Fee increase for sports channels a blow to game’s grassroots, says Curling Canada
By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports
Curling clubs across Canada are rallying together and pushing back against what they see as unfair treatment by the country’s two biggest cable television providers.
In March, Bell and Rogers announced that “public viewing establishments” with a license to sell alcohol, mainly bars and restaurants, would be charged more money to get sports channels like Bell’s TSN and Rogers’ Sportsnet in their establishments. The move could end up costing the average-size bar upwards of $4,000 more per year, according to an industry estimate.
- Bell and Rogers ask bars to pay more for sports packages
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Curling clubs also fall under this classification, and the fee hike could put many of the nearly 1,000 such places across the country, many of which are run by volunteers, in jeopardy, says Curling Canada.
“I would describe the first reactions as dismay and disbelief, followed by frustration at Bell and Rogers when the clubs realized that they were being targeted,” says Katherine Henderson, the CEO of Curling Canada.
Bar or not a bar?
Bell and Rogers say it’s costing them more than ever to generate content for their sports channels, and that the events they broadcast bring bigger crowds to bars and restaurants. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
While many curling clubs generate revenue from alcohol sales, Curling Canada argues the biggest difference between sports bars and curling clubs is the motivation for those sales. Sports bars exist as for-profit establishments, while most curling clubs use the money they earn from selling beer, other drinks and food to subsidize their leagues and programs and help keep the lights on. If they can’t show sports on the TVs in their licensed areas, their members might go elsewhere when they get off the ice, costing clubs a potential revenue stream.
Taking it online
An online campaign, featuring the website NotASportsBar.ca, is now being coordinated by Curling Canada on behalf of its member clubs to make more people aware of how they believe the cable fee increase could negatively affect them.
The campaign is gaining momentum with clubs across Canada, according to Henderson.
Bell controls the broadcast rights for Curling Canada events like the Tournament of Hearts and the Brier, while Rogers has the rights to Grand Slam of Curling tournaments. Henderson says both companies are aware of Curling Canada’s concerns and they’ve both indicated they would like to “better understand the issue.”