Tag Archives: Rogers

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.

Rogers sells off Monday Night Hockey to Amazon

Rogers announced Thursday it has sold off the exclusive rights to Monday Night Hockey to Amazon, meaning for the next two seasons, national Monday night games during the regular season will be exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Rogers talks about how “thrilled” it is with the announcement, but this deal doesn’t help Sportsnet with audiences, it’s about whatever money Amazon is paying Rogers for these rights.

Rogers famously spent $5.2 billion for the national rights to NHL games for 12 years (2014-2026), and has since learned it overpaid for those rights. It gets some money back from sublicensing French rights to TVA Sports, and now it’s getting more back from Amazon with this deal.

With Mondays exclusive to Amazon, Rogers retains exclusive national windows on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights, as well as all NHL playoff games. Regional rights are unaffected.

There aren’t many details on what Amazon NHL games will look like, except that they won’t be Sportsnet productions and will have new broadcast teams.

This is the first time a streaming service has acquired exclusive broadcast rights to NHL games in Canada, and in that sense Rogers is right in calling it a “milestone” rights deal. Amazon hopes to use Monday night games involving Canadian teams to push hockey fans to become Amazon Prime Video subscribers.

The deal could be a bit of a boost for TVA Sports, whose rights aren’t covered in the agreement. If the network airs Canadian NHL games on Monday nights, it could see some tuning from anglophone NHL fans who don’t want to subscribe to Amazon.

For reference, last season Sportsnet had a total of 27 national Monday night hockey games. Here were the number for each Canadian team during the 2023-24 season:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 7 games
  • Montreal Canadiens: 5 games
  • Winnipeg Jets: 5 games
  • Ottawa Senators: 4 games
  • Vancouver Canucks: 3 games
  • Calgary Flames: 2 games
  • Edmonton Oilers: 2 games

The Globe and Mail reports Amazon will get 26 games per season as part of the deal.

The rumour of Rogers selling rights to Amazon was first reported by YYZ Sports Media on April 1.

Here’s what commitments Quebecor and Rogers made to get Shaw merger approved

It’s official: Rogers is finally buying Shaw.

The last approval necessary for the deal to go through was given this morning, with industry minister François-Philippe Champagne signing off on the transfer of wireless spectrum from Shaw to Videotron. The companies say they have given themselves an extra week to close the deal (and once that happens I’ll have a lot of changes to make to the media ownership chart).

Champagne’s approval comes with a lot of conditions, and rather than just have them make promises, he had them sign contracts (Videotron, Rogers) with provisions for fines if they break their commitments.

Here’s what those contracts say:

Rogers

  • Must spend $1 billion building out its network to give more people 50 megabit download/10 megabit upload internet access in rural areas, at the same price as urban areas
  • Must “consult with Indigenous communities to create Indigenous-owned and operated internet service providers” using Rogers networks.
  • Must spend at least $2.5 billion on 5G coverage in western Canada within five years
  • Must spend at least $3 billion more on its network aside from that $2.5 billion above
  • Must offer low-cost internet access to more low-income Canadians, and promote that offering
  • Must establish its “Western Canadian Headquarters” in Calgary (what qualifies as headquarters is not defined) and keep it there for 10 years
  • Must “create 3,000 new jobs in western Canada” and maintain them for 10 years
  • Must keep prices the same (or better) for Shaw Mobile customers for five years (Shaw Mobile customers stay with Rogers as they’re bundled with Shaw cable)
  • Must report annually on its progress on these commitments, and post that report to its website.

If Rogers “materially” breaches these conditions, it can be fined up to $100 million a year, or $1 billion total. These are maximum fines, no matter how many conditions are breached.

Exceptions to the fines include:

  • They can’t apply before the deadlines (so a “within five years” commitment can only be fined after those five years, and only for the remaining five years)
  • They can’t apply after 10 years
  • They can’t apply in case of “force majeure” including labour disruption, natural disaster or supply chain issues

Quebecor/Videotron

  • Must keep Freedom Mobile’s pricing (or better), and offer 10% more data, for five years
  • Must offer Freedom pricing at “similar” rates to Videotron’s offer in Quebec
  • Must extend service to Manitoba (via a virtual network) within three years, at prices similar to Quebec
  • Must “maintain an equivalent number of direct and indirect jobs for skilled workers”
  • Must offer new plans in Freedom Mobile’s markets at least 20% below Big Three plans as they existed on Feb. 10.
  • Must offer 5G in its markets within two years
  • Must confidentially share business plans with the industry department upon request
  • Must publish yearly reports on its progress (excluding confidential info)

Videotron has a similar fine structure as Rogers, but it only applies as of Year 3, and has a limit of $25 million total per year, or up to $200 million total. And for whatever reason (Videotron’s lawyers not as good?) its “force majeure” clause is more restrictive, and doesn’t include things like supply chain problems or employee lockouts.

