Archive for the ‘Rogers Communications’ Category


Gary Bettman, Nadir Mohamed, and Keith Pelley yesterday in Toronto

Jeff Blair and his producers made the excellent choice this morning to have a brief exchange with Rogers Media president Keith Pelley, in order to get a statement from ownership themselves about whether and how the company’s new deal with the NHL, and their seeming “all-in” move when it comes to hockey in this country, will impact the Blue Jays.

You can hear the audio by way of a link currently at– or can go directly to the mp3 clip here– and while Pelley, frankly, says pretty much everything that you’d fully expect him to, it… uh… it sure feels good to hear him say it.

Here is a transcript of his comments:

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New Rogers CEO Guy Laurence, Formerly of Vodafone

As if panicky Jays fans– among whom I guess I’d have to consider myself after yesterday’s fretting over the price of Jeff Samardzija– didn’t already have enough reason for consternation, over the weekend we had some supreme silliness in the form of a “rumour” of some kind of financial doomsday for the Blue Jays, related to the stepping down of Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed. Or, more specifically, related to his successor, former Vodafone exec, and notorious budget-slasher, Guy Laurence.

It all seems pretty quaint right now, given today’s news about Rogers’ acquisition of the national rights to all NHL games for the next twelve years. Obviously the company understands the tremendous value of premium sports content in today’s TV and digital media landscape. In fact, that’s precisely what Mohamed– who is indeed still around– said in the press release announcing the NHL deal, explaining that “sports content is a key strategic asset and we’ve been investing significantly to strengthen our sports offering to Canadians.”

Of course, that likely won’t stop Jays fans from getting nervous– just like they did a year ago, when Rogers splashed a lot of cash on their joint purchase, with Bell Canada, of MLSE (and how did that turn out?)– especially in the wake of the weekend’s rumour, which, unfortunately, has already been given far more attention than it deserves.

It began in the curious little corner of the web called Toronto Sports Media, which I’d like to suggest is plenty right there to know not to take it seriously, except that there have been instances where the writer there actually did seem to have something resembling inside information from within the city’s sports media towers– enough that I can’t dismiss what he says entirely out of hand.

That said, uh… I don’t think anybody’s record means a hell of a lot when we’re talking about a “scoop” like this:

The same good folks who tipped me off to the trimmings at Rogers media a few weeks back are telling me that the new CEO of Rogers could be asking for a cut in the Toronto Blue Jays budget as well.

How much, when or even if I can’t say for sure, but I trust those who are telling me enough to pass along to you.

It seems that bottom line is going to be much more important at Rogers and this is one area where things will be watched closely.

Uh… airtight?

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No, there’s nothing missing from the picture above. Well… apart from the bits that are cut off. Aaaaand the fact that it’s not at all interactive.

Look, it’s just a screen cap of part of the infographic released by Bloomberg yesterday that breaks down each MLB club’s value and their various revenue streams, and allows you to compare and contrast them. It’s pretty nifty!

So much so, in fact, that other outlets started reporting it. Sportsnet, for example. But a funny thing happened on the way to Sportsnet regurgitating Bloomberg’s breakdown of the Jays’ revenue streams…

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Where’s the money, Anthopoulos?

It’s going to be an odd prelude to the winter for Jays fans, as we wait to see how the club follows last year’s big moves, and attempts to undo some of the mess they created by flipping five of their best, closest-to-the-Majors prospects, while taking on ass-loads of payroll, in order to instantly improve (supposedly) their big league roster.

Alex Anthopoulos has spoken about his preference for the trade market– as he always does– but it’s difficult to envision how he’s going to be able to pull a rabbit out of that particular hat. Of course, we felt the same way this time last year and he managed to pull it off, but this time the stakes are higher, the pool of talent he’s potentially dealing from is shallower, and he won’t have nearly the same ability to explode the club’s payroll.

A lot of focus in the media then– and around here– has been on what strength he can manage to deal from while still improving the club in the overall. There isn’t much that can be done without creating a giant hole elsewhere on the roster– one of Anthony Gose or Colby Rasmus could be moved, so could one of a number of bullpen arms, or one of the team’s many potential back-end starters, but it would take a nifty trick to parlay those spare parts into the kind pitching that the team covets. Move anything else, aside from what remains of the club’s top prospects– which doesn’t offer a great pool of talent above A-ball– and they’ll need to either promote someone from within the organization to fill the hole created, or weaken the depth in their areas of strength to trade for a replacement, or spend money on the free agent market.

There are a lot of potential moving parts when you put it that way, and opportunities for Alex Anthopoulos to use his creativity, but what I wonder is if that necessarily has to be the game plan. As unideal as we’ve been told to believe the free agent market normally is, the conversation this winter will be different. We’re no longer necessarily talking about making massive expenditures to jump-start the fortunes of the organization the way fans were when they dreamed on names like Yu Darvish or Prince Fielder. That initial hurdle was cleared a year ago, and now the roster– whether you like it or not, whether you think the rest of the talent is there or not– needs to be filled in around a core that has, for the most part, already been assembled.

Yes, the team can continue playing the dangerous game started last winter, one that Anthopoulos had spoken about since he replaced J.P. Ricciardi as the club’s GM, and spread itself increasingly more thin, but doing so means trading future assets– and crucially, for Rogers, an even bigger portion of the cheap talent base of future incarnations of the team– in order to prevent last year’s massive investments from becoming all the more pointless.

