We've been chronicling the news of Rogers essentially buying the National Hockey League's television rights away from CBC and Bell Media's TSN since the news broke last week. One of the key storylines in the wake of it has been what TSN will do now that they've been left somewhat marooned without professional hockey. Well, it appears their first strike back is a large one.
A source with direct knowledge of the situation tells Awful Announcing that TSN will keep anchor James Duthie and analyst/reporters Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger at the network with long-term contracts, in a story first reported by Toronto Sports Media.
In what would be another significant step, the direct source also tells AA that CTV/TSN has acquired full rights to the National Football League in Canada.
As far as the hockey talent goes, TSM reported that Rogers had made "significant overtures" to bring Duthie over and make him the face of their hockey coverage, but it appears Duthie, who's been with the network since 1998, will remain one of their (deservingly) highest-profile broadcasters.
Meanwhile, it was believed by many that McKenzie was already under a long-term agreement with the network that would take him through to retirement, which he often joked about during the NHL lockout. Dreger's status was unknown, though the confirmation that their staying is reassuring as far as TSN's commitment to hockey goes.
Many see McKenzie as an identifiable figure with the network equivalent (though in no way similar) to Don Cherry on CBC. Of all three men, it might have been strangest to see him go anyway. Keeping Dreger just assures that, while Sportsnet will have the games, TSN will likely hang on to the two most obvious follows as far as hockey insiders go, not even counting Pierre LeBrun, who remains with both TSN and corporate partner ESPN.
As far as the NFL is concerned, currently both Bell networks shared content with Sportsnet, but it appears the NFL (which is assuredly a popular commodity in Canada, despite Bills attendance) will be moving full-time to CTV and TSN in the future, though no confirmation has been given just yet. A request for comment from TSN has not been responded to at this time, but we will update this post if and when they do so.
Overall, a positive day for TSN, a network which definitely needed one in terms of public relations. Oh, and by the way, won't it be interesting to see how the TSN and Sportsnet NHL trade deadline shows do in the ratings in 2015, when Rogers will have the games, but TSN will have the highest-profile insiders?
One thing that seems to get lost on the American media coverage of this is that the Canadian Football League gets better ratings in Canada than the NFL does. In fact the CFL is, for all intents and purposes, on par with the NHL for TV ratings. TSN has exclusive rights to the CFL (and will have for at least 5 more years). Even if TSN were to get exclusive rights to the NFL, the CFL is still that networks bread and butter.
Great move - I will never buy into what Rogers has been shoving down viewers throats for years. Rogers on-air staff is an embarrassment to NHL hockey. I think TSN should do pregame shows positioned up against the Rogers' games. Trade deadline day coverage is going to continue to be an embarrassment for Sportsnet.