Bell and Rogers to ask bars to pay more for sports packages

Bell and Rogers will soon ask sports bars to pay more for the right to broadcast the big game, on top of what they pay for their existing television service.

'Venues have paid rates for sports content that were not reflective of the benefits,' Rogers says

People may be less willing to pay for cable television of late, but the one thing they still want to watch live is sports, as these people watching the Super Bowl in a sports bar last year demonstrate. (Roni Bintang/Reuters)

Bell and Rogers will soon ask sports bars to pay more for the right to broadcast big games, on top of what they pay for their existing television service.

As first reported by Postmedia, the two media conglomerates are asking business subscribers across Canada to pay an additional levy — which varies depending on the size of the bar — on top of their existing cable bill for the rights to air sports channels that broadcast live sporting events, such as TSN, RDS and Sportsnet.

"New sports packages for business TV clients with a liquor licence will be introduced as of May 1," Bell said in a statement to CBC News. "Prices vary depending on the size of the business and other factors such as the specific sports package a business client wants."

"We've heard that the average restaurant that's licensed for about 150 patrons, their increase will be $350 to $400 a month," said James Rilett, Restaurants Canada's vice-president for Ontario — and those are costs that may well get passed on to bar patrons either directly or indirectly.

"Most restaurants run around about a three per cent profit margin, so that's going to have a pretty big effect, if you have to make up that cost every month. It may affect menu prices or they might just have to take less profit, but there will definitely be an effect."

Seeking profit from TV sports

Amid a growing trend of cord-cutting, televised sports remain content that broadcasters are banking on consumers' willingness to pay for. And that strategy extends to bars, where the content providers are now asking bars to pay more for a service they are benefiting from.

"Live sports programming attracts big audiences to public viewing establishments, such as bars and restaurants," Rogers-owned Sportsnet told CBC News in a statement. "For many years, these venues have paid rates for sports content that were not reflective of the benefits they've enjoyed, due to the high volume of patrons that gather to watch sports and the revenue it generates for these establishments."

"Our new commercial package aligns with the value sports services bring to these establishments," Sportsnet said, without elaborating on the size of the fee that will soon be levied.

Bell echoes that view, telling its affected subscribers recently that "we believe that sports programming is a powerful attractor for bar and restaurant patrons, and that the investment to continue to receive these channels is a good business decision for most establishments."

"The new rates are designed to more accurately reflect the commercial use of the sports channels and the value that these channels represent to commercial establishments," Bell said.

If a current commercial customer with a liquor licence doesn't sign up for the new package, their existing cable service will remain in place for the same price they are already paying, Bell said, but they won't have access to the most popular live sports channels such as the ones listed above.

"Get the edge over your competitors and keep your customers coming back by ensuring you've signed up," Bell told its enterprise customers recently.


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