By The Canadian Press - Friday, March 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) says it has renewed its distribution contract with…
TORONTO – Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) says it has renewed its distribution contract with the AMC channel, home to several popular series including “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”
The cable company says a new multi-year agreement has been signed that also includes carrying a high-definition feed of the channel before the end of the month.
The announcement brings a close to a dispute between the companies that came to a head earlier this week.
On Thursday night, a contract which allowed Rogers to carry AMC’s channel expired, creating uncertainty over whether the signal for the channel would be shut off.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 9:23 AM - 0 Comments
Here’s some exciting news that I can’t report with even a shred of objectivity. It comes from Rogers Communications, which owns Maclean’s, and the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA), of which I’m president. The TFCA’s annual Rogers Best Canadian Film Award will now be worth a staggering $100,000. The director of the winning film, voted by the member critics of the TFCA, will receive a $100,000 cheque. The two runners-up will receive $5,000 each. This is an extraordinary boost, considering that the award was previously worth $15,000. (Last year it went to Quebec’s Philippe Falardeau for Monsieur Lazhar, which went on to get an Oscar nomination.)
Rogers has endowed the TFCA with what becomes Canadian cinema’s richest prize, by a long shot. (Until now, the country’s most lucrative film honour was the Toronto International Film Festival’s $30,000 award for the best Canadian film at the festival.) It also ranks as the country’s richest arts prize.
Rather than interview myself, I’ll quote my official reaction to the news from the TFCA press release: “We are enormously grateful to Rogers for taking such a bold initiative. This exemplary cash prize gives our cinema pride of place at the country’s top tier of arts awards. It represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Canadian filmmakers, and in the discerning role that Toronto’s robust community of film critics can play in recognizing and rewarding brilliance.” Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Friday, January 20, 2012 at 2:21 PM - 0 Comments
Ah, political opportunism–so easy to see, so disappointing to witness.
No sooner did Open Media start a petition for better wireless competition than the Liberals jumped in. The activist group’s latest effort, called Stop the Cellphone Squeeze, is urging the federal government to set aside spectrum licenses in an upcoming auction for new wireless companies. In plain English, they want big players Bell, Rogers and Telus barred from bidding on a certain portion of the airwaves that are necessary for cellphones to work.
As of this past weekend, the petition had amassed more than 35,000 signatures.
InvisibleIndustry Minister Christian Paradis has said the rules for the auction will be unveiled “soon.”
By Jesse Brown - Friday, December 23, 2011 at 5:07 PM - 0 Comments
This week, Bell Canada, announced that it will cease its long-standing practice of throttling (stunting the speed of) BitTorrent traffic. Throttling has been a controversial practice of Internet providers–one that Bell has long argued it absolutely needs to do in order to stop “bandwidth hogs” from slowing speeds for everyone (only in Canada’s competition-deprived telecom industry would a company actually call its own customers “hogs” for using too much of the service they provide).
So why did Bell have such a radical change of heart? Continue…
By Charlie Gillis, Chris Sorensen, and Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
How two of Canada’s fiercest business rivals, came together to buy the Leafs
Before the tentative phone calls, the fevered courtship and the awkward consummation of a blockbuster deal, there were breakfasts between Ted and Larry. They lived across the street from each other in ritzy Forest Hill, home to Toronto’s ultra-well-monied. They talked about sports franchises in the way car buffs talk about their favourite set of wheels.
Ted Rogers had bought baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 with the idea of boosting his company’s profile in southern Ontario. Larry Tanenbaum was chair of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., the company that owned the coveted Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball’s Toronto Raptors. So once or twice a year, they noshed beside the Rogers family pool, talking pucks, bats and player salaries over scrambled eggs and orange juice. “Ted couldn’t tell you the latest scores,” recalls Tanenbaum. “He was more interested in the concept of sport as something that brought people together. But for as long as I knew him, he and I talked about the idea of one day hooking up and becoming partners in the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
Chances to buy into the crown jewel of Canadian sports and broadcasting don’t come around very often. For 16 years, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan had watched the value of its interest in MLSE skyrocket, and was in no mood to sell. Moreover, any Rogers bid would surely meet a competing offer by Bell Canada Inc. (BCE), Rogers’ great rival in the cable, phone and wireless business (Rogers also owns Maclean’s). So when Teachers put its 79 per cent stake up for sale last year, the inheritors of Rogers’ corporate mantle quickly signalled their interest. Reports of a pending deal soon surfaced, and the coronation of Rogers Communications Inc. as winner of the MLSE sweepstakes seemed a matter of time.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 1:36 PM - 1 Comment
Rivals Bell and Rogers brought together by instinct for self-preservation
Content has long been King. But in the wake of the joint Rogers Communications/BCE takeover of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, it has been upgraded to Emperor, if not Supreme Galactic Ruler. How else does one explain two of Canada’s fiercest business rivals coming together to pay an astounding $1.32 billion for the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’s 79.53 per cent share of the company that owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs, NBA’s Raptors, major league soccer’s Toronto FC, the minor league Toronto Marlies hockey club, and the Air Canada Centre?
