TORONTO – The biggest business news story of 2013, according to the Canadian Press, was advanced Tuesday as the National Hockey League and Rogers Media unveiled its programming strategy for the 2014-15 NHL season at Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
More than 500 regular-season games will be broadcast across 13 networks next season, with as many as seven games shown every Saturday night.
“Hockey Night in Canada I watched every Saturday night since as long as I can remember. In between periods, I’d go out and play road hockey,” said Mark Messier, who arrived at the event with a raised Stanley Cup. “Back then we were happy with one game. I don’t think anybody was even thinking along these terms. We felt privileged to watch one game a week.”
Rogers is constructing a new 13,000-foot NHL studio set in Studio 41 of the current CBC building from which to broadcast all of that hockey and is confident the new offering of games will position Sportsnet as the No. 1 sports network in Canada.
“We are working together with the NHL on a strategic game schedule, which allows us to deliver the games that matter most to Canadians,” said Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL, Rogers Media. “Our vision is to transform the fan experience. There will be two conventional networks to deliver increased game coverage on Saturday nights, we have created a new national night for hockey on Sundays, we will be in hockey communities every week, and we are leveraging all the Rogers networks and platforms to deliver expanded NHL content.”
At an NHL Upfront for media buyers and the advertising community, Moore was joined Tuesday at the former Maple Leaf Gardens by president of Rogers Media Keith Pelley, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Messier.
“The magic of this deal is the length,” said Pelley, the Prince of Wales Trophy and Clarence S. Campbell Bowl glimmering behind him. “NHL hockey coverage in Canada will never be the same.”
As part of the $5.2 billion, 12-year agreement announced in November, Rogers obtained the national rights on all platforms to every NHL game through the 2025-26 campaign—including all playoff games, NHL Centre Ice and Game Centre Live properties, the NHL Draft, the All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup final.
“In five or six years, conventional wisdom will change. If this is successful as we think it will be,” Moore said, “we think you’ll see other leagues following suit.”
Saturdays will remain Hockey Night in Canada, with games broadcast on CBC, City, Sportsnet, Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet 360, FX Canada, TVA, TVA Sports, and TVA Sports 2. Three to five games will be shown in the 7 p.m. ET slot. An additional one or two contests will begin at 10 p.m. ET., airing on CBC and Sportsnet.
Moore said he expects TV ratings to increase up to 20 percent because of this strategy.
Hometown Hockey, a brand-new national hockey night, will air Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on City. Each game will feature a Canadian club and be hosted in a different community rink across Canada. Additional matchups will also air Sundays on Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE.
Wednesday’s NHL on Sportsnet will bring more nationally televised games with an emphasis placed on superstar matchups and storytelling. A contest between two U.S. teams will complement the evening on Sportsnet ONE.
On top of the three-night national offering, Sportsnet will air all 82 regular-season games from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. A minimum of 53 Toronto Maple Leafs games will be aired by Rogers, 40 of them nationally and a minimum of 13 regionally. And a minimum of 100 U.S. team-versus-U.S. team contests will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet ONE and Sportsnet 360; the latter station will be the home of a regular Thursday-night broadcast.
With all 82 Canucks games being broadcast, for example, Moore said there is a possibility of installing an overhead wire camera that would provide a fresh angle for all games.
Hockey Central, now a 30-minute hockey news and analysis program, will expand to one hour every night, beginning at 11 p.m., and the weekend pregame shows will kick off two hours before puck drop, at 5 p.m. ET.
“Having a partner who is this invested in us for this period of time with these platforms and the ability to innovate and take advantage of the technology, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be with,” said Bettman. “We don’t necessarily have to use the same cookie-cutter approach as everybody else. We decided to break the mold and do this differently.”