In the past, Bell has often been at the receiving end from CRTC. Whether it’s late fee, regulatory hurdles in the much-hyped acquisition of CTV or the sensitive issue of throttling, the carrier and the regulatory body have crossed each other’s path several times.
Last month, the CRTC found that Bell Mobility gave itself a “significant competitive advantage” when it entered into exclusive agreements to mobile rights for programming from the National Hockey League and the National Football League.
As expected, Bell cried foul and after nearly two months, the CRTC has reportedly dropped its case against Bell Canada’s exclusive mobile deal with the National Football League.
The whole issue gained prominence when Telus claimed it wanted to negotiate with Bell for the rights to NHL games and highlights as well as NFL games and NFL Network programming, but negotiations fell through. Last January, Telus filed a formal complaint with the CRTC claiming that Bell told them that they couldn’t negotiate the rights because the latter didn’t have permission to “sub-licence” the content.
On the other hand, Bell stated that Telus previously had “opportunities” to acquire the exclusive rights to the aforementioned content and failed to do so. Last December, the CRTC ruled that Bell had subjected their competition, namely Telus, to an “undue disadvantage” and ordered the former to file a report within 30 days to explain how they’ll ensure the latter has access to NFL and NHL mobile content.
Back then, Bell expressed in ability to do so stating that it does not control how the major leagues sell their rights in Canada. And after two months, the CRTC has given in to Bell’s request.
“The commission now has confirmation from the NFL that Bell has no right to sub-license the content at hand to a third-party mobile service provider,” CRTC secretary-general John Traversy wrote in a letter to BCE. “The commission also notes that the NFL has expressed opposition to amending the current agreement with Bell. In light of the circumstances, the commission is satisfied with Bell’s follow-up report.”
On its part, Bell says it has renegotiated the deal with the NHL and it will share hockey coverage with the competition. The NFL, though, has declined any requests to renegotiate its deal with Bell, which exclusively offers games to its smartphone customers. While Bell has agreed to sign a less exclusive agreement when the deal comes up for renewal, the NFL says it will continue to sign one-on-one deals with broadcasters around the world.
In any case, Bell top management would be heaving a sigh of relief now that CRTC has finally acknowledged its tricky situation with the NFL.