the CBC and has been showcased in other sports leading up to the Olympics. Probably closer to the winners category, but Sportsnet does have female voices they can look to , should they want to shift one to a more hockey focus
3. Cassie Campbell- Pascal. Vastly improved from day one at the CBC, she has done colour work and got moved to the big desk a couple of weeks back to join the on-air panel. She's a solid reporter and the fact she got a look as an on-air analyst may say something about her future.
4. Glenn Healy- If the old Glen Healy, would return- the one with the grumpy sense of humour is more prominent and not the dour guy who causes tension on the panel, he would be my top choice.
I'm not sure of Pierre McGuire's contract status, but if he is a Free Agent in the next year or two, he should be priority number one for Rogers. He's solid with NBC, and I'm not sure he would entertain a move back to Canada, but he is a dominant, all be it, polarizing personality.
Just my .$ .05