Competition Bureau Concludes Rogers-NHL Deal Not Anti-Competitive

Nearly two years into the landmark 12-year, $5.2 billion deal Rogers signed with the NHL, Canada’s Competition Bureau has concluded its review of the transaction and deemed the agreement has not lessened or prevented competition—to date.

The Bureau investigated whether this deal—the largest media rights deal in NHL history—would have any of the following impacts:

  • Allow Rogers to increase wholesale prices cable companies and distributors pay for Sportsnet channels “above competitive levels”
  • Allow Rogers to raise rates for NHL game advertising above regular levels
  • Allow Rogers to exclude broadcast competitors by removing access to “must have” content

The Bureau concluded Rogers’ Sportsnet was a “must have” channel according to television distributors prior to and after the NHL deal, which was also the case with Bell’s TSN channel.

Also, advertisers “do not feel captive to Rogers” for space during NHL games as alternative ways are available to reach hockey audiences.

The conclusion based on available evidence was “The information obtained in this matter does not indicate that the acquisition of NHL broadcast rights by Rogers has at this time substantially lessened or prevented competition in any relevant market in Canada.”

But the Bureau also mentioned it would not hesitate to investigate the matter again should “new and compelling evidence” arise that indicates the deal could harm the Canadian marketplace.

Prior to the deal, NHL rights were divided between Bell’s TSN and the CBC, plus Rogers. The latter revealed last year it sought the exclusive deal to stem its TV losses and the fear competitor Bell would nab rights.

Rogers told The Globe and Mail “we’re pleased with the decision.” A spokesman for the Competition Bureau was unable to confirm whether it received any complaints regarding the NHL deal, while the investigation itself was never confirmed until today, due to confidentiality rules.