02/15/2014 01:56 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 01:59 EST

Rogers-NHL Deal Gets Thumbs-Down, CBC Thumbs Up In New Poll


Canadians are largely opposed to the deal between Rogers Communications and the NHL that will see hockey move away from the CBC and onto Rogers’ channels, according to a new poll.

But the exception are Conservative voters, some of whom see the deal as good news — apparently because it’s bad news for Canada’s public broadcaster.

In a poll from Ekos carried out for, 49 per cent of respondents “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed the deal, while 28 per cent expressed support.

The poll comes in the wake of a leaked memo from CBC chief Hubert Lacroix, in which he warned of “dark clouds” on the horizon after the broadcaster’s loss of NHL hockey, and amid challenges such as low ratings and a federal government that is hostile to the CBC’s public subsidies.

The NHL and Rogers Communications announced a $5.2-billion deal last November that would see Rogers gain exclusive English-Canadian rights to NHL hockey for 12 years. The CBC will get to keep “Hockey Night in Canada” for four years, but Rogers will own the rights to it and will be able to re-broadcast it on its networks, such as Sportsnet.

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The Ekos poll found the issue really matters to Canadians: Seventy-nine per cent of respondents were aware of the deal, compared to just 66 per cent who were aware that Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in 2010.

Among the major reasons cited for opposing the deal is that it would harm the CBC. Sixty-three per cent of respondents said it puts the future of the broadcaster in jeopardy.

The poll found solid support for the CBC, with 69 per cent of respondents saying its funding should remain at current levels or be increased, while 26 per cent said funding should be decreased or eliminated.

The Harper government began a series of cuts to the CBC subsidy with the 2012 budget, eventually reducing funding by $115 million annually, or about 10 per cent of the $1.1-billion subsidy.

Conservative poll respondents were the only group where a plurality supported the Rogers-NHL deal, with 46 per cent saying yes.

We don’t think this is driven by deep affection for Rogers,” iPolitics reports; instead it’s likely linked to some Conservatives’ dislike of the CBC. The poll found 35 per cent of Conservatives want the CBC’s funding eliminated altogether, compared to 14 per cent who share this view among the general population.

Previous polls have shown broad support for the CBC among Canadians, with a plurality opposing both funding cuts and privatization, though one recent poll carried out for Sun Media found more Canadians support calls to sell the CBC than to keep it.

Some observers have argued against the Rogers-NHL deal on the grounds they believe it will raise cable TV costs.

UBC Sauder School of Business professor James Brander said Rogers has a lot of money to recoup from the deal, and “we’ll see a lot of bundling or extra charges for premium channels.”