The Competition Bureau has found that the
Rogers-NHL 12-year broadcast agreement has not, "at this
time," resulted in a substantial lessening of competition
(SLC). The 2013 agreement marked the first time that one party
(Rogers) has held exclusive rights to broadcast all the national
NHL games. Prior to the new agreement, broadcast rights were split
between Bell (TSN) and CBC, with Rogers and Bell holding regional
rights to various Canadian teams.
Media coverage of the Bureau's ruling can be found here. The key concern for the Bureau was
whether the exclusive 12-year deal placed Rogers in a position of
enhanced market power with respect to sports programming. The SLC
concern focused on the competitive effects of the Agreement, in
the prices that cable companies and other distributors pay for
Rogers' Sportsnet channels;
advertising rates during NHL games; and
the ability of Rogers' broadcast competitors to obtain
important sports programming.
More detail of the Bureau's analysis can be found in its
"positon statement." It is interesting to
note that, with respect to the potentially anti-competitive impact
of the agreement on Rogers' ability to extract higher prices
from cable and other broadcast distributors, the Bureau found that
television distributors viewed Sportsnet as a "must have"
channel "both prior to and following the Agreement." The
Bureau also concluded that Bell's TSN was similarly viewed as a
"must have" channel.
What appears to have given the Bureau some comfort, however, is
the existence of the CRTC's sector-specific regulatory regime
overseeing the price behaviour of licensed discretionary television
channels such as Sportnet. The Bureau expressly notes that, in the
absence of a negotiated agreement between Rogers and television
distributors for carriage of the Sportsnet channels and the fees
paid by their subscribers, the CRTC's dispute resolution
processes, which contemplates in some circumstances, a final-offer
arbitration mechanism, can be engaged to reach a resolution. The
Bureau states that "in the course of [its] review, the Bureau
found evidence indicating that [the dispute resolution] processes
can be an effective mechanism to remedy disputes concerning
carriage fees for NHL content."
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