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Rogers to compete with Bell on content from sports teams they both own

Wednesday, 02.22.2012 / 4:35 PM / News

The Canadian Press

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Rogers to compete with Bell on content from sports teams they both own

MONTREAL - Improved hockey, basketball and soccer coverage, including better access to team practices and more angles on scoring are among improvements sports fans can expect from Rogers now that it owns a big chunk of Toronto's top sports franchises.

"The consumer, really, is the real winner in this deal because they're going to get coverage like they've not seen before," Keith Pelley, president of Rogers media division, said Wednesday.

Rival telecom giants Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) and Bell Canada (TSX:BCE) bought a majority stake last December in the country's biggest sports franchise company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for more than $1 billion.

Even though Rogers and Bell own a chunk of the NHL's Maple Leafs, the NBA's Raptors and the Toronto FC soccer club, they will compete on how they distribute the content, Pelley said on a media call.

Rogers and Bell want to put the sports content on everything from smartphones to tablets to televisions to personal computers so that fans don't miss any of the games. The move also gives them more access advertising revenue.

"We're quite competitive with our friends at Bell," Pelley said.

"We're not going to share all of our secrets about how we're going to make our coverage different than theirs, but we're going to use all of our multiple platforms to be able to give the consumers Leaf coverage and Raptor coverage like they've not seen before."

Pelley said coverage of the games is expected to be divided between Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Bell (TSX:BCE), but scheduling will be a challenge.

In the short term, Pelley said consumers won't see much difference in game coverage. The deal is expected to close in late spring near the end of the second fiscal quarter.

Different angles on goals, dressing room access and "the one you can probably assume is that consumers will have better access to practices," are being considered, he said.

"But how we would cover the games and how we go after advertising revenue is really where the competitive battle will change from our on-air commentators to our integrated packages," Pelley said from Toronto.

Although Rogers and Bell will share ownership of the content, it will be very competitive in "how we're going to distribute that content," Pelley said.

Rogers already owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and their stadium, the Rogers Centre, as well as the broadcaster Sportsnet.

Bell owns the CTV television network and specialty cable channels such as TSN sports channel and French-language cable channel RDS. Bell also has a minority ownership stake in the NHL's Montreal Canadiens.

Rogers and Bell will pay the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan about $533 million apiece for their respective 37.5 per cent chunks of MLSE. Minority owner Larry Tannenbaum, through his company Kilmer Sports, will boost his current stake in MLSE by five per cent to 25 per cent.

Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness