Ketupa.net a media industry resource

Rogers Group

Overview

This profile deals with Rogers Communications.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • the group
  • evolution
  • Maclean-Hunter
  • studies

Introduction

Rogers is Canada's largest cable television operator, with substantial telecommunication and publishing interests.

It has leveraged its infrastructure and cash flow to become a substantial Canadian telecommunications provider (interests in the US were sold during the 1990s) and like competitors such as BCE and CanWest has expanded into publishing and sports. It does not have a tangible Australian presence.

The group

Rogers began in the early 1960s when Ted Rogers Jr, son of an electronics manufacturer and radio station owner, established FM radio stations and a television station in Canada.

He went on to build/acquire cable television networks in North America, a traditional telephone network (subsequently bought by AT&T), a mobile phone network (now partly owned by AT&T), the Maclean-Hunter publishing group and sports teams such as the Blue Jays. Shaw Communications, the second largest cable TV operator, swapped systems with Rogers: Shaw is dominant in Canada's western provinces, Rogers in the east.

In recent years the Rogers group has used its cable infrastructure to provide internet and telephone access.

The group covers -

  • mobile telephony - 50% of Rogers AT&T Wireless
  • broadcast television - CFMT Toronto
  • broadcast radio - 29 stations in Canada
  • cable television infrastructure in eastern Canada
  • cable tv programming - inc Canada's The Shopping Channel and 69.9% of Canadian Sportsnet
  • magazines - 62 consumer and business magazines in North America, including Maclean's, L'actualité and Canadian Business
  • an internet service provider and internet portal
  • multimedia - Rogers New Media
  • 240 video stores in Canada
  • sports

An indication of the holdings is here.

A schematic of the group's structure is here (PDF).

In summary, Rogers Communications has controlling stakes in Rogers Media, Rogers Wireless and Rogers Cable.

Rogers Media holds Rogers' radio and television broadcasting operations, consumer and trade publishing operations, and television home shopping service. Its broadcasting operations include 43 radio stations across Canada (33 FM and 10 AM radio stations), two multicultural television stations in Ontario (OMNI.1 and OMNI.2), an 80% interest in regional sports programming (Rogers Sportsnet) and The Shopping Channel. Rogers media has minority interests in Canadian specialty television services - such as Viewers Choice Canada, Outdoor Life Network and The Biography Channel Canada - along with 50% of Dome Productions, a joint venture with CTV Specialty Television in mobile production. Publishing activity encompasses around 70 consumer magazines, trade/professional publications and directories.

Rogers Wireless - a mobile phone operator - had around 4.1 million customers at June 2004 (some 3.9 million wireless voice/ data subscribers and 220,000 paging subscribers). Its GSM/GPRS network provides coverage to around 93% of Canada's population, with TDMA and analog network coverage to around 85% of the population.

Rogers Cable is Canada's largest cable tv operator, with around 2.3 million basic subscribers (29% of Canada's basic cable subscribers), around 590,000 digital cable households and 850,000 internet subscribers. Its operations are clustered in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Rogers Video, with some 282 stores as of June 2004 - is Canada's second largest chain of video stores.

Evolution

Ted Rogers Jr, his father and associates launched commercial tv station CFTO in Ottawa in 1960 before Ted Jr formed Rogers Radio Broadcasting Ltd in 1961 and acquired Ottawa FM radio station CHFI-FM. In 1962 Rogers founded CFTR-AM in Toronto and pioneered FM stereo broadcasting in Canada at CHFI-FM.

In 1967, as cable television took off in the US, he founded Bramalea Telecable which gained licenses for areas in and around Toronto, Brampton and Leamington. During 1974 as Rogers Cable TV it became the first Canadian operator to offer more than 12 channels. In 1979 it used a reverse-takeover to gain control of Canadian Cablesystems Ltd and in 1980 acquired Premier Communications Ltd, becoming the largest cable operator in Canada. It acquired and built cable systems in the US, sold in March 1989 for C$1.58 billion. Rogers Communications was established as a holding company.

In 1984 Rogers bought 40% of CNCP Telecommunications, a nationwide telecommunications operator that had been formed by the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railway groups (leveraging their right of way). The following year Rogers became a founder with AT&T of Rogers Cantel, a national mobile phone network operator that was later badged as Rogers AT&T Wireless and then as Rogers Wireless. Rogers Wireless is now 55% owned by Rogers Communications.