The other way– a way that Jays fans seem to have almost been conditioned to ignore, or to think they’re powerless to demand– is to follow the path of the Boston Red Sox.

So much of the conversation surrounding this team focuses on the fate of Alex Anthopoulos, of Paul Beeston, of John Gibbons, of Chad Mottola, of Jose Bautista, of Aaron Sanchez, and of all kinds of actors in between. They’re all important, but in my view none of those people ought to have anything close to the amount of expectations heaped on them as are deserved by the shadowy entity that this winter will decide whether they really believe in the vision they’ve been paying lip service to for years, or whether they’re willing to risk letting it die on the vine: Rogers.

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Today Curtis Rush of the Toronto Star posted an excellent email exchange he had with Gregg Zaun, who was in the news this week for his bang-on excoriation of J.P. Arencibia.

In the piece Zaun is asked if there has “ever been a comment [he] regretted making,” which he affirms, explaining that he was disciplined internally for a comment made last year about Alex Anthopoulos, in which on Prime Time Sports he said that the GM was a “bean counting sabermatrician.” Despite multiple email apologies, and admitting to Rush that he was wrong and that the “extremely amateurish” comment was a too glib attempt to get his point across in the closing ten seconds of the program, he hasn’t spoken to AA since.

Sure, that’s a regrettable professional moment, especially given how Anthopoulos has supposedly reacted.

Unfortunately, Gregg might have new champion of regrettable comments on his hands, as the interview in the Star also included this nugget:

Have you been instructed to lay off on your criticism?

They (Rogers) told me when I came on full-time to be honest, be opinionated, as I tend to be, and to be fair. They have never asked me to censor myself or be a homer. They only asked that I not attack “The Man.” I was told I was free to criticize and praise performances all I wanted.

Say what?

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Earlier in the week I wrote about the sagging TV ratings for the Blue Jays this season. In doing so, I attempted to offer some reasons, beyond an poor on-field product, that viewers are tuning out, much to the certain dismay of an ownership that was dreaming very big back before the season started, when Rogers Media president Keith Pelley told Michael Oliveira of the Canadian Press that “the Blue Jays decision to add money and payroll was not in isolation, it was done in a decision that, if we can play meaningful games in September, what that will do to Sportsnet.”

“[Last year's final] numbers of 507,000 would creep up to in the neighbourhood of a million viewers,” Pelley suggested at the time.

So much for that, eh? And obviously the driving factor in the disappointing numbers is how the club has played, but in the course of theorizing about what else may have factored in, I mentioned cable cutters and Rogers’ own digital streaming service, Rogers Anyplace TV (referred to interchangeably, I think, as RogersOnDemand), which I admitted some confusion over. I wrote:

This season Rogers pushed a number of digital-only viewers away from their in-house services, restricting access to Jays games on Rogers Anyplace TV to only those with cable subscriptions to the channels airing the games, having previously allowed anybody with any sort of Rogers account to watch. At least… from my limited understanding that’s what’s happened– please correct me if wrong.

Thanks to a forwarded email exchange between a reader and a Rogers rep, I am much less confused on the matter. Thing is, now it’s more like outraged.

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No, this isn’t about the damn statue.

Talk about burying the lede. A fascinating Canadian Press piece from Neil Davidson appeared in the Montreal Gazette, among other places, on Monday, under names like Mediocre Blue Jays winning at the turnstiles.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the piece was merely about attendance, but it’s actually a wide-ranging, Rogers-faced assessment of how the Jays have attracted fans this year though various mediums and in key demographics, complete with Rogers Media president of broadcasting Scott Moore crowing about the fabulousness of it all. Despite, y’know, this:

As of July 10, Sportsnet was averaging 544,000 viewers (aged two and over) for Jays’ broadcasts. That’s nine per cent down from the 2012 average of 595,000 at this point of the season but up 10 per cent from 2011′s average of 496,000 at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong, those are still terrifically strong numbers. And even in the last appointment-viewing stronghold of live sports, TV viewers are continually being siphoned off by other mediums and other options. There are lots of cable cutters and lots of game-in-an-hour folks out there, which might contribute to the dip.

But… uh… those alternatives existed a year ago, too, and ratings were up by nearly 100,000 per game. (In fact, this season Rogers pushed a number of digital-only viewers away from their in-house services, restricting access to Jays games on Rogers Anyplace TV to only those with cable subscriptions to the channels airing the games, having previously allowed anybody with any sort of Rogers account to watch. At least… from my limited understanding that’s what’s happened– please correct me if wrong.)

More importantly, despite all the glowing words about the fans coming through the turnstiles (who, y’know, probably bought their tickets back in February), the raised profile among the young and female demographics, the merchandise sales (all of the profit for which goes into MLB’s central revenue pool and gets split among all clubs, FYI), and the social media engagement with players (uh… at least until they all delete their Twitter accounts), are we really expected to believe that ownership is over the moon after adding $35-million to a payroll that was already above $80-million, only to find that– thanks to a thoroughly underwhelming on-field product– their main revenue-driver has taken a 9% step back?

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