Archive for the ‘Rogers Communications’ Category


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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On Thursday, March 28th, Simon Houpt wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail that was titled, probably not by him, As Rogers circles the Jays, it’s tough to tell press from fans.

Shots fired, huh?

In it, Houpt gets specific about these charges.

[Rogers Media president Keith] Pelley’s enthusiasm [for the synergy between the Jays and the company's broadcasting platforms] may get equity analysts and shareholders excited, but it can make sports journalists – and regular sports fans – feel kind of icky. In the most recent issue of Sportsnet magazine, their marquee sports columnist Stephen Brunt wrote a fawning article about the great chemistry between the Dominicans playing for the Jays. (The column promoted a 30-minute special Mr. Brunt hosted for the TV network called Up Close: Dominican Blue Jays.) How are we to tell that he’s applying any sort of critical eye to the subject?

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cable TV cord cutting

There’s some news today for the ever-growing segment of Jays fans who have cut, or are waiting for a thing like this as a reason to cut, their home cable TV cord. I’m not sure it’s particularly great or impactful news, but… it’s news, as Michael Oliveira of the Canadian Press, via the Toronto Star, writes that “Rogers says it may sell digital streaming of Toronto Blue Jays games and its Sportsnet channels to non-TV subscribers.”

He goes on to explain that this “small segment of consumers” who have discovered the internet, and the largely pointless expense that is cable TV, can get most of the content they want legally online (and often for free), but have trouble finding ways to legally stream sporting events. This is true, though if you want to be technically correct, there seems to be no clear answer to the question of whether accessing via a VPN, while a clear violation of the terms of service, is actually illegal. Either way, it’s is just as morally murky, too.

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I love this team, but I hate this ad campaign.

For the first time in two years, the Blue Jays marketing team has produced a set of Opening Day (Week) commercials that make you roll your eyes more than make you excited for the season to come.

It’s not hard to get Blue Jays fans excited for the season. Formula: show the Jays defrosting at Spring Training after the hellish Canadian winter, mix with player close ups on a soundstage and highlights from the past season. Overlay a song with the word “home” in it. Done and done. But this new team needed something better, didn’t it?

Embracing Twitter as part of a team’s marketing strategy is smart; making it the focus of an entire ad campaign is cheesy and narrow. Tweeting Tuesdays? Fine. Twitter Shirseys? Ugh. A hashtag as the team’s central slogan?  The Blue Jays social media consultant is either insanely persuasive or Nadir Mohamed’s niece.

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