TVA retains French rights for NHL games, gets big boost from the Habs

Viewership has shot up thanks to the playoffs.

Summer TV has been an even tougher sell than usual this season. While viewers typically drop off slightly, production shutdowns have meant fewer draws for audiences. However, then came a game-changer: sports.

Hockey has been back for just under two weeks, but already the post-season is drawing viewers to screens like no summer before. This is especially true in the Quebec market. TVA Sports found that after the first three games in the best-of-five series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the games drew an average of 772,000 viewers per minute. The highest audience was for the third game, which had an AMA of 818,000 viewers.

Audiences peaked at 1.2 million in the third game. The total reach was 2.5 million. The games, played on Aug. 1, 3 and 5, took a 37.6% market share among adults age 25 to 54.

The nature of TVA’s big summer hits means it’s been less affected than English networks like CTV and Citytv, which have had to cope with the loss of key programs like The Amazing Race Canada and The Bachelor. Nevertheless, the network’s top-performing shows like Un zoo pas comme les autres and Les gags are just managing to scrape in 600,000 viewers per minute – and it lost out on much of the playoff excitement that typically happens in the late spring.

Now, it’s hoping to ride the hot hand – TVA recently announced that it will retain exclusive French-language broadcasting rights for not only the Habs but also the NHL more broadly during the altered post-season.

Patrick Jutras, SVP and chief advertising officer of Quebecor and TVA Group said that despite the unprecedented situation of having the playoffs mid-summer, viewers haven’t missed a beat. “The numbers tell the story: Quebecers have remained loyal to the Canadiens and to TVA Sports.”

Partners for the Playoffs include Pepsi Canada and Lay’s Canada, who are serving as TVA Sports’ official presenters. Other partners include Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealers of Quebec, which presents both the third period and overtime periods. Videotron is the presenting sponsor of the Helix Player Profile and the Helix Three Stars of the Game. Sonnet Insurance, Napa Auto Parts, Olymel (Lafleur and La Fernandière), Skip and Promutuel also serve as partners.

According to Standard Media Index, prior to the March shutdown, TVA parent Quebecor represented 7% of Canada’s NHL ad spend, with Rogers Sports and Media taking the lion’s share at 83% and Bell Media taking the remaining 10%. The absence of sports during the second quarter accounted for approximately 30% of lost revenue. SMI now expects that the vast majority of that revenue will materialize in Q3, as well as into October, when the Stanley Cup Finals are expected.

Having won their game on Aug. 7, the Habs will advance to the first official round of the playoffs. The format will transition from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, and the Habs will face the Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena starting Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. TVA Sports will broadcast the series in French, while Sportsnet and CBC will carry the English version.