by Matthew Campbell, Coop Board member & irritated hockey fan
Ah the business story of 2013, a 12 year 5.232 billion dollar deal giving Rogers a monopoly on a product Canadians viewers are most inelastic for. Beginning for the 2014-2015 season and ending after the 2025-26 season, the agreement gives Rogers national Canadian rights to all regular season and playoff NHL hockey games on all Rogers platforms. This provides Canadian viewers a chance to watch NHL games on cable, the internet, wireless and mobile devices and satellite radio.
Quote from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during his press-conference announcing the deal: “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, 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.”
And this one: “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.”
Well this technological advancement sounds fantastic! I can watch any game I want, wherever I want, using whatever technological device I see fit to view the game with…I just have to be a Rogers user. No problem I’ll just switch over and start getting my professional hockey…upgrade charge for hockey? Since when?
And here is when things get dicey.
Right now if you buy basic cable from Bell you will receive only TSN (not TSN 2) and no Sportsnet, on the flip-side buy Rogers you get Sportsnet but no TSN coverage. So even after the duopoly giants bought Maple Leaf and Sports Entertainment (don’t get me started on that one) unless you pay the ludicrous mark-up for the sports packages ($73.34/month for the Rogers Extra Sports Pak and $36.13/month for the Rogers Super Sports Pak) you will have to stream illegally or go to your favorite local bar every night the Leafs play on TSN. What is up with that? A massive company is making billions off its ridiculous mark-ups (because the market structure allows them to) and they still cannot provide content of a team they own???
And for those we see the technological advantage of this deal have a point, watching NHL hockey will never be more assessable or easier, but at what cost? If you think the Rogers mark-ups for sports are currently bad, wait until this deal kicks into effect. Rogers customers (or should I say all Canadian Media Customers) will have to purchase the Extra Sports Pak, Super Sports Pak and then the NHL Hockey sports Pak in order to merely watch the hockey games. Theoretically NHL hockey alone could cost the Canadian consumer 80-150 bucks a month! Nothing Rogers has done makes me think they won’t try this kind of price discrimination; after all they are in the business to make money and the best way to make money is profit-maximize. How do you profit-maximize? Easy find a product a group of consumers can’t do without and charge the s#*% out of them. What does the consumer do? Like a cattle herd, line-up to pay more for the same amount of hockey.
You can view this whole situation as the consumer failing to see the exploitation or as the consumer gearing up for the technological advancement that will be intertwined with NHL hockey. Give credit to Rogers as it seems that they have successfully deflected the attention onto the multiple platform and ‘hockey all in one place’ aspect of the deal and not the ‘hockey all in one place so major mark-ups on our cable, internet and phone usages if you want to watch hockey’ aspect. I find it funny that Canadians are all up in arms and concerned about what is going to happen with Hockey Night in Canada and Don Cherry. To be clear, I love HNIC and Don Cherry but that is such a small and unimportant aspect to this whole story. It was realistically a matter of time before CBC lost its hockey rights, when you have a broadcasting company reducing its spending and a Cartel increases its fees for access; the two most likely won’t be in business together. I’m sure Bettman long ago had plans to phase out Hockey Night in Canada (a process beginning now and ending in four years). The link I included on this subject matter tries to paint a nice picture of the future for HNIC and CBC but to me sounds like the plan is already in place; air Hockey Night in Canada for four more years on CBC and then move the whole productions full-time to Rogers.
I’ll look back on this blog in four years to see how smart (more likely dumb) I am but I bet Bettman and Rogers are hoping in four years the Canadian Consumer forgets all about this deal and Hockey Night in Canada. And most likely they will because come fall 2018, a new hockey season will start and the herd will be in line (whether in person, on phone or online) to pay for the Rogers NHL Hockey Sports Package.