In both cases, the agreement expires after 10 years, so in April 2033, none of these commitments will apply anymore.

What this means

As a recap, Rogers will acquire all Shaw’s cable assets in western Canada, plus the Shaw Direct satellite TV service, Shaw Mobile (customers but not spectrum) and other Shaw assets. Videotron will acquire Freedom Mobile, which serves B.C., Alberta and southern/eastern Ontario, including all its spectrum holdings.

The broadcasting assets involved are minimal, consisting only of the community channels and video-on-demand licences associated with Shaw Cable. Shaw sold the rest of its broadcasting assets to Corus, which continues to operate as a separate company controlled by the Shaw family.

The government is requiring Videotron also expand to Manitoba within three years, because its last major wireless merger (Bell buying MTS) failed to produce a maintain fourth player in that province. Bell sold some MTS subscribers to Telus and others to Xplornet, which created Xplornet Mobile out of the deal, but Xplornet Mobile shut down last year.

So within three years, Videotron will be the fourth wireless player in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, southern/eastern Ontario and Quebec. That leaves Saskatchewan (SaskTel), northern Ontario (TBayTel) and Atlantic Canada (Eastlink) covered by smaller regional players.

Videotron won’t have wireline networks outside Quebec, which limits its ability to bundle. It acquired VMedia, a third-party internet and TV access provider who provides services using incumbent telecom companies’ networks, as a way to offer a bundle package in the rest of the country. We’ll see how successful they are.

Winners and losers

At first glance, this seems like bad news for a lot of people who don’t like concentration in Canada’s telecom space. It definitely makes Rogers a bigger player overall, which further distorts the disparity between the big guys and the smaller and midsize guys.

For wireless customers in the Freedom territory, it’s a bit of a win, because prices will stay the same or even go down. If the alternative was Freedom shutting down like Xplornet did, that would have been much worse. And Videotron has a much more solid foundation.

For TV subscribers, the difference in competition is relatively low since Rogers and Shaw don’t overlap. The exception is Shaw Direct, which means in theory a Rogers cable TV subscriber in southern Ontario won’t have a satellite service competing for their business because it’s also owned by the same company.

For broadcasters not owned by Rogers, they face a much larger opponent at the bargaining table. If Rogers wasn’t a must-have for any cable TV channel wanting carriage in Canada, it is now. Rogers will be able to demand conditions that are more favourable to itself.

One big loser will be Global News. The CRTC policy that effectively killed community TV funding allows TV providers to funnel money to related local TV stations. When Shaw Cable and Shaw Direct become Rogers, that funding of about $13 million a year will stop flowing to Global News and start flowing to Rogers’ CityNews. Global will then become an “independent” TV broadcaster and be eligible for the Independent Local News Fund, but funding for that fund was established based on the number of independent stations at the time, and it doesn’t have $13 million extra to give to Global. This means not only will Global get less money, but all other independent TV stations (NTV, CHEK, CHCH, and stations owned by Pattison, Stingray, RNC Media, Télé Inter-Rives, Thunder Bay and Miracle Channel) will also get less until the CRTC or federal government can sort out what to do about it.

How the Rogers-Shaw deal would affect Global News

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission today begins a five-day hearing into the proposed purchase of Shaw Communications by Rogers. You can follow a live stream online and see the agenda here.

While there are a lot of competition-related concerns about this purchase, and particularly how it will remove a fourth wireless provider in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, the CRTC’s concern in all this is somewhat narrow. Its permission isn’t needed for a wireless, internet or telephone provider to buy another. (The Competition Bureau and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will undertake their own proceedings to evaluate those concerns, and their approval is also needed before the transaction can proceed.)

Instead, the CRTC’s permission is only required for the transfer of broadcasting assets. Shaw sold its television and radio assets to Corus in 2016, leaving the following:

  • Its licences for television distribution, including Shaw Cable the Shaw Direct satellite TV service
  • Its licences for community television channels tied to those cable distributors
  • Its licences for video on demand and pay-per-view services tied to those cable distributors (Rogers is not acquiring these as it has its own licences)
  • Its licence for a satellite broadcasting distribution relay service, which provides TV signals to other providers
  • Its stake in CPAC

Competition issues will be brought up in discussion of those points. For example, under this deal Rogers would get two thirds ownership of CPAC, giving it effective control (Videotron, Cogeco and Eastlink are also minority owners).

