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File photo of The Score’s studio in Toronto. (Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)
File photo of The Score’s studio in Toronto. (Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)

Rogers wants CRTC to ease Score licence rules Add to ...

Rogers Communications wants Canada’s broadcast regulator to make it easier for Canadians to watch live sports on The Score, a channel it acquired last year but is not yet operating as it awaits approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The Score’s current licence requires that it runs a sports ticker around the clock – a nod to its history as an information channel – and that it interrupt live sports broadcasts every 15 minutes for a sports news update. Rogers would like to see those rules eased to one information break an hour if the deal is approved, at least during live broadcasts.

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The channel is only allowed to show the equivalent of one game a day under its licence, which is why the scrappy network was built on a foundation of highlight shows and quirky, fan-driven programming such as Basketball Jones. The broadcaster will need to develop its own programming, but could also use the Score as an overflow channel when it has the rights to more sporting events than it can show on its Sportsnet channels.

Rogers-owned Sportsnet is the No. 2 sports network in Canada behind Bell Media’s TSN, and operates as four regional stations that share content but break out live broadcasts of events of interest to viewers in specific areas of the country – there is Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific. Rogers also has a Sportsnet-branded radio station and a magazine.

The Score started out as a ticker service that provided sports scores, and Rogers said it intends to operate the channel as a headline news service. It also asked that the CRTC extend the channel’s licence for another seven years.

“Rogers will invest the resources necessary to improve The Score so that it continues to meet the evolving news and information requirements and quality of service that Canada’s sports enthusiasts expect of The Score’s unique headline sports news service,” its application states.

“We are committed to providing cable, IPTV and satellite customers with a leading source of sports news and information programming on the linear platform. We will thereby ensure that The Score continues to be a viewing destination for Canadians in an increasingly competitive environment where consumers are accessing comparable programming online and on their mobile devices.”

In documents released by the CRTC Wednesday, Rogers outlines its plans for the network which it paid $138-million for in August. The public and its competitors will have the chance to respond to the filings. The CRTC could hold public hearings if there is enough feedback, ask that some portions of the deal be modified or simply approve the deal as proposed.

“Rogers is not seeking to change the nature of service of The Score,” it said. “[Rogers] is committed to growing and developing The Score’s distinct programming voice as a key element of our group of succe ssful sports programming services. Operating a headline sports news service will fit seamlessly into our current mix of sports specialty services.”

The television station has been operating under a trustee since the deal was announced in August, although Rogers technically own the channel. If the deal is rejected, the trustee would need to find a new buyer. The 10 per cent of the company that Rogers did not buy is now operating as a standalone company called Score Digital, which will focus on developing mobile apps.

Any broadcasting takeover in Canada requires that the buyer direct 10 per cent of the value of the deal toward initiatives that strengthen the country’s broadcast industry. Rogers has proposed spending $10-million over five years to create what it would call the Sportsnet Winter Games, which would be produced by a third-party for the network.

“The Sportsnet Winter Games will bring together the best athletes in Canadian winter action sports each year to compete for medals and top prizes in skiing, snowboarding, skating and snowmobiling among other extreme winter sports. The event is designed to take place in a different region of the country each year in order to showcase and celebrate the distinct regional nature of our national shared experience: winter,” the application states.

It also proposes creating digital media production scholarships and spending almost $5-million on the Sportsnet Amateur Sports Initiative devoted to the development and independent production of Canadian amateur sports programs, such as the Tour of Alberta (cycling), Canadian men’s and women’s basketball and women’s hockey, which are not currently broadcast on Canadian sports channels.”

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