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Rogers loses $8-million in first quarter as MLSE’s part owner

People walk by the head office of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, December 9, 2011, in Toronto, Canada.

Brett Gundlock/The Globe and Mail

Rogers Communications Inc. lost $8-million in its first three months as part owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, after taking ownership of teams such as the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA's Toronto Raptors during off-seasons for both sports.

While the Raptors are about to take to the court for their regular season, the company won't be pulling in much revenue from the Maple Leafs thanks the National Hockey League lockout that has already seen the cancellation of games and threatens to kill the entire season.

Rogers, along with competitor BCE Inc., took ownership of 75 per cent of MLSE in August for about $540-million each. MLSE owns and operates the Air Canada Centre, the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the MLS' Toronto FC and the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

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The third quarter was comprised of July, August and September.

Meanwhile, profit at Rogers Communications's media division fell 9 per cent in the third quarter, as the advertising market continued its slump and baseball salaries offset other cost savings.

The Toronto-based company said its media assets – which include 55 radio stations, the Citytv and Omni networks, Sportsnet, more than 50 magazines including Maclean's and Canadian Business, and a sports division that includes the Toronto Blue Jays and the Rogers Centre – posted an adjusted operating profit of $50-million.

That's down 9 per cent from a year ago. Operating revenue declined 4 per cent, to $392-million.

"The decrease in revenue … was the result of softer results at television, publishing, digital media and the Shopping Channel," the company stated in its earnings report in which is reported an overall net profit of $466-million for the quarter. "[That was] partially offset by growth at Sportsnet and sports entertainment. The third quarter experienced a continued weakening of the advertising market from the levels seen earlier in the year, which suppressed growth in most media divisions."

The company said it cut its operating expenses by 3 per cent in the quarter to $342-million "primary due to cost containment efforts, which offset increased baseball player related costs in the quarter."

With sports emerging as a bright spot at the media division, the company spent about $167-million in the last quarter to buy Score Media, Canada's No. 3 sports network with about 6.6-million views. The deal closed late last week, but still requires approval from Canada's broadcast regulator. A decision is expected early next year. In the meantime, the company is being run by an independent trustee appointed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

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Rogers also gets about a 10 per cent in the newly formed theScore Inc., which is a new company built from the company's digital assets. The digital development company's, built to focus on the Score's hugely popular sports-relate apps, will begin trading Wednesday (today)on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol "SCR."

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