But an issue that hasn’t gotten much attention (besides from the Globe and Mail and a few others) is what this means for Global News.

You see, back in 2017 when the CRTC decided to screw over community television, it put in place a new subsidy system whereby large TV providers can redirect some of the money they would have spent on community television and instead send it to affiliated local TV stations to use for local news. Rogers could give some money to Citytv, Bell could give some money to CTV, Videotron could give some money to TVA, and Shaw could give some money to Corus. Though Shaw and Corus are separate companies, they are both ultimately controlled by the Shaw family, so for the CRTC’s purposes they’re related.

Once Rogers acquires Shaw, it will take the money that went to Corus for Global News and instead redirect it to Citytv stations.

According to CRTC filings, $8.8 million from Shaw Cable and $4.2 million from Shaw Direct were sent to Global for “locally reflective news programming” in 2019-20, for a total of about $12.9 million. That represents about 12 per cent of the $106 million Corus spent on local news in 2019-20.

That would mean significant cuts to Global News, unless Corus just decides to swallow the loss. Since Global as a whole is unprofitable, that seems unlikely.

It’s worth noting that while Corus has pointed this out in a submission, Corus is not on the agenda to appear at the CRTC hearing. Its owner is more interested in the profits from the sale than Corus’s concerns about local news.

The other fund

Now, because there are some private commercial television stations out there that aren’t owned by large cable companies, the CRTC set up a special fund to help them. The Independent Local News Fund is financed by a 0.3% tax on all licensed TV distributors, and is divided among independent TV stations based on the amount of local news they produce.

Because the Rogers-Shaw deal would orphan Global, it could then apply to the ILNF for funding for local news.

But the ILNF’s total budget is $21 million a year ($3 million of which comes from Shaw), so unless it would be willing to part with half its funding, either Global or the other independent stations (or most likely both) would have to lose a lot of money.

When the CRTC approved the purchase of V by Bell Media, V became ineligible for funding from the ILNF, and so its funding was redistributed among the remaining stations. But V only got about $3.2 million from the fund, so there’s a $10 million gap.

The CRTC set the 0.3% tax based on how television stations were owned at the time. A logical solution would be to increase that tax, but that would require a separate hearing, and either a cut to some other contribution line or an increase in costs to television providers that would then be passed on to customers.

Or Canadians could just accept that independent television gets stuck with a big budget cut because Canada’s second-largest communications company wanted to get bigger.

Rogers to buy Shaw for $26 billion — but will regulators agree?

There are days you think Canada’s media and telecom industries are about as converged as they can be. And then another megatransaction gets announced that you think couldn’t possibly be approved by the government. And then it is.

Transactions like Bell buying Astral Media, Bell buying MTS, Rogers buying Mobilicity, Postmedia buying Sun Media, and all the other transactions that brought us to this point.

So the news that Shaw has agreed to a $26-billion sale to Rogers maybe shouldn’t come as quite a shock. But as the government professes to be pro-consumer, particularly when it comes to wireless services, can we really expect this deal to be approved?

Here are the stumbling blocks the companies will have to get over:

  1. Freedom Mobile. In Ontario, Alberta and B.C., Freedom is the fourth large wireless carrier, the last surviving one from that era of increased competition after Mobilicity and Public Mobile were scooped up by the big three. Rogers, which is already Canada’s largest mobile provider, apparently believes it can just keep Freedom as part of the deal, with nothing more than a promise that it won’t raise prices for three years. If the federal government is to be taken seriously on wireless competition, it can’t possibly let that stand. It could force Rogers to sell Freedom to some other party (Quebecor? Xplornet? Cogeco? Some random rich guy?), or it could come to some agreement where Rogers sheds just enough Freedom customers to another party, like Bell did when it bought MTS.
  2. Corus. Shaw and Corus are separate companies, with separate boards of directors and different shareholders, but both are controlled by the Shaw family. The CRTC treats them as if they’re the same for competition reasons. The issue here is that, as part of the transaction, the Shaw family gets two seats on the Rogers board. That doesn’t give them control of Rogers, but does it present enough of a competition concern to warrant increased scrutiny?
  3. Cable and satellite. Because Shaw and Rogers have essentially split the country geographically, with Shaw serving western Canada and Rogers serving eastern Canada, there’s not much overlap in terms of wired coverage to deal with. But these are still big companies. Shaw has 1.4 million cable TV subscribers and more than 600,000 satellite TV subscribers, making almost $4 billion in annual revenue on TV services alone. Add that to Rogers’s 1.5 million TV subscribers and $3.5 billion revenue, and you get a company 30% larger than Bell on that front. That’s a change in dynamic in bargaining position when, say, negotiating carriage contracts with TV services. There’s also the fact that if Rogers buys Shaw’s satellite service, that’s one less TV service option for subscribers in Rogers territory. They go from having to choose between Rogers, Bell Fibe/satellite and Shaw Direct to having to choose between Rogers and Bell alone.
  4. Sheer size. Rogers has $15 billion in annual revenue. Shaw has $5 billion. Combined, they still fall short of Bell’s $24 billion, but not by much. No doubt Rogers will use the need to compete against Bell as an argument for approving the transaction, because the only way to fight ownership consolidation is more ownership consolidation.
  5. Jobs. Rogers has promised to create 3,000 “net new jobs” in western Canada as part of the deal. But it also says “synergies are expected to exceed $1 billion annually within two years of closing.” I’m curious what synergies can be achieved without cutting any jobs.