It is a premium price, for what the rival communications giants and broadcasters—Rogers owns Sportsnet, and Bell TSN—believe is a premium TV product. And the driving force for the surprise deal was clearly self-preservation.
When the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan let it be known that they were willing to sell their 80 per cent stake in MLSE last spring, (purchased 17 years ago for $180 million) it was obvious that it would take very deep pockets indeed to seal the bargain. Both Rogers and Bell kicked the tires, fearing the other was motivated to buy. Regional TV rights for the Toronto Maple Leafs—a team that attracts viewers and advertisers like no other in Canada—currently split between the two sports networks were to come up for renegotiation in 2015. The national broadcast rights, shared between TSN and CBC, are up for grabs in 2014. In Canada, any sports channel without NHL hockey—and more specifically the Leafs—wouldn’t last for long. And in wedding themselves in MLSE ownership, BCE and Rogers have gained perpetual access to the most sought-after content in the land. Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 5:56 PM - 8 Comments
There was quite a bit of speculation leading up to Tuesday’s speech by Industry Minister Christian Paradis at a telecom conference on whether he would address the festering issue of foreign ownership. The speech came and went, and Paradis–although he visibly gave the speech–continues to be, policy-wise, the Invisible Man.
Despite the fact that two successive government-appointed panels–one Liberal, the other Conservative–urged lawmakers to lift restrictions that limit foreign entities from having any meaningful ownership of Canadian telecom companies with an actual physical infrastructure, Paradis et al. continue to show a lack of backbone to do what’s necessary. As both panels have pointed out, removing those restrictions would not only bring Canada in line with every other developed nation, it would also improve competition and lead to better services and prices.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM - 1 Comment
A look back at the legacy of a visionary leader
Fifty years ago, most television programming made its way to people’s TV sets via rabbit ears. The newest mass communication technology—frequency modulation (FM) radio—was still struggling to catch on. And in Canada, the broadcasting business was dominated by the CBC. But in a few months in 1960 and 1961, a young lawyer, Ted Rogers, arrived on the scene and for the next five decades would radically shake up the media landscape, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become one of the world’s biggest communications companies.
In 1960, while still a law school student, Rogers and his then partner, media personality Joel Aldred, paid $85,000 to buy CHFI-FM, the first FM radio station in Canada. It was a bold venture, coming at a time when only five per cent of homes had FM radios. He also ventured into television broadcasting with a cold call from a law office library to media tycoon John Bassett. After wrangling a meeting for the next morning, the pair was soon pitching the Board of Broadcast governors (a precursor to the CRTC) for a licence to start the first private TV station in Toronto. In 1961, CFTO-TV hit the air, with Rogers as a minority owner. Those early forays into radio and television—marked by equal parts hard work, attitude and vision (and a little luck, of course)—would come to define the next several decades for the company, which has been celebrating its 50th anniversary over the past several months. “We were always trying to do the impossible,” Rogers wrote about the period in his book, Relentless.
Rogers credited his driving ambition to the ghost of his father, who died when he was just six years old. Edward Samuel Rogers invented the plug-in radio at a time when most radios were powered by cumbersome, messy batteries. He also started the CFRB radio station in Toronto to help increase demand for the radio sets he manufactured. But his life was cut short when he died at age 38 of an aneurysm. The business would later be dismantled, with young Ted determined to regain what had been taken from the family.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, April 4, 2011 at 6:36 PM - 1 Comment
Quiet and gentle, Tory was the quintessential Canadian mover and shaker
John A. Tory, who died this past weekend at the age of 81, was a quintessentially Canadian mover and shaker. Described as quiet, gentle and unfailingly modest, he guided some of the country’s biggest companies through their most important decisions—particularly the Thomson family empire and the communications behemoth built by the late Ted Rogers, which owns Maclean’s. But he rarely found himself in the spotlight for his work—and that was exactly the way he wanted it. Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 1:08 PM - 21 Comments
The fact that Internet Service Providers feel comfortable calling their best customers “hogs” is a good indicator that something is not right with broadband service in Canada. It takes nerve (or a comfy monopoly) to call your own subscribers swine for using the services you offer in the exact way you offer them (“Extreme!” “Blaze Through Bytes!” “Push Your Surfing Limits!”).
(To be fair, when Maclean’s, which is owned by Rogers, published an editorial in support of usage based billing, the term “bandwidth hog” was not used. Every other highly-contested claim and opinion of the major ISPs was repeated, but at least they didn’t call users hogs!)
