TSN pushes Canadian teams with new NHL deal

The sports specialty network has a new six-year deal with the NHL, and it's moving forward with a focus on Canadians in the game.

TSN has signed a new six-year broadcast and digital rights deal with the NHL that will give the net more coverage of Canadian teams. The new deal starts with the 2008-09 season and runs through 2013-14. CTV president of revenue, business planning and sport Rick Brace called the deal a ‘landmark agreement’ and promised TSN’s ‘strongest NHL package ever.’

The deal gives TSN exclusive Canadian specialty television rights for national English-language broadcast and digital coverage. The Toronto Maple Leafs will headline the coverage with 17 appearances annually, followed by Montreal with 15, and 10 each for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.

The package includes 70 regular season games annually (all games featuring at least one Canadian team); the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs (with the possibility of coverage of a Canadian team in the post-season, a first for the net); a majority of the games in HD; a suite of digital rights for TSN telecasts including broadband, wireless and video-on-demand; continued exclusivity of Wednesday Night Hockey (in which there are no other national or local telecasts); and exclusive Canadian coverage of the NHL Entry Draft and NHL Draft Lottery Special.

TSN’s NHL telecast audience levels have increased 32% in the past five seasons, from 311,000 viewers in 2002-03 to a season-ending national average audience of 410,000 viewers in 2007-08 (2+). In the A25-54 demo, audience levels have increased 30% over that time period. The opening night of the 2005-06 season saw TSN attract 2.1 million viewers for the Senators-Maple Leafs game, the largest audience ever for an NHL TSN telecast.

The net attributes some of that audience growth to its marketing and promotions strategy, including initiatives like the Chevy Million Dollar Shootout and the ‘Hockey Lives Here’ and ‘Six Cities in Six Days’ campaigns. Of course, the net’s complementary coverage also helps, including Molson That’s Hockey, TradeCentre, Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration, Free Agent Frenzy, Fantasy Draft and Playoff Specials, McGuire’s Monsters, SportsCentre, Off The Record and TSN The Reporters with Dave Hodge.