Mobile service seems like the only potential dealbreaker here, unless there are some minor assets that compete directly that would also need to be divested. Rogers would probably be fine ditching Freedom if that was a condition of approval.

Will political and regulatory forces accept such a deal? We’ll have to see. Recent experience suggests they probably will, and companies don’t go through this kind of trouble if they don’t think a deal can succeed. (At least that’s what I’d like to say, but Rogers’ proposed purchase of Cogeco fell flat, so…)

Rogers offers to buy Cogeco — what it means

Today, we learned Canada’s already concentrated telecom/media industry could soon become even more concentrated: Rogers has teamed up with American cable company Altice USA to make an unsolicited $10.3-billion offer for all of Cogeco’s assets. As part of the deal, Altice would take over Cogeco’s U.S. assets (Atlantic Broadband) and Rogers would take over the Canadian assets (Cogeco Connexion and Cogeco Media) for a net purchase price of $4.9 billion.

Rogers already owns a significant part of the two companies that make up Cogeco, via subordinate voting shares (41% of Cogeco Inc. and 33% of Cogeco Communications).

But both companies are controlled by the Audet family — Henri Audet founded the company more than 60 years ago — and the family has announced that it will not support the bid. Meanwhile, Quebec premier François Legault says he will do whatever is in his power to prevent Quebec from losing another corporate headquarters. But it’s unclear what powers he would have in this case. (Rogers responded by saying it “reaffirmed its commitment to expand and grow its presence in Quebec,” comparing Cogeco to Fido, which is still “headquartered” in Montreal, something at least one expert called BS on.)

Remember Videotron?

If Quebec does decide to step in somehow, this would make the second time it has intervened in a sale of a major cable company to Rogers. In 2000, Rogers came to an agreement to buy Videotron from the Chagnon family. But for similar reasons, the government stepped in and the Caisse de dépôt partnered with Quebecor to present a competing bid that was eventually accepted.

That deal had significant consequences for the media and telecom sphere in Quebec. Videotron became Quebecor’s main source of income as legacy media outlets faded, and now Videotron and Rogers compete for wireless customers, giving Quebec lower wireless rates than other large provinces.

Without Videotron, it’s clear that Quebecor would not be the same company it is now. Not only would it not own the cable company, but it wouldn’t have owned TVA either, since TVA was owned by Videotron at the time. Quebecor would have kept TQS, and either invested enough to improve it or seen it decline along with its other media assets.

(TQS was sold to a partnership between Cogeco and Bell, with Cogeco having the controlling interest. It eventually went bankrupt, was sold to Remstar, and just recently sold again to Bell.)

The Caisse/Quebecor deal didn’t work out so great for the public pension fund. Various analyses of the deal have shown that while the Caisse made money over the years, it would have done much better just putting it into the market.

Will it happen?

If Quebec doesn’t decide to step in (or does something like accept the deal if Rogers keeps some nominal headquarters for Quebec operations in Montreal), then it’s up to the Audet family.

Their deal was submitted to the boards, but the boards quickly rejected the deal as well. Altice responded that it is still pursuing a deal, but the Audet family said point blank “our shares are not for sale” and “our refusal is not a negotiating position, it is definitive.” Altice and Rogers Rogers say they’re playing the long game.

Competition concerns

If the deal is eventually accepted by shareholders, then the CRTC and Competition Bureau will look at it (or at least the Canadian part of it). The bureau looks at competition concerns from an economic perspective — will this deal in some way reduce competition? — while the CRTC considers other factors like diversity of voices.

