SBD/August 17, 2012/Media

Bell, Rogers Cleared By CRTC To Purchase Majority Stake In MLSE

BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Thursday "cleared the last remaining hurdle" to purchase a majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, according to Vanessa Lu of the TORONTO STAR. The Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission signed off on the C$1.32B deal, "which is expected to close imminently." Bell and Rogers will get a 75% stake in MLSE, which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs, AHL Marlies, and MLS Toronto FC, "as well as real estate and television holdings." However, the CRTC "did reiterate an earlier ruling it made in 2011 that prohibits companies from offering television programs on an exclusive basis to their mobile or Internet subscribers" (TORONTO STAR, 8/17). The GLOBE & MAIL's Rita Trichur writes while this "paves the way for the two rivals to take control of the iconic sports company," the CRTC is "imposing some conditions on the MLSE deal, but stressed Thursday that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive behaviour." Both Bell and Rogers said that they "look forward to the deal closing in short order, although no firm date has been set." The CRTC is "requiring BCE and Rogers to roughly double the amount of money they must spend to support the Canadian broadcast system through the deal." The two companies will have to spend C$7.5M "over the next seven years on the creation of new sports-themed programming by Canadian independent producers -- a pot of money known as 'tangible benefits.'" BCE and Rogers "had originally proposed a tangible-benefits package" worth C$3.8M (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/17).

LOSING MONEY ON LONDON: The FINANCIAL POST's Jamie Sturgeon notes execs for Bell Media, the owner of CTV, which led coverage of the Olympics in Canada, "confirmed Thursday the joint partnership with the broadcast arm of Rogers Communications Inc. will lose 'tens of millions' of dollars on the marquee event, building on losses the two companies took in Vancouver two years earlier." Rogers and Bell partnered in '05 to pay C$153M to the IOC for the broadcast rights to the Games in '10 and '12. Losses for the London Games "weren’t as steep as they were for Vancouver," which cost C$90M compared with C$63M for the '12 rights. However, the "financial toll of the rights combined with production costs was enough to convince both parties to not renew the pact for the 2014 and 2016 events" (FINANCIAL POST, 8/17).
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