What Today’s CRTC Decision Means For OneSoccer And Rogers
A significant ruling made by the CRTC could pave way to putting the Canadian national team and the Canadian Premier League on a traditional television channel through Rogers.
The decision involves an ongoing complaint between OneSoccer owner Timeless Incorporated and Rogers, whom Timeless alleges passed over its service being on a linear channel because it would compete with Sportsnet. Today’s determination will be seen as a big win for the former.
The CRTC declared that Rogers’ decision not to pick up OneSoccer on a linear channel (read: traditional cable television) gave an undue preference to both Rogers and other streaming services similar to OneSoccer, while also causing a material adverse impact on Timeless Incorporated, Canadian sports fans, and even on the achievement of certain objectives of the Broadcasting Act itself.
The commission’s verdict means that both parties must now propose remedies to resolve the findings of undue preference and disadvantage, and both must submit potential remedies by April 11, 2023 and then submitting their final replies to eachother’s proposals ten days later.
While it’s not clear what Rogers and Timeless will ultimately agree on, today’s decision made by Canada’s broadcast regulator could carve a speedway for OneSoccer to land a linear television channel through Rogers, potentially opening up the CPL’s audience to millions of Canadian viewers.
Timeless had opened a CRTC complaint alleging that Rogers was favouring its own platforms like Sportsnet, with Rogers then citing a ‘limited appeal’ in OneSoccer in its initial response to the complaint. Telus, who carries OneSoccer on a linear channel itself, chimed in support of OneSoccer’s complaint, while OneSoccer also alleged that Rogers’ likely-impending acquisition of Shaw would further damage Rogers’ decision not to carry them.
Rogers had said that OneSoccer’s viewership numbers and the number of valuable matches played are both too minimal to prove sufficient for a linear channel, describing the CPL as a ‘lower-level league’ with a modest following.
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 its ruling, the CRTC found that beIN Sports Canada, EuroWorld Sport and Sportsnet World were comparable programming services to OneSoccer and, as they are a currently distributed by Rogers on a linear basis, there was a case to be made that OneSoccer was being treated unfairly.
While Rogers had offered to put OneSoccer on its on-demand platform and place its application on Ignite TV, the CRTC felt that the value of placing a programming service on an app was not equal to that of it being on a linear channel. The commission determined that by Rogers refusing to distribute OneSoccer on a linear basis, it had subjected Timeless to a disadvantage compared to the aforementioned comparable services.
The CRTC also noted that while OneSoccer is available both the service’s website and fuboTV, not all Canadians have a reliable internet connection. With very limited options available to access Canadian soccer content, it found that Rogers’ refusal to distribute OneSoccer has also had an impact on Canadians at large.
With Timeless Incorporated and Rogers now having just two-and-a-half weeks to cook up an amicable solution, there’ll be plenty of eyes watching to see what ultimately unfolds – especially if the result could bring OneSoccer to millions of further viewers, despite the fact that Rogers has fought against carrying the Canadian soccer-specific streaming service following a short trial national team coverage.
More to come as the story develops.