CBC Sports is committed to 320 hours of prime-time NHL hockey over the next four years, including the Stanley Cup final. Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Saturday night will remain Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, at least for the next four years.
The National Hockey League confirmed Tuesday that CBC has secured English-language rights to games in a sub-licensing agreement with Rogers Communications. Rogers has signed a 12-year deal with the NHL.
Rogers retains three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team on Wednesdays, Saturdays, including CBC, and Sundays.
"Hockey Night in Canada is an iconic brand," said Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, said at Tuesday's news conference. "It is important to us that it will continue."
Pelley said the branding of Hockey Night was involved in all of Rogers' conversations with the CBC.
"It's such a strong and iconic brand. As Canadians we should all be proud of that," he said. "When you look at two conventionals [networks] now carrying Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday, it bodes really well for the consumers. It's very exciting.
"We will continue to build the partnership [with the CBC] beyond hockey," Pelley added, "and we hope that CBC is our partner for Hockey Night in Canada for many years to come."
The 12-year, $5.2-billion deal, which begins next season through 2025-26 between the NHL and Rogers, is the largest media rights agreement in league history and subject to approval by its board of governors at a meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., on Dec. 9-10.
Hubert Lacroix, CBC president and CEO, said the broadcaster "was not in a position to spend taxpayers dollars in this game of high-stakes."
"The CBC was prepared to do a fiscally responsible deal to preserve hockey on Saturday nights and to help the NHL to build the hockey brand through a variety of significant events and outreach activities," he said in a statement.
Lacroix said the CBC likes being strategic with other partners, stating this is how the public broadcaster sees itself in the future, whether it's with Rogers or another broadcaster.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the deal with Rogers came together very quickly, telling the CBC's Peter Armstrong that "it's never just about price. It's about brand of rights, it's about how the games are going to be distributed, scheduled and reduced. It was an overall comfort level based on the circumstances as we found them."
Lacroix added the CBC's deal with Rogers "provides us with a high-traffic place to promote all of our other fantastic Canadian content during a broadcast that brings the nation together week after week."
Rogers president and CEO Nadir Mohamed said, "We're looking forward to working with CBC … to take the fan experience to the next level."
The CBC will not pay any rights costs for the broadcasting of hockey games on the main network, CBC said in a note to staff. Rogers will bear the monetary risk and reward of the broadcasts, too — they sell the ads, but keep the revenue derived from them.
CBC has been the home of Hockey Night since 1952. It is committed to 320 hours of prime-time hockey, including games in the choice Saturday night time slot and the Stanley Cup final for the next four years.
"Our goal is to get maximum reach to Canadians … for us to drive revenue," Pelley said.
Mohamed said the ability to partner with the CBC was a key part of the deal.
"I believe the CBC is great for all of us as Canadians," he said.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the length of the deal speaks to the vibrancy of the game and the business of the game.
Cherry 'an iconic Canadian'
The pact also means that Rogers' broadcast rival TSN appears to be shut out of NHL broadcasting for the next decade.
When asked of the future of Hockey Night personality Don Cherry and his Coach's Corner segment, Pelley said programming and production will be evaluated over the next few months and years. "We're just celebrating today." Later he added that Cherry is "an iconic Canadian.
"We all have a common goal here to build the game. Stars, like Don Cherry, could appear on seven different networks. … The CBC personalities, from Jim Hughson to Bob Cole, are all legends. We haven't even started the discussion regarding editorial with CBC, but the idea is that the content and all of the profiles of the athletes and all the stories will go across all the networks."
Bettman added that Cherry is "a great person and a good friend. [Coach's Corner] is something we take seriously and will discuss. … We all love and respect Don. [Rogers] will have to discuss what is best going forward.
"I think it's helpful that everybody tries to stop viewing this through traditional glasses where the CBC, for example on Saturday night, would regionalize games. Think more about the evolution of the Olympics, that if curling's going on at the same time as ski jumping at the same time as cross-country skiing, they would be on different networks and you as a fan could watch what you want. … We're going to give the fans more options than they've ever had."
Pelley said the goal is to take all the games involving teams in Canada and the United States nationally on Saturdays on Hockey Night and televise them on, say, Sportsnet, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet 360 and City TV. "You can see the plethora of outlets we have to give consumers an unbelievable offering on Saturday, so Hockey Night in Canada will go through all our platforms in what is a real, true partnership for both networks and the fans."
The NHL was seeking to capitalize on a surge in popularity following a lengthy lockout that resulted in a 48-game season in 2013.
It signed a 10-year rights deal with NBC for U.S. broadcasts in 2011.
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