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Rogers to the CRTC: take pity on us

rogers-logo

Rogers is in hearings with the CRTC today, negotiating for renewals of 17 of its television broadcast licenses. Unsurprisingly, the media corporation is trying to make the case that some regulatory leniency would help put its TV stations on sound financial footing.

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Sports

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Strombo’s talk-show career is dead; long live Strombo’s hockey-announcer career

(Image: Strombo: JMacPherson; Cherry: CBC/Screenshot)

(Image: Strombo: JMacPherson; Cherry: CBC/Screenshot)

Here’s your roundup of all today’s exciting George Stroumboulopoulos news: according to reports out of CBC and Rogers Media, the earringed one will be giving up his talk show, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, and accepting a new gig as the host of Hockey Night in Canada. The move is the first big staffing change to be announced by Rogers since it bought the rights to Canadian NHL broadcasts—including Hockey Night in Canada—for $5.2 billion late last year.

The Canadian Press is reporting that Strombo’s time on HNIC will begin with the next hockey season, in October 2014. His face will be virtually inescapable for Canadian hockey fans: Rogers now has a monopoly on hockey in this country, and so the new host’s duties extend not only to CBC, but also to broadcasts on City, Sportsnet and any other channels or websites that might conceivably contain a picture of a hockey rink. Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and the rest of the gang are said to be retaining their jobs for the time being (the Rogers deal only guarantees the continued existence of HNIC on CBC for four years), but a press release indicates that their roles will be reduced.

Considering the utter failure of his attempted expansion into the U.S. talk-show arena, this may be Strombo’s one realistic shot at advancing his television career. He’ll be the de facto face of Canada’s national sport, and Canada will have to get used to him, if it can.

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Rogers is (still) considering launching a Netflix rival

rogers-vs-netflix

It looks like Rogers could be getting serious about launching an online streaming package to rival Netflix. According to a report in the online trade magazine Cartt.ca (whose paywalled story was subsequently picked up by the Canadian Press), the proof could be in the cash: Cartt’s sources say Rogers has recently spent over $100 million on the rights to a wide selection of TV shows and movies, apparently for the purpose of allowing customers to stream them on demand.

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Hockey Night in Canada to become Hockey Weekend in Canada?

(Image: Dan Heap)

(Image: Dan Heap)

When Rogers announced that it had bought the rights to all of Canada’s NHL broadcasts, it was immediately clear that the prognosis for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada wasn’t going to be great. Under the deal, Rogers gets complete creative and financial control of the iconic show, meaning it could make big changes without consulting the CBC. And now it’s becoming apparent that the telecommunications giant is even planning on introducing some competition into the mix: a second hockey night.

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11 people who dislike the idea of Bon Jovi moving the Buffalo Bills to Toronto

Bon-Jovi-Buffalo-Bills

(Image: ejmc/Flickr)

Twitter exploded this morning with “Livin’ on a Prayer” puns over news that classic rock mainstay and hair enthusiast Jon Bon Jovi is joining forces with Larry Tanenbaum (part owner of MLSE) and Tim Leiweke (president and CEO of MLSE) to bid on the Buffalo Bills and move the team to Toronto. Rock star wattage has brought attention to the idea, but most still consider Rogers to be the primary candidate to bring American football into our Canadian backyard.

The move would complete the years-long campaign to get an NFL team into Canada, but is also fraught with snags and questions: the Bills price could be as high as $1 billion; getting them out of their current venue lease before 2020 would rack up another $400 million; and a new Toronto stadium could cost yet another $1 billion (possible locations: Downsview Park, Woodbine Racetrack). Plus, the Bills will not be available for purchase until 95-year-old owner Ralph Wilson passes away. And what about the CFL? Could the city support both the Toronto Bills and the Toronto Argos?

