Rogers offers Omni stations in Citytv bid


TORONTO -- Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications said Friday that it has offered to sell off its Omni-branded TV stations in Vancouver and Winnipeg, Manitoba, to secure regulatory approval for its CAN$375 million ($350.5 million) takeover of five Citytv stations.

Toronto-based Rogers, Canada's largest cablecaster and mobile phone provider, snagged the five Citytv stations in early June after the country's TV watchdog denied them to CTVglobemedia on competition grounds.

Having acquired the spun-off Citytv stations in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary, Rogers is making its own bet that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will allow it to keep them if it agrees to sell off its Omni-branded religious TV stations in Vancouver and Winnipeg. It has two others in Toronto that it would keep under the proposal

Such a move would enable Rogers to expand its stable of Canadian TV channels and possibly become a major buyer of U.S. series at the Los Angeles Screeings each May.

This month, Rogers secured additional licenses to operate new ethnic TV stations in Calgary and Edmonton and said it intends to launch them before year's end.

The cablecaster will tell the CRTC that the Toronto Omni stations are third-language TV stations, airing programming mostly for the Pan-Asian, continental Europe and Latin communities locally. As such, the Omni channels in Toronto should not fall under current rules barring broadcasters from owning more than one free-to-air TV station in a major market.

While some domestic broadcasters have been granted exemptions in the Vancouver and Toronto/Hamilton markets to hold more than one TV station license, the CRTC, in its recent decision on CTVglobemedia's acquisition of Chum, signaled it wants to make those market exemptions rare occurrences.

The CRTC is expected to scrutinize the Citytv stations acquisition carefully because the Toronto Omni stations already air U.S. series in primetime to bolster revenues and thus could be seen as competition to the flagship Citytv station in that market.

The CRTC will begin considering the Citytv deal on Aug. 29. A spokesman for Rogers declined comment on their application.