NHL’s new Canadian TV rights deal an example of Bettman’s plate-spinning mastery

If a new report regarding the NHL’s renegotiation of its Canadian TV rights is accurate, commissioner Gary Bettman and his management team deserve kudos for the balancing act they’ve been able to maintain.

I’ve criticized the NHL on numerous occasions and reserve the right to do so when appropriate. But if the report regarding the league’s renegotiation of its Canadian TV rights is accurate – and considering the author, I have no reason to doubt its veracity – Gary Bettman and his management team deserve kudos for the balancing act they’ve been able to maintain.

In spreading out the goodies – regular-season games, playoff rounds, all-star games, etc. – Bettman & Co. have managed to keep their relationship with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation largely intact while also satisfying the voracious appetite private broadcasters TSN and Sportsnet have for more NHL content.

A less delicate managing of the situation could’ve resulted in the CBC being completely outbid for all TV rights – and that could’ve turned into a public relations disaster for the league very easily. Removing access for non-cable TV subscribers by moving all games to Sportsnet/TSN not only would trigger a wave of resentment among everyday fans, but also would’ve had horrible repercussions for the CBC itself. The national broadcaster gets a significant chunk of its revenue from advertising on NHL games and the loss of that money guarantees a massive blow to journalism. But under the reported deal, that potentially huge headache is averted.

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One of the keys to Bettman’s masterful management of his ownership group is his ability to find something for everybody. Not every owner is going to get all they want in a collective bargaining agreement, but Bettman ensures each will come away with something to be happy about.

The same is true here. Sportsnet will likely get a “Sunday Night In The NHL” property they never had before; TSN takes the all-star game and a playoff round away from the CBC; the CBC hangs on to “Hockey Night In Canada” and retains some playoff rights.

And for the privilege of doing so, those three media giants as well as French-language broadcaster RDS are projected to pay the league some $350-million in the new rights deals. That’s up from the $190 million the four groups currently pay.

I’ve always said Bettman is a brilliant balancer of interests and this deal is the latest piece of evidence proving me right in that regard.

Nobody spins plates like the commissioner.