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Vancouver Canucks' Yannick Weber (6) scores a goal against Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) during third period NHL hockey action in Edmonton on Wednesday November 19, 2014.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Rogers Communications Inc. says it never would have developed a companion app for tablets and smartphones that lets hockey fans customize their viewing experience if it had to share that technology with its competitors.

The company's GamePlus mobile application is an add-on feature to GameCentre Live, which lets users stream National Hockey League games online. Unlike the streaming service though, the GamePlus app is only available to Rogers customers, and rival BCE Inc. filed a complaint with the country's broadcast regulator over that exclusivity last month.

Ken Engelhart, Rogers's vice-president of regulatory affairs, says GamePlus is the first Canadian example of interactive television – "[which is] the idea that you are, in effect, your own programmer" – and creating it is an expensive endeavour.

"Instead of one camera, you now have five or six or 10 cameras, and you have to deliver all those feeds to a customer in a way that allows them to seamlessly switch back from one to the other," he said in an interview Thursday after Rogers filed its response to BCE's complaint.

The company wouldn't have invested in the technology just to enhance television viewers' experience, he said. "It simply would never pay back."

"We wouldn't be able to recoup those costs. But we have been able to make a model work where we can recoup those costs by using it as a value-added service for our Rogers wireless and Internet and cable customers," Mr. Engelhart said, explaining that its strategy is to retain and acquire new customers for its distribution businesses.

BCE – along with Telus Corp. and Atlantic Canada cable and wireless provider Eastlink, which both filed interventions with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission – argues that GamePlus is a violation of the CRTC's vertical integration rules, which require companies that both create and distribute media content to offer it to their rivals to distribute as well. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)

Some hockey fans who do not subscribe to Rogers services have been dismayed at their lack of access to the GamePlus viewing features. Eastlink, which is owned by Bragg Communications Inc., complained in a filing Thursday that since Rogers does not offer Internet, television or home phone services in the areas where Eastlink operates, its customers must subcribe to Rogers's wireless service if they want to access the GamePlus app.

"If this exclusivity continues to be permitted, consumers will very quickly be forced to pay more for access to content as a result of being forced into multiple subscriptions for mobile and Internet services," Telus wrote it in a filing with the CRTC last week.

But Rogers argues that the app falls under an exemption for content created specifically for mobile or Internet platforms and says it is not withholding programming designed for conventional television, such as the games themselves.

"We think [GamePlus] can pay for itself as a differentiator between us and our competitors, which is exactly why the CRTC said for content that is not intended for television, you can have exclusives," Mr. Engelhart said. "They knew that you're going to need different kinds of business models to develop new kinds of innovations and that's exactly what we think we've done here."

BCE has 10 days from Thursday to reply to Rogers' submission. The commission could then issue a decision, ask for more information or call a formal hearing into the matter.

Rogers won the national NHL rights for 12 years in a $5.2-billion deal last year and has been trying to leverage those rights for the benefit of its all-important distribution business.

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