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CRTC says Rogers Media can buy The Score, which will be rebranded

Rogers will rebrand The Score under its Sportsnet umbrella and offer more sports analysis after being given regulatory approval to buy the niche sports channel.

The Score will be the home of exclusive content such as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the newly created Hockey Central Playoff Extra, which will air daily until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Rogers Media said Tuesday.

"As part of its programing strategy, The Score will continue to deliver its own unique mix of programming and be the prime destination for breaking sports news, analysis and highlights," the company said in a statement.

Rogers has said The Score's unique programming will pull in younger viewers with about 70 per cent of its audience under 50. The rebranding is set for July 1.

Toronto-based Rogers will be competing for sports fans with heavyweight rival TSN, owned by Bell (TSX:BCE).

In its decision to approve the sale, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is permitting Rogers to increase analysis programming from 10 per cent to 15 cent, and have the flexibility to interrupt live sports event programming every hour for results and video highlights.

Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) said it still plans for the channel to continue providing sports updates every 15 minutes during live events when possible.

Score Media's digital assets will be spun out to its existing shareholders, with Rogers Media retaining an 11.8 per cent equity interest in the digital media business. Rogers Media has said it will also have access to Score Media's digital technology for its own mobile offerings.

But while Rogers was given the go-ahead to buy the channel, it was also told to improve benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system as part of the sale and provide a revised tangible benefits program by May 30.

The CRTC notes that 58 per cent of the just more than $17 million tangible benefits packages goes to Sportsnet Winter Games, an independently produced yearly sports event.

The regulator said much of this expenditure would be devoted to non-programming expenses and would exclusively benefit Rogers.

"Accordingly, the commission is of the view that the proposal does not provide sufficient benefits to the Canadian broadcasting system or the community served by The Score as a national English-language service," said the CRTC.

However, it said it supports that 15 per cent of the tangible benefits package be used for digital media production scholarships and 27 per cent for the development of independent amateur sports programming.

While Rogers paid $167 million, the CRTC valued the total transaction at $172.1 million based on such things as working capital for Score Digital, cashing out options, debt retirement and third-party transactions of Score Media.

Rogers said its tangible benefits package of $17.1 million, which represents 10 per cent of the value of the transaction, will have a positive long-term impact on regional and national amateur sports.

"The funds, which will be directed over a five-year period, will be used to create new programming opportunities for the independent production sector and help foster skills development in multimedia and/or digital media production," it said in a statement.

The Score is billed as Canada's third largest specialty sports channel with 6.6 million television subscribers.

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