From a media concentration standpoint, it’s worrisome that another medium-sized player will get scooped up by a large one. Over the past few years we’ve seen Astral Media, MTS and V get bought by Bell, most RNC Media radio stations bought by Cogeco, Public Mobile bought by Telus, Groupe Serdy bought by Quebecor, and a bunch of other smaller transactions.

But Rogers and Cogeco don’t really compete directly in anything. As cable companies, they each have their own territories, and though they may operate in the same regions (like southern Ontario), they don’t overlap. Rogers doesn’t own any radio stations in Quebec, and the only market where both companies operate is Ottawa/Gatineau, where Cogeco has 104,7fm and Rogers has CHEZ 106, Kiss 105.3 and 1310 News. Because they operate in different languages, they are considered part of different markets.

Cogeco had been looking to enter the wireless services market, to offer a bundle option to its cable subscribers. It was waiting on the CRTC to offer better conditions for virtual mobile network operators, which it hasn’t done yet. If Rogers buys Cogeco, the issue becomes moot, and Cogeco’s spectrum simply gets added to Rogers’s services.

Size

According to CRTC data, as of Aug. 31, 2019, the largest companies had the following Canadian television subscribers:

  • Bell 2,820,284
  • Shaw 2,081,536*
  • Rogers 1,606,213
  • Videotron 1,440,097
  • Telus 1,127,676
  • Cogeco 627,608*

*Updated figure from last quarterly report.

Rogers and Cogeco combined would have about 2.2 million subscribers, making it the #2 television provider in Canada behind Bell.

Rogers owns 54 radio stations and Cogeco owns 23. Combined, they would have 77 radio stations, which is just above Stingray’s 74 (it claims to own more than 100 stations, but that includes a lot of retransmitters), and would be #2 in Canada behind Bell’s 109 in terms of number of stations

Rogers is already the #2 radio broadcaster in Canada in terms of annual revenue (figures from 2018-19 reports to CRTC, percentages based on latest Communications Monitoring Report):

  1. Bell: $347 million (25%)
  2. Rogers: $226 million (15%)
  3. Stingray: $152 million (10%)
  4. Corus: $109 million (8%)
  5. Cogeco: $96 million (7%)

If the deal goes through, 45% of all Canadian commercial radio revenue would be controlled by two companies, and 65% by the top four. As we learned from the Bell/Astral acquisition (which created a larger company than Rogers/Cogeco would), the CRTC doesn’t consider national market power in radio acquisitions, just number of stations in individual markets.

Since it got rid of TQS, Cogeco doesn’t own any television assets beyond the community channels associated with its cable companies. It also doesn’t own any newspapers or magazines (and since Rogers sold its remaining magazines to St. Joseph Communications, neither does it).

Rogers will shut down L’actualité if a buyer isn’t found by December

Rogers Media Unveils New Magazine Content Strategy” reads the press release, in typical vague fashion. The upshot is that Rogers is making severe cuts to its magazine portfolio, moving some online-only, reducing publication frequencies of others (including Maclean’s), and selling off the rest.

Except Hello! Canada, the celeb gossip mag. Nothing’s changing there.

Specifically:

Going out of print (but keeping websites “with new content posted daily”):

  • Flare (was 12 issues a year)
  • Sportsnet Magazine (was 15 issues a year)
  • MoneySense (was 8 issues a year)
  • Canadian Business (was 16 issues a year)

Reducing frequency:

  • Maclean’s (from weekly to monthly)
  • Chatelaine (from monthly to 6x a year)
  • Today’s Parent (from monthly to 6x a year)

For sale:

  • All business-to-business publications (including Canadian Grocer and Marketing)
  • L’actualité (18 issues a year)
  • Châtelaine (French, 12 issues a year)
  • LOULOU (French and English, 8 issues a year each)

The changes take effect in January. The notice to subscribers says the French magazines will “cease publication” in December, which means if a buyer isn’t found by then, they’re going to shut down.

The fact that Rogers is openly putting these magazines up for sale suggests that obvious potential buyers are not interested (i.e. TVA Publications). But maybe there’s some deep-pocketed person who would be willing to give L’actualité a second chance.

This news comes the same week Rogers announced the shutdown of shomi, its subscription video-on-demand service. You have to wonder what’s next, and in particular what this might mean for Texture, its bulk magazine subscription app. (Rogers tells the Financial Post that Texture makes a profit.)

No word on how many jobs will be lost as a result of these changes. How many magazines are sold versus shut down will have a big impact on that number.

And colour me pessimistic on the future of magazines that have been turned into digital-only publications. Just about every print publication that has gone online-only in the past has eventually been shut down all together.

