Rogers Communications Inc. is closing in on a deal to sell almost all of its magazine business, according to multiple sources.
The Toronto-based telecommunications and media company is negotiating to sell seven of its digital and print magazine titles − Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Today’s Parent, Hello! Canada, Flare and Chatelaine’s French and English editions − to a company owned by Graeme Roustan, the publisher of sports magazine The Hockey News, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions. The deal would also include Rogers’s custom-content group, which provides services to marketers, such as creating branded in-house magazines.
MoneySense, which has been a digital-only publication since last year, is also for sale but is not part of the proposed deal, sources said. The Globe and Mail first reported in August that Rogers had put the titles on the block and had hired the investment-banking arm of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to manage the sale. A deal with Mr. Roustan has not been finalized, however, and is said to require approval from the Rogers board. It is still possible that another bidder could emerge.
Rogers’s move to find a buyer comes at a challenging time for Canada’s media sector. Magazines and newspapers have been reckoning with declining print revenues for some time, and while digital revenues are growing, the market for digital advertising is largely dominated by tech giants such as Google and Facebook.
Mr. Roustan, the former chairman of the company that owns the Bauer hockey brand, is a relatively rare investor in print properties in particular, purchasing The Hockey News from Quebecor Inc.'s TVA division in January. In May, Mr. Roustan publicly said that he would like to purchase La Presse and restore the print edition of the French-language news outlet, which transitioned to a digital publication in 2017 and is now controlled by a non-profit organization in Quebec.
Mr. Roustan could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
“We do not comment on mergers and acquisitions,” said Andrea Goldstein, senior director of communications for Rogers Media.
The company’s publishing division has been cut back recently: In June, Rogers laid off 75 full-time employees, which reduced the size of its digital content and publishing staff by about one-third. At the time, the company said the cuts were needed to ensure the publishing business remained “sustainable.”
If the deal is finalized, Rogers would continue to operate a digital publishing business focused on news and sports and under brands related to its broadcast operations, such as CityNews and Sportsnet.
Rogers has been rethinking its strategic approach to the media business in recent years, as it attempts to keep pace with changes not only in publishing, but also in television viewership habits. The company has placed particular emphasis on sports, betting that they will help to drive TV subscriber revenues and draw in live audiences that advertisers will pay for. It is in the midst of a $5.2-billion, 12-year contract for National Hockey League broadcast rights in Canada, and owns the Toronto Blue Jays.
According to information Rogers provided to potential buyers in the summer, the print titles for sale had a total of $12-million in print advertising revenue last year, and $16.5-million in print subscription and newsstand sales. The digital operations of all the magazines for sale had $9.5-million in digital advertising and $600,000 in digital subscription revenue. One of the titles, Hello! Canada, is a brand not owned by Rogers, but is published under an agreement with a Spanish publishing company.
Rogers began reshaping its magazine business in 2016, when it first announced the scaling-back of printed titles. At the time, it also put some French-language magazines and trade publications up for sale.