Competition Bureau says 12-year, $5.2 billion Rogers-NHL deal doesn't hurt competition

TORONTO – The Competition Bureau says it has found no evidence that competition for advertising dollars has been reduced since Rogers Communications got exclusive Canadian rights to National Hockey League games under a landmark 12-year deal.

The bureau looked at the agreement’s potential effect on advertising rates during games, the price that other companies pay to distribute Rogers’ Sportsnet channels, and the ability of Rogers’ competitors to buy the broadcasting rights to other sports.

The Competition Bureau said it determined advertisers have other ways of reaching the same demographics.

It also concluded the disputes over channel costs can be resolved through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications and that NHL rights are not a “must-have” for TV providers.

The $5.2-billion deal between Rogers and the NHL was signed in November 2013. The 2014-15 season was the first covered by the deal.

Since the collaboration began, Rogers has launched its Gamecentre Live streaming app, which it initially offered for free with certain wireless and Internet plans.

Critics had been concerned that the app fell afoul of regulations that prevent the big media companies from making TV content available only on their own service. But Gamecentre Live and its accompanying mobile app are now available to all.

CBC will also broadcast Hockey Night in Canada TV programs over at least the first four years of the agreement, although Rogers runs the shows and gets advertising revenue. Rogers also sold the French-language rights to Quebecor Media’s TVA Group.