Rogers Called Anti-Competitive by OneSoccer for Refusing to Carry Streaming Service

According to The Globe and Mail, sports streaming startup OneSoccer has filed an official complaint against Rogers with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC).

OneSoccer alleged in its complaint that Rogers’ refusal to carry the channel on its cable lineup amounts to anti-competitive behaviour as the former competes directly with Rogers’s Sportsnet service.

The company’s filing with the CRTC, known as an “undue preference application,” argues that Rogers’s actions are preventing it from achieving “financial stability, which carriage on Rogers Cable would provide.”

OneSoccer also warned the regulator that Rogers’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw will make things even worse for competition in the broadcast space. Rogers and Shaw merging would make it harder for independent streaming services like OneSoccer to compete with services owned by the pair.

The CRTC has already approved the Rogers-Shaw transaction, but it still requires a green light from the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada and the Competition Bureau. Of the two opponents, the latter has petitioned the federal competition tribunal to block the deal.

If the merger goes through, OneSoccer’s filing says, Rogers will hold 47% of all English-language cable subscribers in Canada, and its network will encompass 80% of homes in English Canada.

“Part of the audience wants to see the content on a traditional platform,” said Oscar Lopez, CEO of OneSoccer parent company Mediapro Canada. “They want to put a [number] in the remote and they want to see a 24-hour linear channel. They don’t want to have, you know, 10, 15 platforms.”

In its complaint, OneSoccer noted that sports streaming is “the largest revenue generator” for discretionary broadcasting services in Canada. However, sports streaming “is dominated by two players.” Like Canada’s wireless scene, OneSoccer said the broadcast space also lacks competition.

“There are very few independent sports broadcasters in Canada. The last significant independent sports broadcaster in Canada was The Score, which was purchased by [Rogers-owned] Sportsnet in 2013.”

OneSoccer added that its streaming service is “desirable” and draws a healthy number of viewers. It is already carried by Telus’ Optik cable service, and the company is currently in talks with Bell to join its network.

“If Rogers Cable was a stand-alone [cable company], it would want to provide highly desirable Canadian content to its customers,” the filing continues. “However, it is part of a vertically integrated corporation and other divisions will be concerned about OneSoccer’s emergence as a viable broadcaster.”

The CRTC cannot force Rogers to carry OneSoccer. That said, the federal regulator can slap Rogers with a fine. The CRTC also has the power to order mediated negotiations between the two companies.