Rogers Gave Special Treatment to Sportsnet Over OneSoccer, Rules CRTC

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) last week ruled that Rogers Communications gave preferential treatment to its own Sportsnet service over competing sports streamer OneSoccer — reports The Globe and Mail.

OneSoccer is a direct-to-consumer streaming service that launched in 2019 but has since struggled to establish a foothold in the market. To boost viewership, OneSoccer has been trying to get traditional cable TV distributors to carry it, but it has so far only found success with Telus.

Last year, OneSoccer lodged a complaint against Rogers for refusing to carry its channel. In its complaint with the CRTC, OneSoccer alleged that Rogers was being anti-competitive and refusing to carry the streaming service to protect the market share of its own service, Sportsnet.

Rogers later responded to OneSoccer’s claims by saying that it doesn’t air enough soccer for OneSoccer to qualify as competition to its business. According to the CRTC’s Thursday decision, however, Rogers gave undue preference to its own channel and other comparable services in its dealings with OneSoccer.

Canada’s broadcast and telecom watchdog found that Rogers did not give OneSoccer the same opportunity for carriage as two other independent sports channels, BeIN Sports Canada and EuroWorld Sport, or Rogers’ own Sportsnet World.

The CRTC said “it is unfortunate that soccer fans in Canada have very limited ways of watching Canadian soccer and soccer-related content on television,” and added that it found Rogers’ “refusal to distribute OneSoccer has also had an impact on Canadians.”

According to OneSoccer, over 90% of its programming comprises Canadian soccer content and a large chunk of its live programming is Canadian Premier League play, which is now in its fifth season.

The CRTC went on to note that Rogers carrying OneSoccer would be good for competition in the sports programming space, which is controlled largely by Rogers Media and Bell Media. It would “enhance the diversity of voices and the plurality of ownership in sports programming services, which is largely dominated by the two largest vertically integrated entities in the country,” said the Commission.

OneSoccer welcomed the CRTC’s ruling and, in a statement, called its decision “an important step forward for Canadian soccer.”

“Soccer is the fastest-growing sport in the country, and with competitive national teams in both the women and men’s categories, a growing professional league in the CPL and continuing grassroots development, soccer is deserving of broader coverage – and the CTRC clearly recognized this fact,” said Martijn Bakx, CEO of Mediapro Canada, which operates OneSoccer.

Rogers, meanwhile, said it was reviewing the Commission’s decision. “We are proud to offer our customers a wide variety of popular and coveted sports content,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Following the CRTC’s ruling, both Rogers and OneSoccer now have until April 11 to submit proposed remedies to resolve the finding of undue preference and disadvantage. The two companies will also be due to submit responses to each other’s filings 10 days later.

Meanwhile, OneSoccer is also expected to leverage the CRTC’s decision to negotiate carriage deals with other TV distributors like Bell Fibe, Shaw Cable, Cogeco, and more.