Further reading

Bell files CRTC complaint over GamePlus feature on Rogers NHL GameCentre Live

One of Rogers’s attempts to use its $5.2-billion NHL rights purchase to drive subscriptions to its telecom services has prompted competitor Bell to file a complaint with the CRTC.

The complaint is about GamePlus, a feature of the new Rogers NHL GameCentre Live online streaming app. While GameCentre Live is available to anyone for purchase (though free for Rogers customers until the end of the year), GamePlus is exclusive to Rogers Internet, TV, home phone and wireless subscribers. It offers additional camera angles like the ref cam (a camera mounted on a referee’s helmet), sky cam (a wide-view camera that goes up and down the length of the ice at the Air Canada Centre) and star cam (a camera always focused on an individual player).

Continue reading

The NHL season begins, and fans are just as confused as ever

Tonight, the new era of NHL broadcasting in Canada dawns, as Rogers presents its first regular-season games under its new $5.2-billion, 12-year deal with the league. As is tradition, the first match in Canada will be Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs. But while in past years this match was on CBC and RDS, tonight it will be on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

The change in TV channels is only part of the new reality. For the first time in a decade, RDS will be blacked out west of Belleville, Ont., during its 60 regional games (as it was, or should have been, during the preseason games). This has annoyed not only Habs fans in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, but places like northern Ontario, which has a lot of francophones. (I discussed the blackouts in a radio interview with Radio-Canada aimed at that audience.)

And the new rules for the NHL GameCentre Live streaming service have even me confused.

In an effort to help clear up some confusion about NHL games on TV, Saturday’s Gazette included a full-page calendar of all 82 Canadiens games and where they will air in English and French. That page is reproduced as a PDF on Hockey Inside/Out. I also created a printable version that fits on three 8.5/11-inch sheets of paper. And there’s a separate schedule for out-of-market viewers, which provides information on NHL Centre Ice and GameCentre Live availability.

And on top of all that, there’s this downloadable electronic calendar of Habs games listing their TV channels. (Once it loads, just go File -> Save As and save it to your computer, then use your preferred calendar program’s import function.)

This big chart was in the same paper as Brendan Kelly’s big feature on the new way to watch the Canadiens on TV, which includes Rogers admitting that getting programming information to fans will be a big challenge for this first year.

Rogers has recently posted a page on its website that gives some information about regional blackouts for GameCentre Live for the seven Canadian teams and the Buffalo Sabres, whose region extends into Niagara. It provides some additional information about shared broadcast regions and how many games will require Sportsnet subscriptions. And it has a page about the special $60 deal that offers just the French-language regional Canadiens and Senators games that air on RDS on its online streaming service.

For NHL Centre Ice, which fans in southern Ontario and western Canada will need to watch Canadiens games, we’re learning that most providers in those areas are offering a $60 RDS-only package, which means Habs fans in Toronto and Vancouver will get to pay just $10 a month or $1 a game to watch the 60 games that are being blacked out on RDS.

And the regular TV schedule has changed slightly, with two more games being moved from Sportsnet East to City Montreal to accommodate the baseball playoffs on Sportsnet.

There are other things that are still unclear, though. And I’ve just sent Rogers another list of questions that I’m hoping they can answer. It seems late in the process for such information to be unclear, and if I’m not entirely sure about some of it, you can imagine how confused your average fan must be.

The good news is that this situation shouldn’t repeat. Most of the rules will be the same next year as they were this year, and people should be used to the new reality relatively quickly. We’ll have another 12 years until this system dramatically changes again.

In the meantime, for tonight, the game is broadcast nationally in both languages, and the game begins at 7pm. On Thursday, the Canadiens play the Capitals at 7pm, and that game is national in English on Sportsnet 360 and regional in French on RDS. (Don’t ask me to explain that logic.)

Rogers offers special deal for rest of Canada to watch RDS Canadiens regional games online

As anger continues to build among Toronto and other western Canadian Habs fans that they will no longer be able to watch all 82 regular-season games on RDS, Rogers announced today a special deal that might alleviate that somewhat.

NHL GameCentre Live, the NHL streaming service that allows viewers to watch out-of-region games, will cost $200 for the season this year ($180 if you subscribe by Oct. 13). That’s a pretty steep price for people who were used to either having RDS as part of their basic package or paying a buck or two a month at most.

But Rogers is offering a separate deal that contains just the RDS regional games — 60 Canadiens games and 54 Ottawa Senators games — for $60 for the season. That might be enough for the hard-core fans to accept. (Note that this is for fans outside the Canadiens and Senators market, which is all of Quebec, all of Atlantic Canada and the part of Ontario that’s east of Belleville and Pembroke.)

