Saturday, 22 October 2011

Rogers tapping sports to ramp up online TV push

Rogers tapping sports to ramp up online TV push
Oct 14, 2011 – 12:04 PM ET | Last Updated: Oct 19, 2011 2:46 PM ET
Rogers Communications Inc. is bringing more professional sports broadcasts to the Web but only for viewers who subscribe to traditional cable — a move designed to guard a television base increasingly looking to the Internet for content.

The Toronto-based telecom conglomerate will next week start streaming local-market Toronto Maple Leaf hockey games at the same time they air on Rogers’ own Sportsnet network or on Leafs TV, a channel owned by the National Hockey League club’s owner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
The move follows a similar one Rogers made in late summer bringing broadcasts from the company’s pro baseball club, the Toronto Blue Jays, online for Internet and cable subscribers. Importing more televised sports onto its Rogers On-Demand Online site is an incremental step to ensure that loyal and paying customers remain so regardless of how they consume their TV content.
“We believe that the cable television product has to evolve,” said David Purdy, vice-president of video products for Rogers, also the largest mobile provider in the country. “Making both on-demand and live linear channels available on a PC, tablet and ultimately a mobile device is the future of our subscription entertainment business.”
Sports is an unrivaled force on the television dial with cable packages filled with dedicated channels for NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL games commanding premium rates. Television providers have been initially reluctant to put the action online, instead relying on live sports to keep customers tuned in to traditional television — and not seeking out free or pirated video entertainment on the Web.
Rogers is among the first providers to flip that notion on its head, spurred perhaps by the rising popularity of so-called “over-the-top” services in the area, like MLB.TV and NHL Gamecenter LIVE. For a fee, these platforms stream out-of-market games, though broadcasts featuring hometown clubs are unavailable (local market rights being owned by television providers typically).
Rogers, which has 2.3 million cable customers, has begun to funnel more and more television content into its on-demand online portal, dubbed “RODO,” as viewership numbers for TV and online continue to show a shift toward the latter, albeit a subtle one.
“We’re looking to get all our existing linear channels on RODO,” Mr. Purdy said. The company plans to beef up the offering with more shows over the next several quarters.
“What we’re hearing from our customers is that they like going to one centrally located site where all their television content is located,” he said.
The executive said Rogers is working closer than ever with studios who own back catalogs of content to acquire rights to older libraries, enabling RODO customers to “binge” on entire seasons of television series online, a viewing pattern observed among some segments, especially younger watchers.
The major caveat however to accessing RODO, which has 400,000 registered Rogers customers at present, is that viewers will need a digital television subscription to get the majority of content. Although some programs are available to all who visit the site, without a TV account, users will find themselves largely shut out online.

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