Argos ownership: Two’s company, but three’s a crowd?
May 20, 2015
George Cope, (left to right) CEO of Bell Canada, Jeffrey Orridge, CFL commissioner, and Larry Tanenbaum, MLSE chairman, pose at BMO Field following a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
One of the backers of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Ltd. was noticeably missing at Wednesday’s press conference that unveiled the new owners of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, BCE Inc. and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group: Rogers Communications Inc.
Bitter rivals BCE and Rogers put their feud aside when they teamed up in 2011 to buy a majority interest in MLSE. Along with Tanenbaum, the pair own the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Raptors, Toronto FC and the Marlies, among other media assets and real estate. Rogers also owns the Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre.
The duo has been adding to their libraries of coveted sports media rights, content that is best consumed live. Notably, in 2013, BCE bought the exclusive rights to CFL content on a variety of mediums through the 2018 football season. The telcos sell sports to their cable, Internet and smartphone subscribers — and then they sell the audiences these games amass to deep-pocketed advertisers.
The absence of Rogers from the Argos’ new, long-awaited ownership structure suggests that while sports may be the king of live content, not all sports and franchises are made equal.
“We already have the most-coveted sports assets and content in Canada,” Andrea Goldstein, spokeswoman at Rogers Media, said Wednesday in an email, adding the company is “glad” the Argos have found a new owner and a new home at BMO Field once their lease at the Rogers Centre expires after the 2017 season. “We’re focusing our energy on delivering great hockey coverage and the Blue Jays.”
Not only is Rogers busy juggling the other sports teams it either owns or co-owns, or finding space to show the slew of hockey games it’ll pay $5.2 billion to air over 12 years, but any investment it would have poured into the Argos would have knowingly fed the content pipes and lined the pockets of its foe Bell.
“For Rogers, a competitor, to buy the team, when broadcast is the main element of the league, just didn’t make sense,” said Bob Stellick of Toronto’s Stellick Marketing Communications. “The challenge is the Argos have lost a lot of money at the gate for a number of years. The synergy component might make some sense: If the Argos get better, TV ratings will improve the value and that’s only going to accrue to TSN.”