Rogers Communications Inc.s plans to transform its Sportsnet property into the countrys leading sports entertainment brand wont include owning a piece of the Olympics.
Rogers announced Thursday it is terminating the minority position it held in a broadcast partnership with CTV, the countrys largest network, after next years London Summer Games and instead turn its focus on other programming opportunities it can more fully control.
When you put it all together right now, its not a fit for us, said Rogers media chief Keith Pelley, the former CTV executive behind the Olympic partnership that brought the Vancouver Games to TVs, laptops and smartphones last winter before he decamped to run Rogers Media.
This was a difficult decision on so many levels, but its a disciplined approach that allows us to pursue new opportunities, Mr. Pelley said.
Rogers and CTVglobemedia Inc. paid more than $150-million – a record sum – for the 2010 and 2012 Games, shattering the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.s decades-long hold. That deal was cut, however, before chief competitor BCE Inc. swooped in to acquire CTV this spring, a paradigm-shifting move thats raised the competitive tensions between Rogers and BCE, which has formed the new Bell Media around CTV.
The Olympic arrangement heavily favours Bell, which may now attempt to lavish itself with the most prized events and programming and turn Rogers into an also-ran with advertisers, analysts say.
Continuing such a relationship past 2012 was something Mr. Pelley was clearly uncomfortable with, a person close the matter said. Theyre really considered CTVs games.
The financial performance was also difficult to rationalize, with the consortium failing to break even in Vancou-ver and prospects even less attractive for London, with events occurring far out of prime-time viewing hours.
While brand building and integration – hallmarks of Mr. Pelley – are other motivations to acquire Olympic broadcast rights for networks such as NBC, which is seen as Americas network for the Games (taking a US$220-million-plus loss in Vancouver to accomplish the feat), Rogers smaller stake in the partnership will see its brands, especially Sportsnet, overshadowed.
Instead of seeking more control in another joint bid for Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro five years from now, Rogers wants to secure sports content it can control. The drive is crucial in Mr. Pelleys efforts to overtake CTVs TSN, which has outdistanced Rogers Sportsnet to claim top TV dial.
Rogers partnered with CBC this summer to deliver 2011 FIFA Womens World Cup of soccer, and is pushing now to obtain more overseas professional sports content such as soccer and cricket. Mr. Pelley is launching this fall a Sportsnet offshoot channel expressly committed to those sports.
Well have more announcements in the coming weeks with a couple of big properties weve secured, he said. And we continue to look.
Asked whether Rogers will move to secure the coveted FIFA Mens World Cup coming up for bidding soon, the executive said, Thats something we would look at.
Yet future sports content partnerships among Canadian television and Internet providers are not off the table – quite the contrary. Eyeballs and advertisers have flocked to live sports in increasing numbers in recent quarters, a trend analysts expect to continue.
Leagues obviously know this, and are demanding more from media companies tripping over themselves to win them.
Tags: Sports Entertainment