No more blackouts*

On top of that, national games and in-region games, which were formally blacked out on GameCentre to protect the rights of national and regional broadcasters, will no longer be blacked out. So people who buy a subscription won’t have to switch between various media and websites.

The trade-off to that is that these will be available on an authenticated basis, meaning you need a TV subscription to Sportsnet (English) or TVA Sports (French) to access these national or in-region games on GameCentre, and you need your TV provider to participate in the Rogers program. The TVA access for national games in French probably won’t be ready until January because of technical issues.

Rogers confirms that the games that are not available in a certain region on TV will not require authentication to watch on GameCentre.

Rogers says there will still be some blackouts for in-region games whose rights are owned by “another company” (i.e. TSN). So Ottawa Senators regional games in eastern Canada and Winnipeg Jets games in Manitoba and Saskatchewan won’t be available on this service, nor will those Toronto Maple Leafs regional games that air on TSN4 be available in most of Ontario. You have to watch those on TSN.

Similarly, regional Habs and Senators games in French won’t be available in eastern Canada because RDS holds the rights to them.

And more

Other deals for NHL GameCentre Live include:

  • Free subscriptions for Rogers Internet and Rogers Wireless (data) subscribers until Dec. 31. Half-season passes will be $130 for those who want to subscribe after that.
  • More than 800 archived games going back to 1960.
  • A new NHL mobile app coming in October to watch the games on smartphones and tablets.
  • Where multiple feeds are available, such as English/French or Canada/U.S., GameCentre Live provides both as options.

Rogers has promised more GameCentre announcements in the coming weeks. There may also be announcements relating to NHL Centre Ice, the TV-based service for watching out-of-market games.

Sportsnet picks up Canadiens regional games, increases number of national games

With rumours spreading that there would, in fact, be a broadcaster picking up the regional rights to Canadiens games in English, Rogers finally announced today that it has not only picked up the rights to all regional Canadiens games, but that it has increased the number of Habs games being carried nationally, from 32 to 40.

The agreement is a three-year deal. It does not appear to include any preseason games. A play-by-play team has not yet been announced.

39 of the 42 regional games will air on Sportsnet East, which no longer has to worry about regional Senators games because those have moved to TSN. The other three (a Monday game and two Thursday games) will air on City Montreal.

Newly national games are:

  • Thursday, Oct. 9 (7pm @ Capitals) on Sportsnet 360
  • Thursday, Oct. 16 (7:30pm vs. Bruins) on Sportsnet 360
  • Monday, Oct. 27 (9:30pm @ Oilers) on Sportsnet One
  • Thursday, Oct. 30 (10pm @ Canucks) on Sportsnet 360
  • Saturday, Jan. 31 (1pm vs. Capitals) on Sportsnet
  • Wednesday, March 4 (10pm @ Ducks) on Sportsnet
  • Friday, April 3 (7pm @ Devils) on Sportsnet
  • Sunday, April 5 (5pm @ Panthers) on Sportsnet

This means that the Canadiens’ 82-game season breaks down as follows:

  • 39 regional games on Sportsnet East
  • 3 regional games on City Montreal
  • 10 national games (mainly Wednesdays) on Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific
  • 8 national games (first four Saturdays, most Sundays) on City
  • 4 national games on Sportsnet 360 (all Thursdays)
  • 1 national game on Sportsnet One (Monday Oct. 27)
  • 17 national games on Hockey Night in Canada, channels TBA

Because TSN has the Ottawa Senators regional games, and the two team’s regions are identical, two regional games between the two teams (Jan. 15 and March 12) will be on both TSN and Sportsnet, giving viewers a choice of which network to watch.

The deal does not affect radio rights, which are still held by TSN Radio 690.

I’ve updated my post on who’s carrying what games to include this deal as well as additional national games for the Flames and Oilers.

NHL broadcast schedule 2014-15: Who owns rights to what games

Are you pissed because you just saw RDS, TSN or Sportsnet blacked out during an NHL game? This post explains what’s going on and what you can do about it.

Updated Sept. 5 with Rogers-Canadiens regional deal, as well as additional national games for Oilers, Flames and Canucks. Also includes information about out-of-region coverage where two Canadian teams face each other, and information about where some games are national in one language but regional in the other.

The final piece of the puzzle as far as the NHL schedule is concerned has finally been revealed with the publishing of regional broadcast schedules. This allows us to break down who will broadcast what where, and I’ve done so below for the seven Canadian NHL teams.