In 1989 CNCP Telecommunications was renamed Unitel Communications, securing regulatory permission in 1992 to compete in the Canadian long-distance market. In 1993 some 20% of Unitel Communications was sold to AT&T, reducing Rogers Communications interest in Unitel to 32%. Unitel continued to haemorrhage; restructuring in 1995 mean that Rogers Communications no longer held equity in that group, having written off upwards of C$500 million.

Other Rogers Communications performed better. In 1994 Rogers acquired publisher Maclean Hunter for C$3.1 billion, subsequently taking control of the Toronto Sun newspaper group. Those publishing operations were bundled as Rogers Media, with European operations being sold to Emap and the Toronto Sun stake sold to Quebecor in 1996.

In 2000 Rogers bought the Cable Atlantic cable tv network but failed to take over the Vidéotron, which was acquired by Quebecor. Rogers more recently bought the Toronto Blue Jays (with a majority interest in the Toronto Phantoms football team), 40% of Sportsnet from BCE and 13 Ontario radio stations from Standard Broadcasting for C$100 million.

Maclean-Hunter

John Bayne Maclean (1862-1950), founded Maclean's magazine, the Financial Post weekly (sold to Toronto Sun Publishing Corp in 1987) and Maclean-Hunter publishers. Maclean worked as a teacher and financial editor of the Toronto Mail before founding Canadian Grocer magazine in 1887, Macleans magazine in 1905, the Financial Post in 1907, Farmer's Magazine in 1910, Mayfair in 1927 and Chatelaine in 1928. He acquired Canadian Homes & Gardens in 1925. By the 1930s the Maclean group had become Canada's leading magazine publisher, with branches in the US and UK.

Maclean's associate Horace Talmadge Hunter became chief executive of the group in 1933; his name was added to the corporate title in 1945. Floyd Sherman Chalmers (1898-1993) - a counterpart of Sir Keith Murdoch - started his reporting career at 17 with the Toronto News, became 21, he became editor in chief of the Financial Post at 21 and progressively built a 22% stake in Maclean-Hunter, becoming its president in 1952 and chair in 1969.

Prior to acquisition by Rogers the group was Canada's largest publisher of periodicals (with over 130 Canadian special-interest, consumer and business magazines, directories and manuals and some as 70 business periodicals in Europe and the US).

It had a majority stake in Toronto Sun Publishing (publisher of the Toronto Sun, Edmonton Sun, Houston Post, Calgary Sun and Ottawa Sun).

Its broadcast holdings included CTV affiliate CFCN-TV in Calgary and Lethbridge and 22 radio stations located in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Chatham-Wallaceburg, Ottawa, Sarnia, Leamington and the Maritimes. It was Canada's third-largest cable tv operator, with 16 cable systems in 20 Ontario municipalities. It also had book distribution, commercial printing, trade shows and specialised information service operations.

Macleans magazine was launched in 1911 (replacing the Busy Man's Magazine (launched in 1896 and acquired in 1905) and by the 1920s the magazine was recognised as an expression of Canadian identity with a mix of news, social comment and fiction. Maclean's became a weekly news magazine in 1978, following Time's abandonment of Canada. Its French edition (initially Le Magazine Maclean) was launched in 1961 and was amalgamated in 1976 with L'Actualité.

Studies

There is a thin study by Bruce McDougall - Ted Rogers: A Biography (Toronto: Burgher 1995) and a more recent profile in Gordon Pitts' Kings of Convergence (Toronto: Doubleday 2002). Building an Industry: History of Cable Television in Canada (Lawrencetown Beach: Pottersfield Press 2000) by insider Ken Easton has more bite.

For Maclean Hunter see Christina McCall's The Man from Oxbow: The Best of Ralph Allen (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart 1967) and David MacKenzie's more searching Arthur Irwin: A Biography (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 1993). Memoirs include My Times: Living with History, 1947-1995 (Toronto: Doubleday 1995) by editor Pierre Berton and The Private Voice (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart 1989) by Peter Gzowski. For Chatelaine see Valerie Korinek's Roughing It in the Suburbs: Reading Chatelaine Magazine in the Fifties and Sixties (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 2000).