NFL Backs Bell Canada in Exclusive Mobile Content Fight With CRTC

Green Bay NFL - H 2011
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Green Bay NFL - H 2011

The pro football league has told Canada's TV watchdog it has no jurisdiction to force NFL game content to be shared with rival cel phone providers.

TORONTO - The National Football League has mounted a rush attack for Canadian phone giant Bell Canada as it battles the country’s TV regulator to retain sports content exclusively for its own mobile subscribers.

The CRTC earlier ruled against exclusive sports content deals for vertically-integrated Canadian media groups like Bell Canada-parent BCE Inc., which runs the Bell Mobility phone service and broadcast assets like the CTV network and TSN, Canada’s top-rated cable sports channel.

Undeterred, Bell Canada is opposing the CRTC for ruling it showed undue preference for its own subscribers when it signed exclusive agreements for the mobile rights to NHL games and video highlights, and NFL content that includes prime-time games, playoff games and access to NFL Network programming.

Now, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday on the CTV network, the NFL has told the CRTC that it does not have the jurisdiction to force BCE to share exclusive mobile content with rival mobile phone providers.

“The NFL owns the copyright to NFL content licensed under the mobility agreement and Bell has no right to [redistribute] this content,” Hans Schroeder, NFL senior vp of media business strategy and development, wrote in a submission to the CRTC, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Tuesday.

The CRTC opposes exclusive mobile content deals because they force Canadians to subscribe to a specific wireless service to access preferred content.

That policy stance forces Bell Canada, Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications, which own and operate broadcast groups, to share their TV content with one another.

Rival mobile phone operator Telus Corp. has been most vocal with the CRTC in pointing to past difficulty securing NHL and NFL content held exclusively by Bell Canada.