Sports Media “Wars” Are Amusing

TORONTO (Jan. 10) — It’s hilarious, this charade enacted by Rogers and Bell through their company owned websites, Sportsnet and TSN. Combined, the warring communications behemoths control 75 percent of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, thereby holding all the media “scoops” involving Canada’s favorite hockey team.

Earlier in the week, someone from “headquarters” leaked precision word to Sportsnet of the eight–year, $92 million contract extension about to be signed by William Nylander. Then, tonight, a sympathetic soul at MLSE took pity on TSN and offered up, to reporter extraordinaire Rick Westhead, the news that former Rogers money spender Keith Pelley will join the parent company as Chief Executive Officer. Not unlike many media executives, Pelley has more lives than a cat. He was primarily responsible for the catastrophic deal that Rogers signed (in 2013) with the National Hockey League for Canadian television rights: $5.2 billion over 12 years. It was such an absurd amount that the media wing of Rogers found it necessary to unload such big–money, big–name pundits as Don Cherry, Glenn Healy, Bob McCown, John Shannon, Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos (prudently re–hired).

Other than that, Pelley caused Sportsnet no harm (sigh).

It wasn’t long before the executive troika at Rogers — Nadir Mohamed, Pelley and Scott Moore — fled into the night; Pelley all the way to Britain as head of the European golf tour. Now, he’s back to spend another boatload on an English Premiere League football team, the long–term goal of MLSE (even beyond a Stanley Cup dynasty). Pelley’s connections in the United Kingdom could allow him to spearhead an EPL project. If it ever comes to fruition, that’s where the company’s riches will flow. At some point, the Bay Street moguls might locate hockey executives that understand how to build a Cup contender. For Pelley, it’s ultimately about another sports monolith.

The website tango between Sportsnet and TSN is riotous.

Last week, MLSE “partner” TSN waited more than 24 hours to post “news” of the Nylander contract breakthrough, broken by Kypreos and Elliotte Friedman at the “competition.” Late this afternoon, around 5:25, came word — on TSN’s site — of Pelley returning. Perhaps the Putin/Zelenskyy–like alliance between Rogers and Bell softened for a couple of breaths, as it required a mere 68 minutes for Sportsnet to post this (halfway down its page–scroll):

By 7 p.m. Eastern, two of the three local newspapers had picked up on the story… but not the Toronto Star. Which was odd, given that Westhead cut his teeth as an investigative reporter at the daily broadsheet.

The Toronto Sun and Globe and Mail ran identical stories, taken from The Canadian Press wire service. Neil Davidson wrote the article, citing a “source” for his information; one that was “granted anonymity because the formal announcement has yet to be made.” Then, Davidson wrote: “The appointment was first reported by TSN.” If so, why did Neil — an excellent news hound — invoke an unidentified source? Couldn’t Westhead and TSN have sufficed? By 7:15 p.m., the Star had finally hopped on board. Staff reporter Mark Colley wrote: “the news was first reported by TSN, which an industry source later confirmed to the Star. MLSE declined to comment.”

It was probably on the phone to England.

ADDENDUM: Alas, there was professional courtesy on Sportsnet’s website late this evening… and a “waiver” explaining the most–egregious conflict–of–interest in Canadian media annals:


3 comments on “Sports Media “Wars” Are Amusing

  1. I imagine Pelley and Rogers thought they were on the cusp of great days for the Canadian teams in the NHL and therefore the broadcast partner. Stars being drafted in Toronto and Edmonton, competitive teams elsewhere, surely they would become fixtures deep in the playoffs along with a final appearance or 3 and a cup. Plus this is Canada, we can’t get enough hockey right?
    They over-estimated our appetite for games, the Canadian teams under-achieved or disappointed, COVID scuttled everything and the whole thing turned out to be worth less than expected. As has been said, easy to spend someone else’s money. Demographics are a moving target.
    Hopefully the hiring of Keith will apply some pressure on Shanahan.

  2. Yeah. What a feat Keith Pelley accomplished, spending someone else’s money to get the rights deal and probably getting a big bonus for it, too. Then jumping ship when reality is about to set in. Character people, these high priced genius suits.

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