As previously announced, Rogers has all the national rights to NHL games, which includes all Saturday night games and all playoff games. Beyond that, it gets a bit complicated (some games are national in one language but not the other, for example). Regional games will be viewable in the team’s region (here’s a map of the teams’ regions), but those outside will need to fork out cash for NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre to see all their team’s games. (Or maybe not? Rogers still gives me a coy “details will be announced in the coming weeks” when I ask about that.)

TSN has decided to assign its three regional rights packages to specific channels: Jets on TSN3, Leafs on TSN4 and Senators on TSN5. The five-channel TSN system launches on Monday on every major TV provider in Canada except Videotron (which tells me it’s in discussions to add the other three channels).

Below are how the TV and radio rights break down for each team. They include regular-season games only. Preseason games are regional, and subject to separate deals. All playoff games are national, so their rights are owned by Rogers in English and TVA in French.

Radio rights are not subject to regional blackouts. Listed is their local station only and does not include affiliates.

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The new convergence utopia: Who owns what in Canadian media

A little under three years ago, I published a post with a chart of Canada’s media giants and what they own. Now that the CRTC has given a green light to a major acquisition by one of them, I thought it was a good time to revisit and update that chart.

The following represents who will own what once all the various deals go through, including related deals for asset acquisitions involving Corus, Shaw and Pattison Group.

UPDATE: I’ve moved the chart to this page, where I will be keeping it updated.

Rogers shuts down CityNews Channel

http://twitter.com/sladurantaye/status/340103494935642113

Citing “evolving viewer habits and the global structural shift in advertising,” Rogers announced it is shutting down Toronto all-news channel CityNews Channel effective immediately. It also announced that it would no longer be producing OMNI programming in Alberta, where it has two over-the-air stations in Calgary and Edmonton, and it is killing its English-language South Asian newscast.

The cuts affect 2.5% of the Rogers Broadcast workforce, or 62 full-time jobs.

CityNews Channel launched in 2011 as a local Toronto all-news channel (the announcement of its launch was exactly two years ago). Its main competition was CP24, ironically a channel that was previously run by City but that went to CTV when CTV bought CHUM in 2007. It sold City to Rogers but kept CP24 for itself.

The channel has struggled in ratings, doing worse than even Sun News Network (though that channel is a national one).

OMNI’s Alberta stations, CJEO Edmonton and CJCO Calgary, were licensed as a regional system in 2007, and Rogers had proposed 29 hours a week of local and regional programming. But that proposal was not turned into a condition of licence, and their current licence, which expires in 2015, has no provision for local programming, ethnic or otherwise.

They stopped producing regional daily newscasts in 2011, and now they have no original programming at all.

We’ll see if the CRTC has something to say about the complete lack of original programming when those licences come up for renewal.

Statement from Rogers 

Statement from Scott Moore, President of Broadcast, Rogers Media, regarding CityNews Channel and OMNI Television:

“Today, we made changes to the company’s television strategy to reflect evolving viewer habits and the global structural shift in advertising.

“Moving forward, we will focus our broadcast news resources in Toronto on 680News and CityNews on City, and as a result, have ceased operations of CityNews Channel, effective immediately.  Given the changing marketplace, programming changes have also been made at OMNI Television: the English-language South Asian newscast is no longer being offered and production operations in Alberta have ceased.  We remain committed to ethnic programming and will deliver news in four other languages, as well as continue to air programming in more than 40 languages.

“Today’s changes impact 2.5 per cent of the company’s broadcast workforce.  While difficult, these changes enable us to continue to focus our efforts where we know the market is growing, while helping us to effectively manage our costs.”

Quebecor, Rogers announce wireless network sharing deal

An odd thing to announce at 8:45pm, but Quebecor just sent out a press release saying they’ve come to a 20-year deal with Rogers to create a shared LTE wireless network in Quebec and Ottawa.

I don’t know much more than what’s in the release: The two companies will pool their resources to create a shared network, but maintain their operational independence. This deal follows a similar one between Telus and Bell to share their LTE network.

There are some side-effects to this. For one, Quebecor hints at expanding its handset lineup. Since the only one people care about is the iPhone, I’ve asked if this is the plan. I’ll let you know what they say.

The deal also includes an option for Rogers to purchase Videotron’s unused AWS spectrum in greater Toronto for $180 million. This is important in the context of other new wireless players like Mobilicity and Wind Mobile deciding putting themselves up for sale. Mobilicity has already agreed to a sale to Telus and Wind may also sell to one of the three major incumbents. A partnership between Videotron and Rogers adds to the impression that Canada simply isn’t large enough for more competition in wireless.

Or it might not.