But just who are these “bandwidth hogs” anyway? My friends, they are the future of the Internet.
We are told that the average Canadian Internet user today consumes a humble 16 gigs of bandwidth per month—not like those greedy hogs who burn upwards of 100! But not long ago, sucking down 16 gigs of data would have made you a prize pig. In 2003 for example, Bell’s most expensive plan capped users at 5 gigs per month. At the time, that may have been plenty for most users, who surfed the web, checked email, and perhaps downloaded some MP3s. But if you were interested in online video, you could easily have gone over, incurring $8/gig overage fees as you did. Hitting 16 would have cost you $88 on top of your subscription fee- call it a “hog tax”.
But those hogs of 2003 were in fact early-adopters. YouTube brought online video to the mainstream in 2005, and the average amount of data downloaded per user quadrupled over the next three years.
Today’s heavy users are downloading HD videos and using the cloud as their own personal hard drive. With 18 gig BluRay files and 100 gigabyte Dropbox accounts, these power users can easily blast through an average subscriber’s allotment in an afternoon. ISPs respond as they did in ’03, deriding them as hogs and throttling their transfers while simultaneously dinging them for massive overages.
Of course, in a year or two, downloading HD movies and storing your entire hard drive online will be mainstream activities, and ISPs will be advertising their ability to deliver them at turbo speeds. Same goes for mobile, where tethering and video streaming are today’s highly-taxed hog habits, and tomorrow’s mainstream mainstays.
Maybe instead of gouging and insulting these users, ISPs should study their habits to glean valuable predictive data that can inform how they build out their networks for the future. Maybe they’re doing both.
By Colin Campbell - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:17 PM - 3 Comments
Netflix releases a report card ranking ISPs in the U.S. and Canada
The movie-streaming service Netflix reported last week that it now has 20 million subscribers, up from 12.3 million one year ago. Netflix’s growth has quickly made it a force in the entertainment business, but its increasingly popular service is putting steep demands on the Internet service providers responsible for delivering all those movies to customers’ homes—and prompting a simmering battle over who should carry the data costs.
Last week, Netflix released a report card ranking ISPs in the U.S. and Canada and their ability to handle Web video offered by the company. Measuring streaming rates in kilobits per second, Netflix ranked Charter and Comcast highest in the U.S. But it was the Canadian providers who stood out, with the top-ranked Shaw and Rogers (which owns Maclean’s) and the third-placed Bell beating out all the American ISPs.
The company says it will offer the reports monthly, keeping tabs on which ISPs remain Netflix-friendly.
By macleans.ca - Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 9:05 PM - 4 Comments
Curling fans, Norway’s pants and Joannie Rochette make the list
This best-of list does not specifically include Canada’s medallists. They deserve celebration, but are a bit too obvious, and too numerous to address, here.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
Will Buffalo’s beloved football team move north, or will any NFL franchise do?
The message is as tightly controlled as a fourth-down running play. Rogers Communications remains focused on the seven games remaining in its deal with the Buffalo Bills, says Phil Lind, vice-chairman of the company and a lifelong fan of the National Football League. It is determined to break even on its five-year, US$78-million pact and rejoices in the chance to bring the biggest of the big leagues to its own backyard. But the devil is in the qualifiers. “We have no specific plans—at least that we’re willing to disclose—about moving any team anywhere,” he says, tapping the time-worn wooden table that serves as his desk. “In a general sense, philosophically, does this bring Toronto closer to an NFL franchise? Sure. Of course it does.”
That “willing to disclose” bit is the sort of thing that gets heavy mileage in Buffalo these days. Since the Bills announced nine months ago that they would play three exhibition and five regular-season games north of the border, fears have run rampant in the downtrodden city that latte-sipping Toronto was angling for its last beloved icon, a middling football team that attracts 73,000 rabid fans a game to its ageing shrine, Ralph Wilson Stadium, for afternoons of beer-fuelled worship.
It turns out things are less catastrophic than the Bills faithful suspect. In a wide-ranging interview last week, Lind confirmed that Rogers (whose media holdings include Maclean’s) would like to augment the existing agreement before it expires in 2012, adding at least one more regular season game per year to be played at the Rogers Centre. “Eight is probably not enough,” he says. “At least two [regular season] games a year would be desirable from our standpoint.” But the assumption that Toronto intends to poach Buffalo’s team has slowly given way to the obvious fact that co-hosting Bills games may only be a step in the city’s long march toward NFL membership. The so-called “Bills in Toronto” series “shows the league that there’s interest here,” Lind shrugs. “It’s not a Bills town, necessarily. But it’s an NFL town, for sure.”
