Until this season, the network had a special deal with the Canadiens and the National Hockey League that allowed all 82 regular-season games to be broadcast nationally without restriction. This is the exception rather than the rule.
Please log in to bookmark this story. While Rogers recently blamed lower quarterly profits on the NHL contract, which failed to produce the anticipated advertising and subscriber revenue in the regular season, RDS took a major hit to its bottom line because it was forced to match an offer for the Canadiens' French regional rights from TVA Sports in order to hang on to the package of 60 games it has had for 25 years.
RDS president Gerry Frappier declined to discuss the details of the Canadiens regional contract but insisted the network remains profitable. However, he admitted profits are down substantially because of the deal.
BCE Inc. Story continues below advertisement "It was a significant profit reset," Frappier said.
Even though the Rogers deal allows more games than ever to be shown nationally — on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays this season — the NHL continues to enforce regional blackouts in order to preserve the value of each team's regional broadcast packages.
Between 44 and 60 of the 82 regular-season games of each of the seven Canadian teams are designated as regional games.
The league believes allowing too many of one team's games to be broadcast in another team's market would diminish the value of the host team's regional rights. The prospect of selling more of these services undoubtedly played a role in the NHL's decision to enforce the Canadiens blackouts.
Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media and the driving force in the NHL negotiations, is hailed by both his competitors and his colleagues for bringing his company a maximum return for the French broadcast rights.
Pelley declined to comment. Quebecor's motivation in paying that much was twofold.
It wanted NHL content for its fledgling sports network and putting a substantial amount of money in the league's coffers might have a happy effect on the company's efforts to land an NHL franchise for the new arena in Quebec City.
Story continues below advertisement Story continues below advertisement Since the early s, Habs fans outside of the Canadiens' designated broadcast area benefited from the fact there was no competitor to RDS and that francophone audiences in Central and Western Canada were relatively small.
For those reasons, even though RDS's contract was officially for French-language broadcasts of 60 regional games plus a national package, the NHL allowed RDS to show all 82 Canadiens games across the country.
The league did enforce the blackouts for English-language regional broadcasts, as there were competing networks in TSN and Rogers's Sportsnet. Even the Hab regional games would go across the country, which technically they shouldn't have.
Given there weren't two competing players sharing rights, there was no reason for anyone to enforce the rights.
They will be looking to duplicate their effort against the Wild from Thursday night.
So they gave us a free ride. And that spelled the end of a loophole that allowed thousands of francophone and anglophone Canadiens fans across the country to see their favourite team's games in French as long as they bought a cable or satellite package that included RDS.
Naturally, Frappier was disappointed to lose a package his network held for so long, but he does not feel slighted.
But he said the network's subscriber base increased 25 per cent in one year, growing to two million.