CRTC decision allows Rogers to continue offering GamePlus exclusively


The CRTC has ruled that GamePlus, an exclusive online-only extension of the company’s NHL GameCentre Live service, violates neither Section 3 nor Section 5 of the Digital Media Exemption Order, which distinguishes between linear and digital types of broadcasts.

In October, Bell issued a complaint to the CRTC stating that Rogers was giving “undue preference” to its customers limiting GamePlus footage, which is a raw feed of several non-televised cameras, to its wireless, internet, cable or home phone customers.

It also said that because Rogers used several of those cameras for linear televised broadcasts, employing the same camera operators and producers, it was violating Section 5 of the DMEO that prevents the distribution of television programming “on an exclusive or otherwise preferential basis in a manner that is dependent on the subscription to a specific mobile or retail Internet access service.”

After receiving comments and proposed remedies from TELUS, COSCO-PIAC and Ben Klass, among others, the CRTC decided that the service contravenes neither section 3 nor 5 of the DMEO, as the Commission encourages “innovative programming by permitting its exclusive distribution on mobile or retail Internet services,” two platforms that GamePlus is meant to solely service.

Keith Pelley, President of Rogers Media, said in a statement, “We applaud the CRTC for allowing us to develop new and innovative camera angles and exclusive content that are part of GamePlus. This was a smart decision and is good for hockey fans.”

The issue of digital versus linear programming has been in the public view a lot recently, as last week the CRTC changed the rules around exclusivity of on-demand services, which could force Bell, Rogers and Shaw to offer CraveTV and Shomi respectively to all Canadian Internet users. The distinction between content that is created solely for broadcast television, and that which is meant to be distributed exclusively online, will lead to a hybrid category for services like Shomi and CraveTV, which were created to be tethered to a cable or satellite subscription, but has a presence on smartphones, tablets and desktop browsers.

Because GamePlus was created as a second-screen experience for Rogers customers to use while watching live broadcasts of NHL games, the CRTC likely saw it as the “innovative use of digital media” it has encouraged from vertically integrated companies since 2012. Rogers argued that GamePlus is not standalone product, but a complement to existing linear NHL broadcasts; the CRTC saw this as a step in “the creation of content for digital platforms.”