Rogers Cites ‘Limited Appeal’ Of OneSoccer In CRTC Dispute
Rogers has slammed OneSoccer as having ‘limited appeal’ to Canadian consumers in a recent response to the Timeless Incorporated’s allegations that the BDU passed over the service because it would compete with Sportsnet.
The public response appeared in a broadcast proceeding note filed on September 6, in which Rogers presented a platform for its defense against Timeless’ CRTC complaint.
The Rogers response surmises that as Sportsnet streams so little soccer, the two services cannot be competitors – but it also goes on to stay that OneSoccer’s viewership numbers and the number of valuable matches played are both too to minimal prove sufficient for a linear channel, while also arguing that there is a precedent that soccer as a whole has now migrated to an over-the-top streaming market in Canada.
The abridged response didn’t hold back too many punches, with Rogers even calling the Canadian Premier League – Canada’s domestic top flight – a ‘lower-level league’ which only attracts a modest number of fans, stating that it is one of several leagues featured on the streaming service which holds significantly less appeal to Canadian consumers than the likes of national team football.
The Canadian Premier League has been the primary broadcast product of OneSoccer, who have partnered with the likes of fuboTV and Telus as a signal boost in local markets while securing broadcast deals with foreign companies like Fox Sports, Caribbean broadcaster Flow Sports, and Mexico’s Hi! Sports TV. Of those, Fox Sports has carried the CPL for three years now.
In short, it has been much easier for viewers in other countries to tune in to a Canadian Premier League match on a traditional service than it has been for users in the country in which the games are played.
Rogers states that the rights to leagues like the CPL hold ‘significantly less appeal to consumers in Canada’ as compared to the likes of World Cup, describing the CPL as ‘not a widely popular league whose games would garner large audiences on linear TV’.
The company argues that there is already evidence of this from when select Canadian Premier League matches featured on CBC Sports for its inaugural 2019 launch year pandemic-shortened 2020 Island Games season, also offering that the numbers from last summer’s Concacaf Women’s Championship had, too, not reached what it believes was a sufficient level.
Back in 2020, we had requested and received viewership numbers from CBC Sports, who confirmed that the regular season and group stage CPL matches from 2020 had a 2+ average minute rating of 48,000 viewers, with a number of those matches coming with tape delays rather than concurrent live airings.
As some have pointed out, that viewership average put it in the same ballpark as what Toronto FC matches had achieved in 2016, though that was behind a paygate versus the free nature of CBC Sports.
Given that OneSoccer’s national team rights do not include official World Cup matches, Rogers also argued that there was limited value there given the limited number of qualifying and exhibition matches set to take place for both the men’s and women’s sides.
Timeless has argued some of these qualification matches were ‘on par – or in excess of – other sport properties, such as the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, or National NHL broadcasts.’ The full viewership numbers for these World Cup qualifiers were not obtained.
Rogers also referred to the time it had, along with Bell and Telus, partnered for a free pay-per-view event for a national team match between Canada and the USA in 2019, with the abridged report suggesting that Rogers’ viewership numbers had been low.
“We do not deny that the rights OneSoccer holds to [a] small number of premium games are valuable,” surmised Rogers in its response. “However, OneSoccer does not hold enough of those rights to make its service compelling to consumers over the course of an entire broadcast year, and therein lies the issue.”
In such, the company argued that OneSoccer does not merit a dedicated linear channel, as Rogers does not judge the country’s domestic league to be of significant value.
Rogers also placed heavy emphasis on the soccer market’s transition to largely over-the-top streaming services in the Canadian market, where traditional broadcast media has either been heavily out-invested by streaming services, or simply never showed much by the way of interest in soccer.
In fact, the response sees Rogers state that OneSoccer isn’t a mainstream sports service like Sportsnet and Sportsnet One, stating that as neither of its two aforementioned services stream a significant amount of soccer-related programming, they’re ‘not in the same genre’.
While both Rogers services feature Bundesliga, FA Cup, and FA Women’s Super League content, Rogers states that it only devotes a ‘minimal amount of their schedules to soccer-related programming’. It provided a number that showed only 1.2% of two Sportsnet schedules contained soccer-related programming.
Essentially, Rogers has argued that since it puts such a low emphasis on soccer, it simply can’t be a competitor for OneSoccer. However, it did admit that Sportsnet World – which it describes as a niche service – dedicated some 30% of programming to soccer.
The company had previously offered to carry the OneSoccer application on Ignite TV and Ignite streaming platforms, believing that while there would not be enough customer interest to warrant a linear channel, it could still capture some of that soccer interest they believe typically came through online programming.
The company also pointed out that aside of Telus, other traditional broadcast companies have not come to terms with OneSoccer either, arguing that this shows that they share Rogers’ view in that OneSoccer’s programming has limited value to consumers as a linear channel.
For the moment, other BDUs which don’t carry OneSoccer have not publicly actually commented on this matter, but Telus has thrown its weight in support of OneSoccer.
“The most reasonable explanation for Rogers’ disinterest in distributing OneSoccer is that it would compete with its affiliated programming service, Sportsnet,” said a comment from Telus.
While the battle between Onesoccer owner Timeless Inc. and Rogers isn’t over, it’s an odd situation for Canada’s top domestic league: while it’s done well to shoulder a pandemic just one year after launch and features a good product on the pitch, it’s still forced to fight tooth-and-nail for mainstream recognition.
For Timeless, the act of filing a CRTC is the equivalent of going nuclear – but if it wasn’t making headway through other means even after asking viewers to directly appeal to companies like Rogers to carry them, it was evidently worth the risk of risk of a heavily publicized dispute.
For the national team, getting itself on a platform that proves accessible for domestic fans is no new struggle, despite experience a significant boon in support following an earlier-than-expected World Cup entry.
With the CRTC judgement still to come, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next for the streaming service, its owner, and the landscape for domestic football accessibility as the sport approaches an expected boom period.