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Bell files injunction seeking to block Rogers from broadcasting Warner Bros. content

Bell Media is seeking an injunction to block Rogers Communications Inc. from broadcasting Warner Bros. Discovery content on its television channels for two years when it takes over the rights to that programming next January. Bell signage is pictured in Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 7, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Original Publication Date July 02, 2024 - 9:06 AM

TORONTO - Bell Media is seeking an injunction to block Warner Bros. Discovery content from being broadcast after Rogers Communications Inc. takes over as the Canadian rightsholder in January.

In a court application filed June 19, the BCE Inc. subsidiary said a licensing deal that was announced nine days earlier between Warner Bros. and Rogers breached non-compete provisions that Bell had in place when it previously acquired the rights to the content.

The company also alleged in the court documents that Rogers "induced" Warner Bros. to breach its non-competition obligations to Bell Media, which has delivered certain Discovery programming in Canada for 30 years.

Last month, Rogers said it had signed multi-year deals with Warner Bros. Discovery, along with NBCUniversal, for their popular lifestyle and entertainment brands in Canada starting Jan. 1.

That comprises television channels such as Discovery Channel Canada, Discovery Velocity, Discovery Science and Animal Planet, to which Bell previously owned the Canadian programming rights. It also includes others licensed to Corus Entertainment Inc. such as HGTV and The Food Network.

In a statement, Rogers spokeswoman Sarah Schmidt said Bell’s claims "are without merit and we will fight to make sure Canadians can continue watching the programs they know and love."

"We look forward to bringing this content to Canadians across the country and to our long-term partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery," she said.

"Bell is asking the court to block Canadians from seeing these Discovery channels for two years — stopping anyone in Canada from distributing them and stopping anyone in Canada from watching them."

In its application, Bell asked the court for an injunction to prevent Warner Bros. Discovery and its affiliates "from directly or indirectly supplying Discovery-related programming" to other competitors in Canada.

It also requested an order for the respondents, which include both Rogers and Warner Bros., to pay damages to Bell for breach of contract, inducing breach of contract, interference with economic relations and conspiracy.

The submission said Bell Media has invested "hundreds of millions of dollars in developing, promoting, and growing the Discovery brands in the Canadian market over the past 30 years."

It said its contracts with Warner Bros. contain a clause that ensures Bell is entitled "to at least a two-year window to adjust" if Warner Bros. ever declines to renew the licensing agreements for Discovery-related programming.

Bell said that prevents Warner Bros. and its affiliates from operating or supplying programming to a competitor, including Rogers, during the two-year window.

"Our long-standing partnership, content, and brand arrangements for the Discovery Canada channels include protections against the launch of competing services," said Bell Media spokeswoman Mary Costa in an email.

The next hearing on the matter is scheduled to take place Sept. 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B, TSX:CJR.B)

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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