Rogers CEO touts Amazon NHL deal, says company will pursue rights renewal in 2026

Rogers CEO touts Amazon NHL deal, says company will pursue rights renewal in 2026 © Provided by The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The chief executive of Rogers Communications Inc. says the company plans to pursue a renewal of its rights to broadcast NHL games when its current agreement expires in two years, but offered no hints on whether it will go it alone or seek out a partner.

Speaking Wednesday at a lunch hosted by Canadian Club Toronto, Rogers president and CEO Tony Staffieri called the $5.2-billion, 12-year rights agreement a “terrific deal for us” that has helped grow audiences on its Sportsnet channels.

That deal is set to conclude after the 2025-26 NHL season.

“As we look to contract renewals, it’s something we’re very interested in and something we will chase and certainly expect to be at the table,” Staffieri said.

But asked whether Rogers will pitch another exclusive rights arrangement, or look to team up with a partner such as a streaming service to “widen the audience base,” Staffieri played coy.

“I always like to talk strategy, especially amongst 250 friends,” he joked in response to the question from Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Willis, who moderated the event.

“So we got a ways to go before I can answer that.”

The remark comes after Rogers announced last week that the company and NHL had reached an exclusive agreement with Amazon’s Prime Video to carry Monday regular-season games in Canada for the next two seasons.

Rogers and the league said in a joint statement that “Prime Monday Night Hockey” will stream all national, regular-season Monday night games in English for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 NHL seasons. It marks the NHL’s first exclusive broadcast deal with a digital-only streaming service in Canada.

Staffieri on Wednesday hailed the deal as a way to “bring the game to more fans across more devices.”

Asked why Rogers decided to offload content to a streaming service competitor, Staffieri noted Rogers owns not just sports television stations, but also professional sports teams.

The 12-year rights deal, which began in 2014, has been “a terrific contract for us in terms of growing Sportsnet and we’ve done a lot to grow the NHL brand and viewership in Canada,” he said.

“But we’re also sports owners, and so it’s always in our interest, just like it is for the NHL, to always look to increase audiences and viewership.”

Rogers is the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays and has a 37.5 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which counts the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Argonauts among its properties.

Critics of Rogers’ rights deal with the NHL have often taken aim at its price tag amid job cuts at its sports television and radio stations over the past decade.

The term has also coincided with a relative lack of success among Canadian NHL teams, whose fans drive ratings during the playoffs. Just one club, the Montreal Canadiens in 2021, has made it to the Stanley Cup final since Rogers took over the national broadcasts in 2014.

Staffieri said the agreement with Amazon is just “one more example of us moving with the way Canadians actually want to experience and view content.”

“I don’t think anyone debates the power and reach of Amazon Prime across the country,” he said.

“Here’s an opportunity to actually increase reach in partnering with them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:RCI.B)

Source: Sammy Hudes, The Canadian Press