TORONTO -- The National Hockey League's new Canadian broadcast and multimedia rights agreement with Rogers Communications announced Tuesday will change the way Canadians view and consume professional hockey for years to come.
"This is a deal that we think is transformational," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "Nobody has ever done a deal quite like this in terms of its structure, its length or its magnitude. It's focused on delivering NHL hockey to the most passionate hockey fans in the world on a country-wide basis in a way that we think will give them the greatest connectivity to the game."
The 12-year agreement, announced jointly by the NHL and Rogers in a Tuesday morning press conference, is for $5.232 billion (Canadian). It's the largest media rights deal in NHL history and one of the largest media rights deals in Canadian history. It is also Canada's largest sports-media rights agreement.
The partnership between the NHL and Rogers begins with the 2014-15 season and runs through the 2025-26 season. It is subject to approval by the NHL's Board of Governors, which meets Dec. 9-10 in Pebble Beach, Calif.
NHL-ROGERS DEAL COVERAGE
In addition to its exclusive rights for all playoff and Cup Final games, Rogers has exclusive rights to special events such as future NHL All-Star Games and NHL Drafts.
The agreement also guarantees there will be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts. Rogers has three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team -- Wednesday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday nights. Fans will have the ability to watch any of those games regardless of geographical location within Canada.
"It's a game-breaker," said Nadir Mohamed, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rogers Communications.
"Today's deal builds on an incredible sports legacy and solidifies our position as Canada's No. 1 sports destination," Mohamed said. "Sports content is a pillar for Rogers and NHL hockey is the Holy Grail. Two years ago I said I wanted Sportsnet to be the No. 1 sports brand in Canada; today we're positioned to do just that."
As part of the agreement, CBC will continue to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada for at least the next four seasons, but Rogers will control the production and execution, including editorial content and on-air talent. Rogers will also earn the revenue from those broadcasts.
CBC will not receive any revenue from Hockey Night in Canada, but it does not have to spend any of its public dollars toward broadcasting it. The Stanley Cup Final will be broadcast on CBC.
"Hockey Night in Canada is an institution; 61 years old," Commissioner Bettman said. "People grow up on it, have grown up on it. Families pass on the tradition of watching games together from generation to generation. It was important to us in terms of our fans, in terms of the cultural imperative, to respect the importance of Hockey Night in Canada."
If a Canadian-based team reaches the Final, Rogers Media President Keith Pelley said it is possible for the games on CBC to be simulcast on other networks within the Rogers family.
"The plan is to have the Stanley Cup Final on CBC. Our goal is to get maximum reach to Canadians," Pelley said. "That's obviously the way that is best for consumers as well as for us to drive revenue. If, in fact, a Canadian team was to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, it wouldn't be out of the question that similar to what happened with the gold-medal game in Vancouver in 2010, when we simulcast that game on 11 different networks and broadcast it in 22 different languages; we would certainly look at that option. But our plan is to have the Final on CBC."
TVA takes control of all Canadian French-language multi-media rights, including 22 Montreal Canadiens games per season.
Commissioner Bettman compared the new deal and the flexibility it gives fans to the model used by broadcasters in airing the Olympics. In that scenario, different events are broadcast on different channels under the same corporate umbrella and fans have the ability to pick from competing events.
As an example, if the deal was already in place, Rogers says it would have had the ability to show five games this past Saturday, across 11 different channels, including three TVA channels (French-language only), in the 7 p.m. ET window.
"You can shop around, see what game is interesting you most, which game is closer, what is going on in a particular game and decide what you want to watch instead of having it determined based on where you are geographically," Commissioner Bettman said.
The multimedia-platform element of the agreement was especially appealing to the NHL and Rogers as it provides ways to use digital technology to stream games on the Internet, wireless and mobile devices, and satellite radio to Canadian consumers. Rogers will also operate NHL Center Ice and NHL GameCenter Live in Canada.
"The multi-platform was part of the strategy we believed we needed to use moving forward to embrace and respond to digital technology and the way people are consuming entertainment, particularly sports," Commissioner Bettman said. "The ability to give our fans, perhaps in an unprecedented way for any major sport, what they wanted, when they wanted it, how they wanted it, that was important to us and that is why the deal got structured the way it did."
The money generated from the agreement is considered hockey-related revenue, which means the players receive 50 percent of the revenues based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The salary cap is expected to rise from its current $64.3 million starting with the 2014-15 season because of the financial magnitude of the agreement between the NHL and Rogers.
"Over the course of 12 years it provides a lot of economic certainty for the clubs and, ultimately, for the cap," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said. "Fifty cents of every dollar goes into the player salaries, so this is a significant increase and it certainly helps us get to the $4 billion goal that we've been talking about."
The NHL made a record $3.3 billion in revenue during its last full season (2011-12). Collins recently laid out a plan to the League's Board of Governors that would see revenue increase to $4 billion within three years.
"We thought it was ambitious at the time," Collins said, "but maybe we undershot, maybe we'll do that a little sooner."
Sportsnet held the NHL national television rights form 1998-2002 before they shifted to TSN. Commissioner Bettman credited TSN for its coverage of the NHL, but said the new relationship with Rogers made the most sense for the League.
"This partnership, both its length and its magnitude, are evidence of the vibrancy of the game and the business of the game," Commissioner Bettman said. "We are completely comfortable and confident putting our game in [Rogers'] hands."