The new Rogers GamePlus app is at the centre of CRTC complaints from both Bell and TELUS. Bell kicked things off with a complaint last month, and TELUS filed its own just a few days ago. Both argue that GamePlus is in violation of CRTC regulation because it has content that is only available to Rogers wireless or internet customers. When the original Bell complaint was filed, Rogers was given until November 20th to respond. Right on time, the company has issued its response.
While there is nothing we haven’t already heard from the company on this issue, Rogers does go into greater detail. When Bell and TELUS filed their complaints, reps from Rogers were quick to say the content offered via GamePlus wasn’t designed for traditional TV broadcasts and therefore doesn’t constitute a violation of CRTC regulation (read more here). Rogers was a bit more adamant in its official response to the CRTC than company reps were in statements to the media.
“In no way has Rogers limited or restricted access by Canadian consumers to programming designed primarily for linear television (hockey games) in Rogers GameCentre LIVE,” Rogers asserted.
“The GamePlus offering within Rogers GameCentre LIVE is not programming designed primarily for conventional television, specialty, pay or video-on-demand services, Rather, GamePlus content offers users an inherently interactive experience that is specifically designed for mobile and internet platforms.”
Rogers goes on to say that GamePlus was only created to help differentiate Rogers’ mobile and internet platforms from competing offerings. What’s more, the app represents innovation, and restricting it would “act as a disincentive for the investment required to create this type of new and innovative content offering.” Rogers says it spent millions of dollars to develop GamePlus and professionals work to create the content and product that is served to users. Others won’t be willing to make that investment if Rogers is punished for doing the same thing.
Rogers argues that while traditional TV broadcasts are designed to have the broadest possible appeal, that’s not what GamePlus is. In its essence, GamePlus sets out to offer viewers a way to customize their hockey experience in a way that is most beneficial or enjoyable to them via niche content. This personalized experience, Rogers says, is “mecasting” as opposed to broadcasting, and is supported by the fact that this content is not available on TV anywhere in Canada.
“It is an inherently interactive experience that in no way resembles the passive experience enjoyed on linear television,” Rogers said, adding, “The GamePlus offering brings users a new and innovative way to experience a hockey game which, in our view, is exactly what the commission intended to encourage by not issuing a blanket restriction on exclusive content.”
Rogers also spoke much more briefly about TELUS’ complaint, which referred to comments in which Rogers’ Phil Lind stated that no one should have to subscribe to multiple providers in order to access their desired content. Rogers says these comments were made in reference to television programming and not this new type of supplementary content. In response to TELUS’ allegation that Rogers’ alternate camera angles are nothing special and could be achieved with a GoPro camera, Rogers had this to say:
“While Rogers should be surprised by these dismissive and uninformed comments, disappointingly, they are entirely consistent with TELUS’ historical and ongoing disregard for the value of content and the creative and technical resources required to provide Canadians with originally and innovative content options. […] Given this cynical view of content creation, it is not surprising that TELUS has not chosen to invest in Canadian content.”
Finally, Rogers touched briefly on Bell’s accusation that Rogers’ decision to acquire the rights to NHL programming was an anti-competitive measure. Rogers thinks this is absurd and says that yes, it was definitely its intent to gain a competitive advantage but for Sportsnet, City, and OMNI which are dwarfed by TSN.
“Bell’s suggestion is absurd. In acquiring the NHL rights it was certainly Rogers’ intent to gain a competitive advantage for Sportsnet, City and OMNI over the dominant sports broadcaster in Canada, Bell’s own TSN,” Rogers wrote.
“That is the way the competitive market for programming rights is supposed to work. Competing companies bid for the exclusive right to broadcast popular content like hockey games on multiple platforms, including online and on linear television channels. Bell is well aware of this since they bid for and lost the exact same package of NHL rights that Rogers was successful in securing.”
Bell has 10 days to respond to these statements from Rogers. After that, it will be up to the CRTC to return a verdict on the matter.