Montreal Canadiens' NHL playoffs run provides boost for Rogers Sports & Media

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TORONTO — While Montreal Canadiens fans are stoked to see their team's first Stanley Cup final series since 1993, it could be just as exciting for Rogers Sports and Media.

Rogers paid about $5.2 billion for the Canadian media rights to National Hockey League games in a 12-year deal that runs through the 2025-26 season.

But the media landscape has changed since Rogers signed the landmark deal in November 2013, with a growing portion of audience coming from streaming services.

"We're certainly seeing a migration of spending away from traditional media to digital media," marketing professor Ken Wong said Monday.

"Not to say that there isn't a role for traditional (media). There still is. But clearly that the trend line is moving in a digital direction," said Wong, who teaches at Queen's University's business school in Kingston, Ont.

With the puck set to drop on Game 1 of the Cup final on Monday, Wong said digital media can provide a level of detail about the audience that's not possible with older forms of mass media.

"I can actually carry on more personalized, customized discussions with my customers using digital media than I ever could using traditional media," Wong said.

But Wong couldn't say how much advertisers are willing to pay for this feature, because different platforms appeal to different demographics.

"It depends on what you're selling, to whom you're selling, and what the prevailing attitudes are of the day," Wong said.

David Mear, director of business solutions for Horizon Media Canada, agreed that digital media are making inroads, but he still puts more weight on television's ability to deliver results for advertisers.

"We tend to still focus a bit more on television," Mear said from Toronto, where Horizon's major clients include Tim Hortons, Burger King and Peloton.

He said it is significantly more expensive to run a 30-second advertising spot on TV because it has a larger audience compared with on a streaming service.

Mear said he wasn't permitted to say what his clients pay for ad time and Rogers declined to disclose its rates.

Anthony Attard, vice-president of sales for Sportsnet, part of Rogers Sports and Media, said advertisers have shown strong interest with this year's Stanley Cup playoffs — which began with four Canadian teams battling each other in the first two rounds.

"And now with a Canadian team in the final, it’s clear marketers want to use these broadcasts as a way to connect with Canadians," Attard said in a statement.

"In addition, we are only now seeing the return of a lot of traditional advertisers that were impacted more adversely through COVID.”

Mear said that clients have been very interested this year in the playoffs, which have had a unique format because of the pandemic.

"The audiences have been doing tremendously well. There's obviously a lot of pent up support for the Canadian teams, especially with the fact that there was a Canadian team guaranteed to be in the third round," Mears said.

The presence of Montreal in the final is also good news for audience engagement, he said.

Sportsnet said Monday that the semifinal series between the Habs and Vegas Golden Knights reached 13.8 million people in Canada over six games through Rogers Sportsnet and CBC television.

The company says Game 6, which Montreal won 3-2 in overtime on Thursday, had an estimated audience of 3.7 million people on average during the broadcast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2021.

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

David Paddon, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said there were eight Canadian teams in the first two rounds.

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