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Quoted: The poor guy from New York whose Twitter handle is @Rogers on last night’s nationwide service outage

twitter-glenn-rogers

The wrath of a thousand Canadians is a mighty sight. #rogersoutage

—Australian-born Brooklynite Glenn Rogers, holder of the @rogers Twitter handle, on the hundreds of furious tweets he received during yesterday’s hours-long service outage. (For the record, the telecommunications company’s account is @RogersHelps.) The tech exec told CP24 that he gets a raft of angry, 140-character missives every few months, but last night’s haul was the by far the most irate. Just wait until the angry hordes hear that Rogers (the company) once asked Rogers (the man) to donate his Twitter handle to it. [CP24]

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VIDEO: a Vimeo user takes revenge on Rogers with a doctored South Park episode

Anyone who has battled Rogers can relate to this week’s South Park episode skewering the telecom industry’s record of crappy customer service. The ridiculously long service windows, the insincere apologies, the corporate smugness…it all felt blood-boilingly familiar. So much so, in fact, that one Vimeo user uploaded an edited clip replacing the fictional Get Cable! logo with the Canadian conglomerate’s recognizable red circle. Sure, it won’t bring down Rogers, but the thought of their employees sporting removable nipple patches just might help you survive one more customer service call. [via Huffington Post]

UPDATE: This Vimeo clip has been taken down. YouTube still has the original version up here, though.

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Random Stuff

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Stealing cell phones just got a lot less lucrative

(Image: Yutaka Tsutano)

The newest tool in the war against phone snatchers: a country-wide blacklist to help deny cell service to stolen devices. Anyone whose phone is swiped or lost can, as of yesterday, report its IMEI number to their carrier to have it added to the Canadian database (to find a phone’s IMEI, enter *#06# or look on the white label under the battery). Participating service providers, which include Rogers, Bell, Telus and Wind Mobile, will not allow any blacklisted device to be used on their networks. Still willing to risk Craigslist’s secondhand phone market? Check the stolen IMEI database before handing over any cash. [CBC]

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What Toronto Maple Leafs brass, players and hockey insiders are saying about Brian Burke’s firing

Brian Burke and Dave Nonis during the NHL entry draft last summer (Image: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport)

The reactions to the shocking end of Brian Burke’s tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs—and the slightly awkward beginning of Dave Nonis’—have been swift and varied. While MLSE insists the decision was months in the making, many are baffled it came just days before training camp when ownership could’ve made its move during the lockout. Speculation has also been rampant about who on MLSE’s board pushed hardest for the dramatic dismissal and predictions already abound about how Nonis’s regime will differ from Burke’s. Below, a roundup of comments from those closest to the deal—MLSE bigwigs, the most well-connected pundits and Leafs players. Plus, Rob Ford.

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Bell stakes its claim for downtown Toronto condo owners with big-time cable discounts

A high-stakes turf war is heating up between Rogers and Bell over the chance to provide television to Toronto’s ever-growing ranks of downtown condo-dwellers. For decades, bylaws prohibiting satellite dishes on condo balconies prevented Bell from selling its satellite TV in high-rises, leaving Rogers to sign exclusive deals with developers. But the landscape has changed: Rogers’ deals are now expiring and, with Fibe TV, Bell has traded in ugly satellites for discreet fiber optics cable. The company recently made its first major play, offering steep discounts on TV and PVR rentals (but buyer beware: the ultra-low rates expire after a year, and customers must also sign up for home phone and internet). Bell has even taken the unprecedented step of running fiber into single suites—some private residences at the Four Seasons are on Fibe—setting the precedent for a gritty customer-by-customer battle between it and Rogers. And here we thought the competitors were learning to play nice.  [Globe and Mail]

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50 Most Influential 2012: a ranking of Toronto’s top tycoons, backroom operators and supersize egos

50 Most Influential

The people driving the agenda for the city are more likely to come from outside local government than inside. This was the year our premier, rendered virtually impotent by a minority legislature, up and quit without warning. And our mayor, who listens to no one and refuses to build consensus on council, has created a city hall power vacuum.

What follows is Toronto Life’s list of the real influence peddlers—the people who, either publicly or behind the scenes, have had the greatest impact on the city. We looked for people whose power was broad enough to be felt across different sectors, or else so palpable in their immediate field that it somehow changed things for the rest of us. We looked for people whose ability to alter public opinion, raise money, rally troops or simply get stuff done was both formidable and undeniable. The result is a carefully calculated and highly opinionated look at power in the city in 2012.

