Rogers joins bigger neighborhood

Canadian cable operator is major new player

MONTREAL — Suddenly there is a major new player in the Canuck terrestrial broadcast biz.

With its C$375 million ($352 million) purchase of CTVglobemedia’s five City-tv stations, Rogers Media has, in one dramatic gesture, become the owner of the third network in Canada after CTV and Global.

Before snapping up the City-tv channels in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, Toronto-based Rogers was a relatively minor TV player. It owned four regional multicultural channels named Omni, as well as owning and operating sports channel Rogers Sportsnet.

However, it is Canada’s leading cable operator and one of the country’s top wireless/cellphone companies.

CTVglobemedia was forced to sell the much-coveted City-tv channels by regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission June 8 in order to go through with its $1.3 billion acquisition of broadcaster Chum.

CRTC rules prevent broadcasters owning more than one major TV station in the same market and CTV already has stations in all the cities where City-tv operates.

It is unclear just how Rogers will change the TV biz here.

The official line from Rogers is that it will be business as usual at the City-tv channels. But some think with its deep pockets Rogers could spend more on Hollywood programming to challenge CTV and Global.

“The fact that Rogers bought it is good,” says Richard Hardacre, president of Canuck actors union ACTRA. “This is a proud Canadian company and I believe (Rogers founder and head honcho) Ted Rogers is someone who cares about what this country has to offer in terms of television.”

Rogers VP Jan Innes says the City-tv stations will remain much as they were under Chum’s stewardship — hip, young and with a mix of U.S. and Canuck fare.

“We’re very high on the franchise and what we bring to the table is a long-term commitment,” says Innes.

He says it is too early to say what will happen in management at City-tv but did note that Rogers is committed to keeping City-tv’s employees.

CTVglobemedia, however, will take over the City-tv building on Queen St. West in downtown Toronto, one of the best-known TV landmarks in Canada.

City-tv building also houses 13 of the 21 Chum pay channels that CTVglobemedia is picking up as part of the deal.

Rogers had originally intended to buy CTVglobemedia’s seven A-Channels, which the latter acquired in the Chum takeover. But that deal fell apart when the CRTC ordered CTVglobemedia to sell the five City-tv stations.

CTVglobemedia had wanted to use the City-tv channels to construct a second smaller network to operate alongside its main CTV web. Now it will create that secondary network with the A-Channel stations. These stations are in secondary markets and some bigger cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

Canada’s producers are pleased that there will be three broadcast owners, says Canadian Film and Television Production Assn. prexy Guy Mayson.

“We’d like to see Canadian programming as the cornerstone of the primetime schedule” on City-tv he says.

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