Rogers plays web card in hockey app dispute
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Nov 20, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Rogers plays web card in hockey app dispute

Rogers says interactive app was designed for mobile and Internet platforms and is therefore exempt from legislation governing conventional TV broadcasters

OurWindsor.Ca

Rogers Communications will continue to offer its GamePlus online hockey viewing app, saying the product satisfies regulations and calling a Bell Canada complaint an attempt to stifle innovation.

In a submission to the federal telecommunications and broadcasting regulator late Thursday in response to Bell, Rogers said the interactive app was specifically designed for mobile and Internet platforms and is therefore exempt from legislation governing conventional TV broadcasters.

“GamePlus content offers users an inherently interactive experience,” Rogers said in the submission. GamePlus offers unique angles that can be customized by viewers including one from a camera focused on a player and another mounted on a referee’s helmet.

“Removing the financial or marketing incentive for companies like Rogers to invest in and identify new business models for the creation and monetization of digital Canadian content would stifle innovation in this space and stunt the evolution of the digital content market,” Rogers added.

Chief executive Guy Laurence on a recent earnings call said GamePlus is an important innovation in sports broadcasting; branding Bell a “crybaby” after if filed a formal complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The complaint argues that Canadians who are not Rogers customers will be harmed as a result of being blocked from accessing the GamePlus content.

Bell also said the programming is “inextricably linked” to TV and that Rogers is trying to undermine the regulator’s intent.

“This loophole, if endorsed by the commission, will of course be aggressively exploited by all stakeholders,” Bell said in its eight-page complaint.

Ken Engelhart, Rogers’ senior vice-president for regulatory affairs, said the GamePlus app is geared to the “super fan” and is an example of just the kind of innovation the CRTC has aimed to encourage.

B.C.-based telecommunications giant Telus in an earlier submission to the regulator sided with Bell, calling Rogers move a “foreclosure of competition and urging the CRTC to strengthen prohibition of exclusive content agreements rather than focus it decision on the GamePlus issue alone.

The Canadian Cable Systems Alliance, which represents independent cable companies, also said it supports Bell Canada’s application.

The alliance said the programming is “created by the same team operating the same equipment at the same time in the same place as the programming broadcast by Rogers on CBC, City, Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and FX.”

As such, CCSA said GamePlus is television programming that is offered “on an exclusive or otherwise preferential basis” contrary to section 5 of the New Media Exemption Order.

The order says the CRTC will not regulate content broadcast online only so long as companies do not “offer television programming on an exclusive or otherwise preferential basis in a manner that is dependent on the subscription to a specific mobile or retail Internet access service.”

Bell says that the GamePlus application will be exclusively available to Rogers’s mobile and home Internet customers, although customers of a rival carrier could theoretically download the app if they subscribe to Rogers cable or home phone service.

Rogers offers the NHL GameCentre Live online streaming app to anyone but GamePlus is exclusive to Rogers Internet, TV, home phone and wireless subscribers.

Bell has the opportunity to offer a further written submission to the CRTC in response to Rogers’s intervention and the commission will then decide if the GamePlus app runs contrary to its regulations.

Toronto Star

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