October 5, 2015 / 6:40 PM / 3 years ago

Canada's Rogers plans new-format HD sports push

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s Rogers Communications Inc said on Monday that it would broadcast live television in a high-definition standard known as “4K” by April next year, a move it hopes will woo viewers to an upgraded set-top box and faster Internet.

Guy Laurence, President and Chief Executive Officer at Rogers Communications Inc., speaks following their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch - RTX19OUR

The country’s No. 1 cable and wireless phone company, which also owns the Toronto Blue Jays, is hoping to leverage sports assets like the Major League Baseball team and long-term NHL hockey broadcast rights to move viewers to the new standard.

Cable companies are seeking to wring competitive value out of their coaxial connections before telecom rivals completely replace slower copper wire with fiber optics.

Rogers Chief Executive Guy Laurence made the announcement from the baseball team’s home plate, days ahead of its first postseason appearance since 1993, when it won its second successive World Series.

The company also said by the end of 2016 subscribers across its footprint would be able to access gigabit Internet speeds. The improved service will roll out in parts of Toronto and in surrounding cities in the next three months.

Rogers did not provide a dollar figure for its investments, but telecom rival BCE Inc said in June it was spending more than C$1 billion ($763 million) on its own gigabit plan.

Rogers said it would show all 81 Blue Jays games next season in 4K, as well as 20 marquee ice hockey games starting with a January matchup between rival Montreal and Toronto teams, a smattering of movies and TV shows, and a growing catalog of Netflix original content in the new format.

Rogers and BCE share ownership of the company behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, while Rogers is entering the second year of a 12-year multibillion-dollar deal to broadcast NHL games.

Rogers said it will charge $149.99 a month for a package of its 4K TV, 4K set top box and unlimited gigabit Internet.

4K TVs account for nearly 40 percent of sets with screens larger than 50 inches (127 cm), and offer four times the resolution of standard high-definition TVs.

($1 = 1.3103 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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