Windsor bars face hefty price hike for TV sports

Local bars and restaurants face monthly price increases of hundreds of dollars to show TSN or Sportsnet in their establishments, and some say they're not sure they'll bother paying.

'I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot' says local owner

“You can only go to the well so many times," according to Ris Massetti, owner of Kurley's A.C. on Erie St. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Bar owners in Windsor say they might have to dump television channels such as TSN or Sportsnet if a price hike targeting their establishments increases their cable or satellite bills by hundreds of dollars each month.

The two television giants are asking many business customers across Canada to pay an additional charge on top of existing television subscriptions for the right to show channels airing live sports in their establishments.

In a statement, Rogers Sportsnet told CBC News "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." 

While the telecom companies have not provided specific figures for the rate hikes, the price increase could be several hundred dollars per month. Some bar owners in Windsor are re-thinking whether they'll be able to make the game available while you enjoy a beer or meal. 

'I think it's pretty discriminatory'

Ris Massetti owns Kurley's A.C. on Erie St. They currently subscribe to a full sports package, but Massetti isn't sure he'd continue after a hefty price increase.

"I think it's pretty discriminatory, actually. Why sports bars … why should they be tagged with an increase?" said Massetti. "I'm sure they're not charging the daycare centres more for the Disney Channel."

Kurley's A.C. has at least five televisions showing sports at any given moment in the bar, even mid-afternoon. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Massetti pointed out establishments like his face an uphill battle when it comes to operating costs. "We're already getting tagged for hydro … we pay more for a case of beer than the public does," he said.

"You can only go to the well so many times, and there's nothing left." 

The Kurley's owner added bars no longer have a unique advantage in providing live sports to fans. While a bar would previously need to have special equipment such as a large satellite dish to bring in programming, anyone can now access the event of their choice from home.

"I don't think people come in specifically just for [sports]. The public has the same access we do," he said.

'An outrageous initiative'

Industry groups are vocal in their opposition to Bell and Rogers' move, saying it came out of nowhere. 
Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association. (Oliver Walters/CBC)
"This has been an outrageous initiative on raising the fee with no notice, and giving the industry a month to comply," said Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association.

The ORHMA may try to get the federal government involved.

"Part of our steps moving forward is to get in touch with the competition bureau and hear their views on it," added Elenis in an interview with CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive.

'Shooting themselves in the foot'

The increases could affect any business holding a liquor licence, regardless of who their direct service provider is. 

Shaw Cable told CBC News that the rate models are set by Bell and Rogers as they are the content owners. 

Windsor's cable provider Cogeco said they are still negotiating with Bell and Rogers to determine how much higher the price for TSN and Sportsnet will be for businesses holding a liquor licence.

Fans watching sports together in a bar could be less common after price hikes from sports networks take effect. (Roni Bintang/Reuters)

"It is premature to discuss the impact the increases by Bell/Rogers sports channels will have on our clients," said Cogeco's Gabriel Beauséjour in an emailed statement.

Ris Massetti and Kurley's A.C. may not wait to see that impact.

"If it's too much we'll just have to return our boxes and find an alternative," said Massetti, who added "I think they're shooting themselves in the foot."

with files from the CBC Business Unit, CBC Ottawa, and CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive