TSN clinches landmark NHL deal

TSN is looking to boost audiences and ratings in 2008/09 following finalization of a monumental deal with the NHL that will see the sports specialty air more Canadian games than ever before.

The six-year agreement, announced Tuesday, hands TSN 70 regular season games per season featuring at least one Canadian team, while the caster will also televise the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. With that comes the possibility that TSN will have coverage of a Canadian team in the post-season for the first time in its history. (CBC picks the first two teams it wants to cover in the playoffs.)

CTV sports boss Rick Brace says he’s most excited about the increase in Canadian appearances, calling it a ‘huge, key change’ from previous years. Financial terms of the deal, which runs through 2013/14, were not disclosed. A report in The Globe and Mail pegs the overall deal at upwards of $200 million.

‘Up until now, we’ve had many nights of U.S. teams versus U.S. teams. The ratings and interest for a U.S.-U.S. matchup is significantly lower than when a Canadian team plays,’ Brace tells Playback Daily.

TSN will retain exclusive rights to hockey on Wednesday nights, with an opportunity to air all-Canadian doubleheaders. Brace says the channel will be looking at branding the midweek hockey slot, like it did with Wendy’s Friday Night Football.

‘You might expect something similar to that could happen for Wednesday night,’ he says.

The marquee Toronto Maple Leafs will make 17 appearances each season on TSN, followed by the Montreal Canadiens with 15, while the rest of the Canadian teams will make 10 appearances each. The deal also involves digital rights including broadband, wireless and video-on-demand.

CBC, which reached its new deal with the NHL last year, retains exclusive coverage of Saturday night regular season games involving Canadian teams, and of English-Canadian teams in the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. It will also air the NHL awards and NHL All-Star Game, while TSN has exclusive coverage of the NHL Entry Draft and NHL Draft.