12/13/2013 01:14 EST | Updated 02/12/2014 05:59 EST

Rogers NHL deal may draw CRTC action, Moody’s says

Rogers Communications' $5.2-billion NHL broadcasting deal could draw regulatory action from the CRTC, rating agency Moody's says.

In a report released Thursday, Moody's noted it's unclear how Rogers plans to “distribute and monetize” NHL games, so that the cost implications for Canadian consumers are yet to be seen.

“Despite the Canadian Government’s support of free markets, should Rogers’ plans adversely affect consumers, regulators will respond,” the ratings agency said.

The deal, announced late last month, covers digital as well as broadcast rights, and will run from 2014 to mid-2026.

Rogers Media president Keith Pelley said the agreement marked the first time a major North American sport had sold exclusive national broadcast rights to a single entity.

As part of the deal, Rogers inked a side pact to sublicense some Saturday games and other rights to CBC and Quebecor's French-language TVA network.

While Rogers may announce further sub-licensing agreements, the Moody’s report speculated that Rogers will maintain “proprietary distribution solely to its own subscribers” for certain games, which “could have regulatory implications.”

Deal a 'contractual matter'

The Rogers agreement could also spur CRTC regulations because of other changes taking place in the Canadian broadcasting sector, the report said, such as the federal government’s pledge to explore “pick-and-pay viewing and wireless roaming changes.”

In an email to CBC News, CRTC spokesman Guillaume Castonguay said: “The acquisition of broadcast rights is a contractual matter between broadcasters and third parties (such as sports leagues). It is not something that the CRTC gets involved in.”

However, Castonguay added that if the agency receives a complaint raising concerns that a company is in violation of CRTC regulations, it will “investigate and act as required.”

In 2011, following a complaint from Telus, the CRTC ruled agreements that make Bell Mobility customers the only wireless users able to stream NHL and NFL games on their mobile devices were in violation of Canadian broadcast rules.