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Media Beat, Jan. 31, 2022

By David Farrell

Rogers’ revenue tops forecasts, Shaw deal on track to close in first half

Rogers Communications Inc. saw its fourth-quarter revenue increase by 6 percent to $3.92-billion but reported less profit compared to a year ago.


The telecom and media giant reported $405-million in net income for the three-month period ended Dec. 31, down from $449-million a year ago. The earnings amounted to 80 cents per share, down from 89 cents per share during the same period last year. – Alexandra Posadzki, The Globe and Mail

Government gives nod to telcos for lower wireless costs, but…

Wireless plans in Canada are (finally) getting cheaper — or are they? A new federal government report shows progress on price cuts but the full picture is a bit more complicated.

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What happenedThe report tracked the price of relatively cheap “mid-range” wireless plans–those offering between 2GB and 6GB of data per month–offered by each of the three largest carriers. It found that the average nationwide price fell by 25% since February 2020.

  • As of December 2021, the Big Three’s discount brands (Koodo, Virgin, and Fido) offered 2GB plans for $37.50, 4GB plans for $41.25, and 6GB plans for $45.

  • However, analysis done of province-level data by The Peak shows that in Quebec, where plans were already cheaper, the average price for the most affordable mid-range plans actually rose slightly (from $40 in February 2020 to $41.25 in December 2021), driven by higher prices for 2GB plans.

And despite some plans becoming slightly more affordable, Canadian wireless prices are still significantly higher than most other G7 countries, particularly for plans that offer more data. – The Peak

Canada is sleepwalking into bed with Big Tech

Canadians have been served a familiar dish of election promises aimed at taking on the American web giants. But our governments have demonstrated a knack for aggressive procrastination on this file.

A new initiative is providing a glimpse into Canada’s revolving door with Big Tech, and as the clock ticks on the Liberal government’s hundred-day promise to enact legislation, Canadians have 22 reasons to start asking tough questions. – Liisa Ladouceur, Toronto Star

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Bell’s ‘Lets Talk’ campaign has people talking

Bell Let's Talk Day 2022 set a new record with 164M-plus messages of support from common folk to influencers, politicians and pop stars such as the PM, Team Canada, Celine Dion, Chris Hadfield, Alessia Cara and Canadian video game developer Miss Harvey (Stephanie Harvey).

Leading up to the anointed day, Bell and BCE Mirko Bibic announced almost $8M in funding for mental health projects that included $4 million awarded for research projects from the Bell Let's Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program, to address gaps in mental health care due to COVID- 19.

With the company pledging to donate five cents to mental health initiatives around the country from each social media interaction, the more than 164M messages equated to a record donation of $8,2M, up from 2021’s 159M interactions that had Bell donating $7.96M.

The highly publicized and praiseworthy program isn’t without its detractors, however–and many of them are victims of Bell Media layoffs in its news, sports and music channels as the company went through a gut-wrenching restructuring last year as a way to address revenue declines and off-set the impact of technology on costly investments made earlier in radio and TV before streaming became a dominant factor in the media landscape.

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Bell mobility users get easily rankled having to deal with tech support in the Philippines (whereas Rogers takes pride in informing its customers that its tech support teams all reside in Canada. Apart from those given the plank, it could be suggested that Bell places investors ahead of its employees and customers, although the executive team might surely argue otherwise.

The ‘Let’s Talk’ program puts the spotlight on an area of health that clearly matters, but maybe it’s time the company re-thought its strategy of plugging its success in raising awareness and money and went quietly about helping to fix the problems in its own glass house and showing a kinder gentler side to those it employs or once employed.

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Spotify blinks

Following Neil Young quitting Spotify after the DSP declined to put an end to podcaster Joe Rogan fanning disinformation about covid, Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren (and several local Canadian acts-see Music Digest) have pulled their music from the site and various credible news sources are now publishing rumours that various other big names — from Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters and Barry Manilow to Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — are considering a similar move. So far no word from U2 or Bono, but if the band does yank its catalogue, Amazon Music, Apple Music and others will be given a golden glove to whip Spotify’s long-held upper hand in total subscriptions.

The controversy has also fueled debate on social media, including a long thread on Twitter.

It's the first-time artists have found a common bond to punish Spotify, long-held in low esteem for its complicated and often times pitiful payout to those whose creative souls have helped to generate billions of dollars for the company.

Now Spotify has blinked, publishing an official Spotify rulebook “to help our users understand how Spotify assesses all content on our platform.”

“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

“We take this seriously and will continue to partner with experts and invest heavily in our platform functionality and product capabilities for the benefit of creators and listeners alike. That doesn’t mean that we always get it right, but we are committed to learning, growing and evolving.”

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Whether the damage can be contained remains to be seen; meantime, Varietyreports that Spotify’s market cap fell about $2.1B over a three-day span last week, coming after Young yanked his songs from the audio-streaming giant to protest Rogan’s misinformation-spreading podcast.

And another sign that the pressure is mounting in the House of Ek, Rogan took to Instagram on Sunday to apologize to those offended by his broadcasts.

“If I pissed you off, I’m sorry,” Rogan said. “And if you enjoy the podcast, thank you.”

Rogan countered accusers suggesting he peddles “misinformation” and defended his “highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished” guests.

“They have an opinion that is different from the mainstream narrative,” he said. “I wanted to hear what their opinion is.”

What’s old is new again

I'm a believer a radio company dedicated to trying something different with a perennial loser could launch a new station that plays nothing but new music.  I don't know what this station would sound like, but it could take advantage of the crowd-sourced, voting, and exposure elements that are now easily accessible parts of the digital tool kit.  It would have to have a strong video component, maybe a concurrent stream.

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I do know it wouldn't be programmed by a bunch of old radio souls, but should clearly be the province of a new generation of programmers – just like many of us were back in the '70s and '80s. – Fred Jacobs, Jacobs Media

Emerging markets (China, Russia) drive music subscription growth

Newly released research from London-based MIDiA Research shows strong growth of global music subscribers, with services in emerging markets driving the forward motion.

Overall, MIDiA figures 523.9-million subscribers to music streaming platforms around the world in Q2 2021. Spotify remains the worldwide leader with a 31% share of subs, but that share is down from 33% the previous year. – Brad Hill, RAIN News

Apple CEO says strategy for Apple TV+ focuses on content over money

Apple TV+ was mentioned a lot during Apple’s quarterly earnings call Thursday, and while the company doesn’t release breakout numbers on revenue from the streaming service, the remarks were nothing but praiseworthy.

Overall, the company reported $19.5 billion in revenue for Apple services, which include the App Store, Apple TV+, iCloud, Podcasts, Apple Music, payment services and more, up 27% year over year. Overall, Apple pulled in $123.9 billion in sales for the quarter, beating analysts’ $118.3 billion predictions.

Apple’s total subscriber number for all services including Apple TV+ was 785 million last quarter.

Unlike other streaming services, CEO Tim Cook said the company’s goal for Apple TV+ isn’t necessarily centred around money. – Tmera Hepburn, Cord Cutters News

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50 Cent

50 Cent

Awards

50 Cent Takes A Victory Lap at Toronto's Cabana Pool Bar: Canadian Concerts of the Week

Also this week: it's festival season, with Hillside, Le Festif! and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival all happening on the same weekend.

Summer is in swing, and that means festival season. While many of the biggest ones take place in August, this weekend sees a handful of folk or adjacent events with the perfect summer vibes. Find those below, after our concert of the week featuring one of the biggest rap success stories of the last two decades.

Concert of the Week

50 Cent at Cabana Pool Bar, Toronto — Saturday, July 20

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