The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved the sale of sport television channels owned by Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) to BCE and Rogers Communications. While this $1, 32 billion transaction, involved several sports-related properties such as professional teams, the CRTC’s review was limited to the five television services owned by MLSE : Leafs TV, Gol TV and NBA TV Canada, as well as two services that have not yet launched, Mainstream Sports and Live Music Channel.
“When deciding whether or not to approve a proposed ownership transaction, the Commission must be persuaded, in light of the application and the public record that an approval is in the public interest”, said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “In this case, we have been convinced that the transaction benefits Canadians as it will lead to the creation of new home-grown sports programming.”
The CRTC’s policy for ownership transactions in the broadcasting sector requires the buyer to demonstrate clear tangible and intangible benefits associated with the approval of a proposed transaction. In particular, applicants are expected to make specific incremental commitments to fund initiatives that will enhance the Canadian broadcasting system. The applicants had proposed a $3,8 million in tangible benefits. After a review of the value of the transaction, BCE and Rogers will be required to spend $7,5 million over the next seven years on the creation of new sports-themed programming by Canadian independent producers.
Finally, the CRTC is committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to a wide choice of programming on different platforms. In 2011, the CRTC prohibited companies from offering television programs on an exclusive basis to their mobile or Internet subscribers. Any program broadcast on television must be made available to competitors under fair and commercially reasonable terms.