Rogers kneecaps Corus, stealing Canadian rights to HGTV and Food Network

If you’re a fan of lifestyle channels like HGTV and Food Network in Canada, things are going to change dramatically as of January 2025, when Rogers acquires the Canadian rights to those brands, along with the Cooking Channel, Investigation Discovery and more.

Rogers announced this morning as part of its fall preview announcements that it has signed a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal to become the Canadian home to Warner’s factual and lifestyle brands as of January, and NBC’s Bravo as of September.

These deals include both the Canadian rights to those brands as well as to U.S. programming of those networks.

A complete list of brands isn’t included in the announcement, but Corus confirms these brands are affected:

  • HGTV
  • Food Network
  • Cooking Channel
  • Magnolia Network
  • OWN

Children’s brands like Adult Swim and Cartoon Network are not affected by this announcement.

Warner also owns the following Discovery brands with Canadian versions managed by Bell Media:

  • Discovery Channel
  • Animal Planet
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Science Channel (Discovery Science)
  • Motor Trend (Discovery Velocity)

So what does this mean for those channels? Well, it’s unclear, actually. When I asked about this, a Bell Media spokesperson at first said “it’s business as usual,” but followed up Monday evening with this statement:

Bell Media is Canada’s foremost media company, with industry-leading assets across every content genre. Our long-standing partnership, content, and brand arrangements for the Discovery Canada channels includes protections against the launch of competing services. We fully intend to assert our rights with a view to protecting our business.

Cartt.ca noticed that in its upfront announcement last week, Bell Media avoided using Discovery brands and referred to some series as being only on “Bell Media Specialty Channel”.

Bravo used to also be a Canadian channel until Bell rebranded it CTV Drama in 2019. Rogers says it will launch a new Canadian Bravo channel, though I’m waiting to hear if their plan is to create a new TV channel or rebrand an existing one like OLN.

For HGTV, Food and Cooking, it gets a bit more complicated. Not only does Corus have channels by those names, but it has a lot of the U.S. programming on those Canadian channels. On top of that, the Canadian channels of HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Magnolia are about 16-19% owned by Warner Bros. Discovery.

Corus quietly issued a vaguely-worded statement on Friday saying some “programming and trademark output arrangements” wouldn’t be renewed. But it says Corus intends to “continue operating the country’s largest and most widely distributed lifestyle channels based on the strength of top-rated Canadian programs and alternate foreign content supply.”

This will likely mean the channels we know as HGTV, Food Network and Cooking Channel will rebrand as of January, and while some Canadian content will remain the same, the U.S. shows associated with them will move to Rogers-owned channels.

Rogers doesn’t have enough specialty channel licences to rebrand into all these, so assuming they go ahead with linear channels, it would require new licences. Thankfully, the CRTC allows new channels to launch without prior approval. They just have to apply for a licence once they hit 200,000 subscribers (which probably won’t take long).

Broadcast Dialogue reports Rogers saying “distribution details are still being finalized with an eye to a mix of linear and streaming options.”

Corus blames the change on “inequitable structural relationships in the Canadian media and telecom industries, particularly affecting independent broadcasters like Corus.”

In other words, since Rogers bought Shaw (whose family still owns Corus), Rogers has deeper pockets and more power to acquire these kinds of rights. Meanwhile Corus, which no longer has the deep pockets of a cable giant, has to get by as an independent now.

This kind of change could be potentially life-threatening for Corus. If it loses its audience to the same brands it and its predecessors have spent decades building, the loss of subscription and ad revenue could not only devastate Corus’s lifestyle brands, but the Global network as well. (Corus is still waiting for the CRTC to authorize Global to access the Independent Local News Fund, since Rogers took away its cross-subsidy funding from Shaw to redirect it to Citytv stations.)

The markets would seem to agree. Corus’s stock fell 29% on Monday, to an all-time low of 34 cents per share. As recently as 2022 it was worth 10 times that.

Back when Corus did this

There is some precedent for this kind of change, and ironically it was Corus doing the stealing that time. In 2015, after DHX Media (now WildBrain) acquired Family Channel, Disney Jr. and Disney XD out of the Bell Media/Astral deal, Corus announced it had signed a deal with Disney for Canadian rights to its children’s channel brands. DHX rebranded the channels to Family Jr. and Télémagino, while Corus launched new channels under the Disney Channel, Disney Jr. and Disney XD brands. DHX had to find non-Disney children’s content to fill their schedule.

Now Corus will get a taste of that medicine, only on a larger and more expensive scale.

16 thoughts on “Rogers kneecaps Corus, stealing Canadian rights to HGTV and Food Network

  1. Phillip Blancher

    Eastlink announced to its customers last week that it had ended its carriage dispute with Corus and its channels would be back on eastlink asap. This can’t be a coincidence.

    Reply
    1. Brent Blackburn

      Problem Eastlink packaged & if you don’t use cloud services you cannot access all channels & cost is high

      Reply
  2. DB

    After kneecapping Corus, I wonder if Rogers will attempt to buy Corus or at least Food, HGTV, etc on the cheap. Acquiring Food etc would mean Rogers could avoid the costs of setting up new channels. While City’s and Global’s news, premises, apps, and operations could be merged. City and Global would have a common newscast and Global could be renamed City2.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Getting CRTC approval for Rogers to acquire Food and HGTV might take longer than setting up their own channels, and would be more expensive. On the flip side, it would mean acquiring existing subscriptions.

      The CRTC isn’t going to approve Rogers buying Global, unless Global and Corus are on bankruptcy’s door.

      Reply
      1. RG

        I’m sure you are correct but that’s an indictment of the CRTC . Slow, bureaucratic and always fighting the last fight.