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Q&A: Milos Raonic on his plans for world domination and his crush on Taylor Swift

He doesn’t just want to dominate the tennis world. He’s already busy plotting his corporate takeover

Q&A: Milos Raonic

Two years ago, no one had heard of you. Today, you’re ranked 15th in the world. What clicked?
I realized that when I control the return of my serve, I can dictate the point. Now I’m working on everything else: my return game, moving laterally, getting quicker, fitter, more agile.

Have you been as surprised by your ascent as
everyone else?

Totally. But my goal was always to get to centre court.

In other words, you don’t mind the spotlight.
Well, I like to showcase myself because it can lead to opportunities. When my tennis days are over, I want a reputation that will help me succeed in business.

You’re well on your way. Lacoste, Wilson, SAP, Rogers, Biotherm Homme and Commerce Court are sponsors, and you’ve won $1.75 million on tour. What was your first big purchase?
A condo for my parents at Yonge and St. Clair, but so far nothing for myself. When I’m training in Barcelona, I stay at a university dorm. It’s far from luxurious.

Do students invite you to keg parties?
I get invited out, but I always have to decline. Tennis is
all-consuming.

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Q&A: Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera, the man that’s battling big telecom

He’s been trading punches with the three big telecom companies for years. He’s just won a huge battle. Here’s what’s in it for you

Anthony Lacavera

(Image: Mark Peckmezian)

When you launched Wind Mobile in 2009, you were a folk hero to disgruntled cellphone customers. Today, Canadians still pay some of the highest rates in the world, and customer service in the industry is as miserable as ever. What went wrong? Did you sell out?
Nothing went wrong. But when you’re competing against a 30-year entrenched oligopoly in Bell, Rogers and Telus, you encounter some obstacles.

Like what?
Where do I start? All three have failed to fully cooperate with the government’s requirement that they allow us to put our equipment on their towers, so we had to build our own. But the worst roadblock was the big three lobbying the CRTC to block our launch in 2009. They claimed that Wind was foreign controlled because my main investor was Egyptian. The CRTC shut us down for two months. I had 700 employees and zero revenue. We burned through tens of millions of dollars. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which dismissed it in April.

How did you celebrate the ruling?
I took my girlfriend, Kimberly, to Paris. She’s a shoe freak, so we went to a Christian Louboutin show.

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Will Canadians be stuck watching NBC during future Olympics?

Er, not so fast (Image: Geoff Murie)

Canadian broadcasters have teamed up to try and buy domestic media rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics, but apparently they still can’t afford them. The International Olympic Committee has shut down two joint bids by CBC and Bell Media (which owns CTV and TSN), and Bell says it’s giving up. Meanwhile, Rogers Communications never even bothered vying for the rights—mostly because they are pretty darn expensive and the Games tend to be money-losers. (Rogers and Bell paid $153 million for the 2010 and 2012 Games; they lost money in Vancouver and are expected to lose more in London.) That leaves the financially strapped CBC to try and go it alone or attempt a long-shot joint bid with Shaw Communications. Or (please, no!) it could just leave Canadians to watch NBC during the Sochi and Rio de Janeiro Games‚ which would mean no feel-good features on Canadian athletes, no French-language feed and broadcasts helmed by the wrong Brian Williams. [Toronto Star]

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Business

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Three banks—and one surprise—on the list of Canada’s 10 best brands

Every two years, consulting firm Interbrand puts out a “Best Canadian Brands” list and the 2012 list of winners has a lot of old standbys (i.e. media companies, banks and Tim Hortons). Much-vaunted financial institutions like Toronto Dominion Bank (which took the top spot), Royal Bank of Canada (number three) and Scotiabank (number five) are all back, while cult yoga pants purveyor Lululemon Athletica broke the top 10 for the first time, its $3.25-billion brand value making it the fastest-growing brand in the country. Finally, hats off to Research in Motion’BlackBerry brand, which managed to hold on to the number four spot—though the fine print acknowledges Interbrand arrived at that number in late 2011, and a lot has happened since then.

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