Over the top sports finally comes to Canada
It may have taken Canada's regulator, the CRTC, to force unbundling of television services to make it happen, but Rogers, owner of Sportsnet and many other sources of Canadian content, has made its suite of sports content available to all Canadians for a monthly fee.
Available for $25 per month, Sportsnet Now will be offered to all Canadians with an internet connection, removing the need for an existing television subscription to access content from the MLB, NHL, NBA and more.
The unbundling of Sportsnet Now from television bundles — the actual service will go unchanged, but it will no longer be limited to television subscribers — is a first in North America, according to Rogers. ESPN, which is owned by Disney, partnered with Dish Network's Sling TV to allow customers stream ESPN for $20 per month, but Rogers takes the unbundling one step further, removing the requirement for a third-party subscription entirely.
One of the risks involved with cable package unbundling has been exposing the true costs of television to consumers. As an increasing number of Canadians cut the cord, live sports continues to be a source of leverage for the telcos to encourage customers to maintain their often-expensive monthly service. As of March 1st, all television providers are required to offer "skinny basic" television packages for $25 per month, along with low-cost channel bundles or individual channels. But many Canadians have balked at the relatively high price of total service, since providers like Rogers and Bell are not forced to include the cost of equipment rentals from the $25 base price.
Rogers, Sportsnet's owner, controls the licensing rights for the National Hockey League in Canada, as well as much of the Major League Baseball games broadcast in Canada. It also splits National Basketball Association broadcasts with TSN, its sports rival owned by Bell. Whether Bell plans to offer its five TSN channels to Canadian Internet subscribers remains to be seen.
Sportsnet Now will be offered in the form of smartphone, tablet and, on the desktop through the browser, starting Apr. 1, 2016. Channels include Ontario, East, Pacific, West, ONE, and 360, but not World, which includes content like cricket and rugby. That will still be exclusive to television subscribers at an extra cost.