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CRTC rules Rogers can offer GamePlus exclusively to its subscribers

TORONTO – The CRTC ruled Monday that Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) can give its own subscribers exclusive access to its GamePlus service, which delivers bonus content from NHL games.

The federal regulator dismissed a complaint filed against Rogers last fall by the parent of rival Bell TV, which said GamePlus should be available for free to all subscribers of NHL GameCentre Live, regardless of whether they’re a Rogers customer or not.

While GameCentre Live viewers — whether they pay through Rogers or another provider — can access streaming video of live games, the GamePlus app provides a number of extra features, including interactive stats about the hockey players, playbacks of highlights through multiple camera angles and post-game interviews with the players.

The federal regulator concluded Rogers complied with rules which allow companies to provide exclusive content to their subscribers, if it’s not created mainly for traditional television.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said Canadians have an abundance of content available on multiple platforms.

“In order to stand out, creators, producers and distributors have to be creative and find innovative ways to create and deliver content to Canadians through digital media,” Blais said.

“Rogers’ GamePlus service is a complementary service available online to enhance the viewer’s experience. I encourage other companies holding broadcasting rights to be innovative online to in order to provide Canadian and international audiences with content that they want to see.”

Last fall, Bell (TSX:BCE) told the CRTC that it believes GamePlus violates certain regulatory rules that require content created for broadcasters to be made available to all competitors.

Rogers argued the GamePlus features were created for an interactive platform and wouldn’t have been developed solely for TV broadcasts — making them exempt under the rules.

In a statement issued after the CRTC dismissal, Bell spokesman Scott Henderson said the company will consider how the outcome affects its own business.

“We appreciate the clarity the decision provides and will look for opportunities to apply it across our properties,” he said.

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