Rogers Media seems to be devouring CBC bite by bite. First it was the $5.2 billion deal for exclusive NHL hockey rights for the next decade. Then we discover that Rogers will be using the public broadcaster’s production facilities and distribution network for the next four years to get its new hockey product on the air.
Now they’ve hired away George Strombolopolis to anchor the Rogers version of Hockey Night in Canada.
It’s assumed that Rogers honchos knew what they were doing when they put up what seems an enormous amount of money for hockey, over such a long time-frame.
An economic analysis of the industry background to the deal suggests they did.
The media environment is undergoing a radical transformation thanks to digital technologies. Digital convergence has made possible satellite and cable cornucopias of subscription and pay-per-view content scarcely imagined back in analog times. As well, now forms of internet-based distribution are coming on stream every day. Choice has exploded.
The other feature of digital media is that once it’s been recorded the content is randomly accessible—it is possible to jump instantly from one place to another in a text, a tune, or a video. In the old analog storage systems, like videotape, it was necessary to mechanically spool through the intervening space between point A and point B. The digital world’s random accessibility has meant that it’s much easier for television viewers to do what they love to do—avoid commercials. They do this by time-shifting their programs, either buffering a show for twenty minutes on their PVR, or recording it for later viewing. Either way they can hop past commercials with their remote controls.
This can only spell trouble for traditional, advertising-supported network television. Not only do audiences have vastly increased choices, they no longer have to sit through annoying commercials.
The attractive thing about hockey in this new environment is its die-hard audience, and the fact that nobody wants to watch the game after they’ve heard the final score. Viewers almost never record hockey (or any other sport) for later viewing. Which means they can’t skip the commercials—they have to sit through them in real time.
As digital media continue to mature, and audiences continue to fragment, the few programs that viewers will want to watch live, in real time, will increase in value to advertisers. That means news, interactive reality programs, interactive talent shows, and, above all, sports.
With its hockey deal Rogers has locked in one of the few sure bets for advertisers seeking a mass audience that won’t bypass their messages. That’s a piece of media real estate that can only increase in value.