        Reply
  3. Brett

    I watch HGTV and Food Network daily. Wonder what that means for providers that already have those channels?

    Will some lose them since their agreement is with Corus and not Rogers for those channels?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What happens will be up to the TV providers. Their contracts are with Corus, so people will most likely keep the channels after the rebrand. But there will be significant pressure for providers to add the new HGTV, Food Network etc. once they launch. And some could choose to drop the Corus channels if they feel the quality of programming isn’t enough for subscribers.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        Hope not that’s why I have FuboTV. More for HGTV and Food Network. Well others as well but mostly those.

        Reply
      2. PapaM

        Fagstein – Are we really going to see new linear specialty services launch? While RCI owns a robust Cable Distribution business that reaches the vast majority of English speaking cable subscribers and can certainly pry “new content offerings” into cable packages, is the era of new linear channel launches not part of a bygone era? Might we instead see an alternate approach? FAST channel launches or an expansion of On-Demand offerings? Or, as suggested above, a Rogers-acquisition of an existing Corus channel (at a premium + CRTC mandated tangible benefits)? I for one will be curious to see how this plays out … and how much longer Corus can exist without the benefit of a VI parentco (hell, it’s Quebecor calling).

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Is the era of new linear channel launches not part of a bygone era?

          Not necessarily, though it’s definitely not the kind of gold rush we saw in the early 2000s with digital specialty channels. HGTV, Food Network et al have audiences in Canada, enough that Rogers thinks it’s worth it to acquire the Canadian rights to them. The main difference is that 20 years ago it was about creating new specialty channels with a lot of cheap programming. Now it’s about acquiring content libraries that can be used on streaming, linear, on demand etc. The linear channels Rogers will have, assuming they choose to create them, would be only part of the equation. And they could always shut them down later if they no longer make business sense.

          …a Rogers-acquisition of an existing Corus channel (at a premium + CRTC mandated tangible benefits)?

          That’s a possibility, if Corus decides that without these rights and brands they can no longer make the channels work, they could decide to sell them to Rogers once they’re done being pissed off at the situation. It’s certainly hard to imagine Corus hanging on to Food Network AND Cooking Channel, HGTV AND Magnolia, without any of those brands. Another option could be Corus selling the less-popular sister networks to Rogers and keeping Food and HGTV and their subscribers. A lot depends on what kind of programming Corus can acquire and how that will stack up against those big U.S. brands.

          Reply
  4. Craig

    I suspect Corus would be hard-pressed to maintain two separate home improvement and food channels, because I don’t know if there’s really enough alternate non-HGTV non-Food Network programming out there to fill two full channels. But they could almost certainly maintain a single lifestyle channel that mixed both of those genres the way CTV Life does. It could perhaps revive the FYI brand that they dropped in 2019, or come up with a new one while still acquiring some programs from the US version of FYI.

    Interestingly, since Canadian productions like Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baeumler and Sebastian Clovis belong to Corus, not to WB-Discovery, they don’t automatically go to Rogers without separate Rogers-Corus deals, and Corus can build up some audience appeal for its new channel(s) by refusing to sell them off, and leaving Rogers mostly having to rebuild new stables of CanCon from scratch.

    Reply
  5. DB

    Rogers said this content would be available on CityTV+. Right now the only way to subscribe to CityTV+ is first subscribe to Prime and then subscribe to CityTV+ through Prime for an extra $4.99 a month. My question is will Rogers release a CityTV+ app that you can directly subscribe to?

    Also what are the implications of this deal for Discovert+? Will this content be available on it? If not will Discovery+ leave Canada?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My question is will Rogers release a CityTV+ app that you can directly subscribe to?

      Nothing has been announced on this yet. It’s possible they’ll make it available outside Amazon, but they haven’t said so.

      Also what are the implications of this deal for Discovery+?

      That’s a good question. My guess is Discovery+ Canada will be either discontinued or folded into Rogers, but I’m waiting to hear details. Discovery+ was launched as part of a partnership with Corus, so when that partnership disappears Discovery+ could go as well.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    My guess here is the long play is for Rogers to end up with Global. You may say “CRTC will never approve” but as long as the buyer is putting enough bribe money into the CanCon tip jar, anything is possible. Rogers most certainly would like to compete directly with Bell and whittle down their dominance in the TV marketplace.

    My guess is that Rogers would have to spin CityTV off at least, maybe more. Perhaps a swap with Corus, or perhaps say a smaller or regional player who wants to move up to the small national network like City. Doubly so if Rogers is having a fire sale to meet CRTC requirements. I think that a Canadian Anglo duopoly in TV is the most likely outcome. Rogers and Bell would have a good run of similar programming outlets, and a solid control over the distribution methods.

    Corus has a real problem now. Those stations are the big end of the stick in their specialty channel division. it is likely they will shrink significantly, especially if they end up selling off their subscriber base. Could they end up relegated to being a radio only entity? Could Rogers sprinkle some radio stations into a deal to make it more interesting?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My guess here is the long play is for Rogers to end up with Global.

      I’m not sure why Rogers would be interested in Global at this point, especially after it starts putting all that extra money into CityNews. It might have an interest in Corus’s lifestyle channels, but rather than going after them directly, it went after their U.S. programming and brands, and this is the result.

      Corus has a real problem now. Those stations are the big end of the stick in their specialty channel division. it is likely they will shrink significantly, especially if they end up selling off their subscriber base. Could they end up relegated to being a radio only entity?

      Anything is possible, but more likely Corus as we know it would cease to exist, and some other entity or entities would emerge out of its ashes. Some deal with Rogers and a whole lot of divestments is theoretically possible, but I don’t think Corus is eager to talk about that in the near future.

      Reply

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