Rogers, Bell are going to charge bars more for sports channels

New rates for bars and restaurants will mean Paul Cicchini, the owner of The Duchess of Markham, will have to pay $385 a month - quadruple what he's shelling out now - to have TSN and Sportsnet in his bar.

'We have no choice,' says Markham bar owner Paul Cicchini whose bill has quadrupled

Bar owners will have to pay a much higher rate to Bell and Rogers to carry sports channels on their TV screens. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

Hanging from the walls of The Duchess of Markham, you'll find signed sports memorabilia and 14 TV screens ready to fire up for the next big game.

"We could be full. It depends on the night and it depends on the game," says owner Paul Cicchini.

But now Rogers, his cable provider, wants a bigger cut of the action.

Both Bell and Rogers are set to charge bars and restaurants more for the channels that show those big sports events. 

Paul Cicchini says if he doesn't pay for his bar to have TSN & Sportsnet, 'we'll be left without any customers.' (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

"They're taking money out of everyone's pockets," said Cicchini.

Currently, TSN and Sportsnet are part of his $85-a-month package.

As of May 1, he'll have to cough up $368 a month plus tax for those channels.

That's on top of his regular cable subscription. 

"Our margins are being slowly eaten away," said Cicchini.

"Rent, hydro, gas, food costs, labour is eating away at all our profits over the years ... and now to add another $4,000 a year off our bottom line. It has to come from somewhere. It's going to come from the consumers."

Cicchini got a statement in the mail from Rogers that lists its "Professional Sports Broadcasting Tariff Rates."

Those rates apply to businesses that have a liquor licence and a capacity of 1,000 patrons or less.

On the low end — a capacity of zero to 25 — Sportsnet would cost $75 plus tax and TSN would cost $60 for TSN plus tax.

On the high-end, a bar with a capacity between 751 and 1,000 would be charged $375 for Sportsnet and $300 for TSN, plus tax.

There's also a minimum one year commitment. 

CRTC and Competition Bureau

Restaurant Canada says it is fielding questions from bar and restaurant owners and is trying to take action on behalf of its 30,000 members. 

"We've talked to CRTC. We've contacted the Competition Bureau," says James Rilett, the organization's vice president for Ontario.

Bars & restaurants having to pay more for sports channels will experience a 'significant hit,' says James Rilett with Restaurants Canada. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

He says they're looking to see if there is another way for the restaurants and bars to get the sports packages.

"Right now we're still in the early stages. We were hoping that Rogers and Bell would come to the table and try to solve this with us." 

Rogers and Bell respond

Jordan Kerbel, the director of communications for Sportsnet, replied to CBC Toronto's questions Wednesday. 

"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." 

In a statement, Bell wrote: "There are significant and growing costs to delivering the premium-quality Canadian and international sports programming that our business clients provide to their customers."

Cicchini thinks the companies should rethink their plan and he's holding out hope that they'll charge a more reasonable rate.

"At least give some places a chance to survive."


Makda Ghebreslassie

CBC Toronto reporter

Makda is a CBC Video-Journalist, who from time to time fills in as TV news anchor and a newsreader on Here and Now and Fresh Air. She worked in newsrooms in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor before moving back home to Toronto.