Showdown: Shaw Fires Back at Telus

by Jordan Richardson on September 27, 2010

Shaw Communications and Telus Corp. are going toe-to-toe over the former’s purchase of Canwest Global Communications. There’s an awful lot of water under the bridge between these two Western rivals, it seems, and the hearings in Calgary over Shaw’s acquisition of Canwest are proving a perfect corral for the inevitable showdown.

Back in August, Telus sent the CRTC a filing that outlined the company’s concerns over the Shaw purchase of Canwest. In the filing, Telus warned of an “abuse of market power” that could take place if Shaw favours its own content. Telus warned against “anti-competitive behaviour” and insisted that the Shaw could block rivals from advertising on Canwest stations and on other media acquisitions.

Last week, Telus reiterated those concerns at the regulatory hearing in hopes of having the deal struck down.

Shaw chief executive Jim Shaw, however, had more than a few cards up his sleeve. He accused Telus of the same tactics, noting that his foe traffics in exclusive deals with sports and entertainment organizations in Western Canada. This, noted Shaw, could potentially block his company from advertising opportunities that they may otherwise have. “We’re denied advertising in NHL rinks because Telus demands that in their contract,” he noted. “I don’t think there’s a big difference here.”

As has been reported here, Telus does have an agreement with the CFL to stream games on smart phones. It has similar deals with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers in the NHL.

Shaw has insisted throughout the hearings that it would not be unfair in measuring out advertising opportunities or providing content access. By limiting access to Canwest programming, even in the case of hardened rivals like Telus, Shaw would most assuredly take a revenue hit. And that, according to Jim Shaw and conventional wisdom, just doesn’t wash.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the rules of the game won’t change somewhere along the way. A key theory making the rounds at the moment is that the companies will begin trading for access. Those without access to content will have to pony up the cheddar and, in this case especially, it’s easy to see why Telus might just be looking over its shoulder. Without any media properties, Telus would most certainly be paying top dinero for content if such a barter system were to come about. The picture becomes clearer…

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