Bars sulk RDS and TVA Sports

The explosion of the tariff required by RDS and TVA Sports at bars and restaurants will have lost many players to the two broadcasters of the matches of the Montreal Canadiens.
B lthough sports bars will have had no choice but to live with the new “salary cap” imposed at the start of the 2018-2019 season, they rationalized their use, others have changed their plans or made a selection of channels at no additional cost, while most non-essential venues simply skipped both channels.

Some, on the other hand, have squarely chosen solutions whose legality is doubtful.

Quebec was the last Canadian territory where food establishments had not yet suffered the repercussions of the broadcasters’ bidding for National Hockey League (NHL) broadcast rights. In November 2013, Rogers and Quebecor shook the community by appropriating the national television rights of the NHL for a staggering $ 5.2 billion over 12 years. The following month, RDS announced that it had also reached a 12-year agreement granting it the Canadian’s regional rights for an amount that was not disclosed, but which represents tens of millions of dollars annually, the previous agreement $ 31 million a year.

From $ 20 to $ 500 per month

The two channels have therefore asked their Quebec distributors, including Vidéotron, Bell and Cogeco, to raise the rates for bars and restaurants according to their capacity, as had already been done in the other provinces. Sports bars and restaurants such as the Cage and the Sports Station have seen each television bill go from $ 20 to $ 40 a month at a monthly rate of $ 500 to $ 600.

On the side of the Cage, the president of the Sportscene group, Jean Bédard, explained that we had eliminated all the redundancies.

“We had both signals everywhere, Bell and Videotron. The cable was a good “backup” in the event of a snowstorm. We made choices, we can not afford to have both everywhere, “he said.

According to Mr. Bédard, the increase represented an average of about $ 5,000 per year per Cage, for an annual total of approximately $ 220,000 for the network of 44 institutions, and although he managed to negotiate a reduction in because of the volume, it is not significant. However, there was no question of passing the bill to the customer, he said.

“We decided to absorb the increase with our national advertising fund, to which all restaurants contribute. The money we put into these broadcast rights, we will not put it into marketing. ”

Another big Montreal player, Peter Sergakis, who owns some 40 establishments in the Montreal area, including the seven Sports Stations, has not yet finished his negotiations with Videotron, with whom he is trying to obtain a reduction based on on the volume not only of its establishments, but also of its buildings to housing and other companies, agreement in which it wishes to pack all the services – television, telephony, internet – for an overall price.

Unlike the Sportscene group, however, it does not have a pot to absorb the bill.

“I did not increase my prices because I’m afraid of losing customers, but eventually we’ll increase them quietly, we will not have a choice. If we want to broadcast hockey, eventually it will be necessary that the consumer pays a little more expensive, “he acknowledged.

Tariff Shock

The President of the Corporation of Bar, Brewery and Taverns of Quebec (CBBTQ), Renaud Poulin, says that most neighborhood bars, restaurants and other establishments where sport was just a distraction on the screen have disconnected completely from RDS and TVA Sports.

“There are some customers who have noticed that there is no sport at all in their establishment and we have been told that we do not have enough customers who came to watch the games and that it cost too expensive, “he said.

“The increase was very badly received and it created a shock initially. The bars that were more or less sports bars, they stopped completely from showing sports. We know it. There are many and there are in all regions. In some institutions, music videos have replaced sports. The little bars tell us that it was not worth paying that. ”

Withdrawals and alternatives

Some, on the other hand, have begun to choose joint solutions, such as only subscribing to TVA Sports to have the Canadiens’ Saturday games while attendance is at its peak. Others take their subscription to RDS or TVA Sports (or both) on a monthly basis, so they have disconnected the service as soon as the Canadian has been eliminated and have turned to the CBC signal, which broadcasts playoff games and that does not represent any additional fees on their subscription.

Others, who want to broadcast NFL football, for example, shun RDS for the benefit of major American networks such as CBS and Fox that broadcast these games at no additional cost.

One of these tenants, Jean-Philippe Bouchard, owner of the Chez Morse bar in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the Midway Tavern in Montreal, not only disconnected the two channels but turned to free solutions like CBC during the playoffs, but he also complained to the Competition Bureau to denounce the concerted increase of distributors.

“It looks like a cartel; competitors – Bell and Videotron – who write a letter together that they send to all customers, “he pleaded in an interview.

So far, the Competition Bureau has not provided any information on the follow-up of the complaint, other than to send an acknowledgment of receipt.

But for Mr. Bouchard, it was too much: “I have two bars and the two together it makes no sense,” he says, adding that his bill at the Morse went from $ 45 to $ 600 a month and up to $ 1000 at the Midway. He claims that all the owners and tenants of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu have also disconnected from both chains.

Internet: on the edge of legality and beyond

In addition to these solutions, there is now internet, but in this case, its use places tenants at the limit of legality. Some web platforms broadcast the NHL games for a subscription fee that is similar to that of TV distributors before the increase last fall. However, they do not have the right to broadcast the Canadiens games in the territory where RDS and TVA Sports own the rights.

Two scenarios are quickly drawn, however: some platforms do it anyway, regardless of the legality of the thing, others do it in a theoretically legal context when the client institution records an IP address (identification of a computer terminal) in another territory. For example, a Quebec customer who has an IP address in Florida can create the “computer illusion” of being outside the territory where the two channels hold the broadcasting rights and the supplier. , do not know anything about it.

Mr. Paul (fictitious name), owner of more than one establishment, did not ask the question long after receiving the notice of increase from his supplier and turned immediately to the web.

“There are online platforms that have taken the leap and have already started broadcasting all games of the MLS, fighting. There are some applications that cost $ 20 per month and you can have everything online, “he said.

Does he really think he is within the limits of legality? “We are not aware of this and it is not deliberate blindness: we do not know who is doing what, if it is legal and how much the CRTC has decided. We do not know anything. It’s changing so fast that it looks as if they do not have the time to decide whether new ways of broadcasting are governed or not governed. ”

Still in “gray zone”?

Although the distributors have warned the establishment’s tenants that the use of the Internet would be illegal, the professor of media law Pierre Trudel, of the University of Montreal, qualifies this practice as a “gray area”.

He notes that, unlike music, whose rights are administered by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN) to which the institutions pay royalties, even when the source of the music they play is a web provider, there is no equivalent rights management company for audiovisual works such as sports matches, for example.

“It’s a gray area because it’s not clear. In theory, the match that is broadcast at Cage aux Sports or in a place where the public generally has access, it is a public communication and the rights holder can reserve these rights and prohibit those who do not pay to do so. To the best of my knowledge, however, there are no mechanisms that administer these rights that would do like SOCAN and sell licenses to the various bars to be able to broadcast those works, “he explained.

Outdated laws

According to Mr. Trudel, the legal difficulty lies more in the absence of established duty than the opposite. Thus, a platform would be “theoretically” illegal and a restaurant or bar keeper could run the risk of being asked to stop broadcasting in his establishment.

On the other hand, “on copyright issues, it is far from certain that, in law, a barkeeper could in any circumstances be regarded as making unauthorized public communication. There are all kinds of rules in copyright law that make it not as clear as that. ”

“It’s certainly not black and white and it’s one of the many ambiguities that characterize many laws when it comes to the internet. This is a concrete example of what it does when a law is obsolete. We do not really know how far we can go when we take a signal on the internet and broadcast it in a public space, among other things. “

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