Rogers Sportsnet edges out TSN in the millionaires club
The first thought that comes to mind upon perusing the financial statements released last week by the CRTC, at least after ``I have no idea what any of this means," is: Wasn't there a recession last year?
You wouldn't think so based on the returns posted by Canada's TV business, in particular the specialty channels such as TSN, Rogers Sportsnet et al.
There was a time -- not as long ago as you'd think -- when owning a newspaper was called a licence to print money. It appears the specialty TV business now has that licence, thanks mostly to cable and satellite fees. (We are no longer printing money, if you haven't been watching the stock market.)
Both Sportsnet and TSN made more than $40 million in pre-tax profits between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 31, 2009, according to the CRTC. And they weren't alone.
A lot of sports channels made a lot of money, which is incredible considering that some have audiences that could fit into CBC's studios. TSN's French cousin RDS, which does draw big audiences, made $17 million. The NHL Network, which doesn't, posted a nice profit of $4.5 million. (TSN owns a chunk of the NHL channel, too.)
In fact, only a handful of sports channels put in more than they took out: GolTV, Fox Sports World Canada, Leafs TV all reported losses, though how some of these multi-level operations do their books might have something to do with that. Leafs TV reported a $1.7 million loss, but it's doubtful anyone will be passing the hat at MLSE headquarters.
The other interesting thing about this year's figures is that, for the first time in recorded history, TSN didn't lead the sporting pack. Sportsnet's $40.7 million was $400,000 more than TSN's, which might surprise a few people considering that poker dominates the Sportsnet lineup too many evenings of the year.
But Sportsnet has bucked the odds. Many believed its four-channel approach would never work and a regional network was doomed to failure. Obviously, the Sportsnet bosses have found a way to turn big profits.
Of course, there are those who argue that the CRTC has a big hand in all these profits, fostering a system that all but guarantees licence holders profits.
A closer look at the numbers might indicate how Sportsnet did this. Its expenses were about $43 million less than TSN's. That's in part due to TSN getting hit with a lot of big deals in 2008 as well as the fact that Sportsnet didn't add many big-ticket items last year.
When those high-price TSN deals come off the books next year, expect TSN to reclaim first place. You can also expect just about everybody in the TV sports business to keep making money.