Rogers Responds to Anti-Competitive Allegations by OneSoccer

Rogers has responded to allegations of anti-competitive behaviour that were laid against the telecommunications giant in a complaint filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by soccer-centric sports streaming service OneSoccer (via The Globe and Mail).

Back in August, OneSoccer accused Rogers of anti-competitive practices after the company refused to carry the streamer’s over-the-top sports service on its cable systems. OneSoccer claimed Rogers was unfairly suppressing competition against Sportsnet, the company’s own sports service.

Rogers argued that soccer is only a small part of the live sports programming on Sportsnet, so OneSoccer doesn’t really qualify as a competitor to the service with its focus on just soccer.

“A niche, single-sport discretionary service, like OneSoccer, is simply not competing in the same market and for the same audiences as mainstream multisport services, like Sportsnet and Sportsnet One, that devote an extremely small amount of their schedules to soccer,” Rogers said in a letter to the CRTC last month.

OneSoccer launched is a streaming upstart that launched in 2019 and mostly carries three-year-old Canadian Premier League and national men’s and women’s team play.

Sportsnet, meanwhile, is a multisports network with 6.1 million subscribers as of August 31, along with 5.3 million for Sportsnet One.

Rogers claims that soccer is not a significant enough part of Sportsnet’s schedule for its refusal to carry OneSoccer to be anti-competitive. According to the company, soccer makes up “a mere 1.2 per cent of the [Sportsnet and Sportsnet One] programming.”

That said, Sportsnet does have its own soccer-focused channel, called Sportsnet World. “Just over 30 per cent of [that channel’s schedule] is devoted to German Bundesliga soccer and the English FA Cup,” Rogers said in its letter. “None of the programming involves Canadian soccer leagues, games or teams.”

OneSoccer, however, is far from convinced that its offering does not compete with Sportsnet. “While it is true that OneSoccer offers one sport and Sportsnet offers several, the two services compete,” the streamer said in a response filed with the CRTC.

“A department store that offers clothing, appliances, toys and furniture still competes against a clothing store. A family restaurant that offers a range of different entrees still competes against a burger joint. Sports fans watch sports on TV. If they watch more soccer on OneSoccer, it will take eyeballs and ad dollars away from Sportsnet.”

OneSoccer President Oscar Lopez wants the streamer’s service to be available on all possible screens because many viewers still prefer to watch TV programs on traditional platforms.

“We are in the middle of a transition between the old cable platforms to the new content aggregators [such as FuboTV], through OTTs,” Lopez said during an interview last summer. “We have audiences on all the platforms. So we want to be present on all the possible screens and platforms.”

The ongoing dispute is especially significant given that Rogers’s cable dominance is set to grow even more if its long-embattled $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications goes through. In fact, Rogers is poised to have a 47% share of all English-language cable subscribers following the merger.

Rogers rival Telus filed an intervention with the CRTC in support of OneSoccer’s complaint, urging Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator to “ensure Rogers is not free to weaken the viability of its competitors as a precursor to attempting to buy the service, or its programming rights.”