Less commercial time, more Canadian hockey

Rogers Media's Scott Moore and Anthony Attard detail the media co's plans for the Canada-heavy first round of the NHL playoffs.

The NHL Playoffs landscape couldn’t be more different this year than last, with five Canadian teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, making it to the first round of the post-season. But Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL properties, remains focused on the long game, just as he was last year when none of the Canadian NHL teams made it out of the regular season.

“Over the long term there will be peaks and valleys, I said it last year and will say it this year,” said Moore on a media conference call yesterday. “We are in for a strong several years. Although my perceived IQ is up about 15 points this year.”

What is exciting Moore about the NHL Playoffs this season is the generational shift that’s being highlighted across the match-ups. It’s the Maple Leafs with next-generation stars like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner against the Washington Capitals and their veteran captain Alexander Ovechkin.

“I love the symbolism of the old guard versus the new guard in the playoffs,” said Moore. “There’s a lot of exciting young stars in Canada.”

Because of the higher audience interest in a first round that’s stacked with Canadian teams, Moore said Rogers Media is removing two minutes of commercial time in the intermission breaks. That will allow for more of the stories around the teams to be told, said Moore. The production and sales teams have the flexibility to add those spots in as needed, he added. Anthony Attard, VP of integrated sports sales at Sportsnet, said the time taken out is “not material” and can be added back in as needed.

Being added into the post-season coverage is a pre-game show. The regular season’s pre-game Hockey Night in Canada program, which was retooled in the off season to bring back Ron MacLean, saw a year-over-year ratings boost of 22%, according to numbers from Rogers Media.

Brands buying spots in the post-season include existing NHL partners like Scotiabank, GM, Molson and Chrysler. New deals have also been signed with WestJet and Gatorade, said Attard. With eight matchups in the first round, there is still inventory available, but Attard added that sales have gone up considerably since the Maple Leafs locked in their post-season spot on Saturday night.

“I believe this helps to build a renaissance of hockey fandom in Canada,” said Moore. “We expect great audiences, there is a lot of demand from advertisers. Whether we like it or not it helps when the biggest market is in the mix. Because most of Canada’s advertising agencies are in Toronto so when hockey fever hits there it helps.”

Winning Canadian teams have, of course, lead to better ratings through the regular season. Hockey Night in Canada Prime East games are up 9% year-over-year, and Hockey Night in Canada Prime West games are up 6%. Hockey Night in Canada Prime East games featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs were up 11% year-over-year.

Sunday’s Hometown Hockey games were up 15% year-over-year. Sportsnet national games featuring U.S. matchups were up 4% over last year.

Regional Leafs broadcasts on Sportsnet Ontario were up 27% year-over-year. Ratings for Edmonton Oilers games on Sportsnet West, led by Connor McDavid, were up by 40% year-over-year.

Viewership for Sportsnet East games featuring the Montreal Canadiens were up 4% year-over-year.

The only reported regional games to see a year-over-year ratings drop were the Calgary Flames matches on Sportsnet West, which went down 2%.



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