Curling Canada officials say they’ve “managed to resolve things with Bell Media” regarding what would have been hefty cable fee increases in curling clubs across Canada.
In an email to CBC Sports, Curling Canada said it “won’t get into specifics” regarding the details of the resolution and that they are is still in communication with Rogers Media.
“We have had positive discussions with Curling Canada and look forward to resolving this issue in a timely fashion,” said Jordan Kerbel, Sportsnet’s director of communications.
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.
CBC Sports first reported that curling clubs across Canada were rallying together and pushing back against what they saw as unfair treatment by the country’s two biggest cable television providers.
Estimated increase of $4,000 a year
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 have ended up costing the average-size bar upward of $4,000 more per year, according to an industry estimate.
Curling clubs also fall under this classification Curling Canada complained the fee hike would put many of the nearly 1,000 such places across the country, many of which are run by volunteers, in jeopardy.
At the time, Katherine Henderson, CEO of Curling Canada, said her first reaction was “dismay and disbelief, followed by frustration at Bell and Rogers when the clubs realized that they were being targeted.”
Sports attract big audiences
In announcing the fee increase, the two media conglomerates argued it was justified because of the increased cost of producing content for their sports channels that in turn attract big audiences to bars and restaurants.
“For many years, these venues have paid rates for sports content that were not reflective of the benefits they’ve enjoyed, due to the high volume of patrons that gather to watch sports and the revenue it generates for these establishments,” Kerbel said.
While many curling clubs generate revenue from alcohol sales, Curling Canada argued 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.
Curling Canada argued members might go elsewhere if they can’t show sports on the TVs in their licensed areas, costing clubs a valuable revenue stream.