With Score Media buy, Rogers ups its bet on sports

The $167 million deal shows sport is the only live TV content that still matters, say insiders


Rogers Communications Inc. is doubling down on its bet that sports—particularly live sports—will continue to be a draw for its cable TV audience, which is increasingly being bombarded with Internet-based options like Netflix.

Rogers (which owns Maclean’s) has struck a deal to add Score Media to its expanding stable of sports content for $167 million. Rogers plans to fold the Score Television Network, with 6.6 million subscribers, into its larger Sportsnet television brand. If approved by regulators, the deal will also give Rogers a 10 per cent ownership stake in the Score’s digital properties such as mobile apps.

While The Score has struggled to compete with both Sportsnet and Bell Canada’s TSN franchise, Rogers believes its mix of quirky commentary and focus on more niche sports like college basketball and professional wrestling will augment its more mainstream sports properties, further expanding audience reach. “We continue to pursue opportunities to engage, expand and enhance the experience for sports fans,” said Keith Pelley, the president of Rogers Media, in a statement. “The Score is a tremendous sports service that offers a distinct flavour of premium, niche programming that fits squarely within our strategy of delivering highly sought-after content to Canadians.”

In addition to its four Sportsnet regional TV channels, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet World , Rogers also owns the Fan 590 sports radio station and the recently launched Sportsnet magazine. It is also the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and the stadium where they play.

And, just last week, Rogers and Bell closed their joint deal to buy Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, Toronto Raptors basketball club and Toronto FC soccer team.

Though some analysts have questioned the need for TV providers to own sports content, as opposed to just licensing it, Phil Lind, Rogers’ vice-chairman, told Maclean’s shortly after last year’s MLSE deal that sports “is practically about the only thing live on TV anymore that really matters.”

Investors appear to agree. Shares of Rogers were trading up 21 cents at $40.29 Monday morning, the first day of trading after The Score purchase was made public.

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