What that bodes for the future is anyone’s guess. The league is taxed enough these days keeping its existing teams healthy in a declining economy, while the absence of a franchise in Los Angeles remains top priority for expansion or relocation. Next week, Toronto will host a regular season game between the Bills and the Miami Dolphins in what is widely viewed as an audition for the billionaires’ club of NFL ownership. Yet the first game in the series—a pre-season bout between the Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers—drew criticism for the bite it took out of fans’ pocketbooks (tickets were available only as part of multi-game packages, with average prices for the Steelers’ game at $183), and for the estimated 10,000 seats that had to be papered over with giveaways and discounts.
Lind says the company has taken those lessons to heart (“We could have done it better”), and next week’s game was at press time close to being sold out. Still, the company’s bestselling point remains the sheer scale of its market, where 5.5 million people comprise the fifth-largest fan base on the continent, and a far better prospect than some existing NFL markets. In late October, the league borrowed US$2 billion to guarantee teams’ operations as credit became tighter, mindful no doubt that at least 10 of its franchises play or will play in stadiums financed by debt whose interest rates have as much as quadrupled in the last 11 months. Other markets, such as Jacksonville, Fla., are simply out of their depth in the NFL, where the average team payroll last year topped $114 million.
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, December 1, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 7 Comments
Police lose the right to blanket access to cellphone records
Abdul Khalid was alone in his suburban Toronto jewellery store, the door locked and the alarm set, when the “Burka Bandits” came knocking. It was a Friday, almost noon, and as far as Khalid could tell, the two people standing outside the window were typical clientele—a Muslim man and his wife, dressed from head to toe in a black Islamic gown.
The disguise worked perfectly. As soon as Khalid buzzed them in, the “husband” covered his face with a balaclava, the man under the burka pulled a gun, and a third masked accomplice stormed into the showroom. By the time it was all over, the trio had fled the scene—in broad daylight, at a busy strip mall—with half a million dollars in gold and cash.
Two weeks later, police in Brampton, Ont., still had no idea who orchestrated the heist. Desperate for leads, detectives turned to the only source they could think of: the cellphone towers nearby. Hoping that the thieves called each other in the 90 minutes before the robbery, the cops convinced a justice of the peace to order Rogers, Telus and Bell to hand over the details of every single cellular call (time, number dialed, etc.) that passed through the two towers closest to the crime scene. The results were overwhelming. Between 10:20 and 11:50 on the morning of Nov. 17, 2006, more than 7,000 potential suspects used their phones in the general vicinity of the store.
Though lengthy, the so-called “tower dump records” proved to be the crucial clue. Police eventually found the loot—and four suspects who are now facing criminal charges: Rehan Sheikh, Muzzafar Malik, Abraham Fundi and Arif Mahmood (an illegal immigrant wanted by the feds at the time of the crime).
A trial is still pending, but regardless of the verdict, one thing is already certain: this will be the last case ever solved with the help of cellphone tower dump records.
In a scathing pre-trial ruling, an Ontario judge has scolded the Peel Region officers for embarking on a “high-tech fishing expedition” that violated the suspects’ basic Charter protections against unreasonable search and seizure—not to mention the privacy rights of 7,000 innocent people who used their mobile phones that morning. Justice Michael Quigley said the detectives resorted to such “an astonishingly intrusive snooping technique” that all the evidence gleaned as a result should be tossed out of court “to clearly and unequivocally convey to authorities that Canadian citizens have the constitutional right to be left alone from this kind of unwarranted and unfocused state intrusion into their lives.”
The damning decision doesn’t mean all wireless traffic is suddenly off-limits to police. As with land lines, the Criminal Code allows investigators to access specific cellphone records if they have “reasonable and probable” grounds to believe that a certain person, or a certain number, is linked to a particular crime. Judges issue such warrants every day for suspected drug dealers and murderers. But Quigley’s 68-page decision says police should never be granted blanket access to endless amounts of confidential phone data, no matter how badly they need a lead. “A warrant is not a fishing licence and it cannot authorize fishing expeditions,” he wrote.
In the end, though, it was the cops—and not the alleged robbers—who were saved by a technicality. Yes, the officers committed a “wide-scale breach” by sifting through those phone logs, but because one of the suspects was already on the detectives’ radar screen (the burka salesman tipped them off) the police could have used legal means to access his phone records. If they had, the judge concludes, investigators would have ended up in the same place: at the suspects’ homes, hauling away a “proverbial motherlode” of stolen jewels. “To exclude highly relevant, definitive and probative evidence of such quality in the face of what amounts to little more than a technical breach of their Charter rights would bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” Quigley wrote. “All of that evidence will be admissible at trial.”
But the judge’s message is clear: the technique that cracked this case—a crime-fighting tool that other officers were just starting to exploit—is now illegal. Just like robbery.