Rogers Communications CEO Joe Natale speaks to shareholders during the Rogers annual general meeting in Toronto on Friday, April 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

New subscribers, live sports and advertising buoy Rogers revenue as restrictions ease

New subscribers, live sports and advertising buoy Rogers revenue as restrictions ease

Rogers Communications Inc. reported a rebound in revenues in its latest quarter amid an uptick in wireless and internet subscribers and the recovery of television advertising tied to the return of live professional sports.

The cable and wireless company said Wednesday its media revenue surged 84 per cent in its second quarter, driven by advertising connected to live sports broadcasting like the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as Blue Jays revenues.

“We saw strong growth as audience viewership reached record levels and advertisers enthusiastically returned to our live professional sports programming,” Rogers president and CEO Joe Natale said during a conference call with analysts.

As many Canadians continued to work and study remotely, Rogers also recorded a two-per-cent increase in wireless service revenue with 99,000 net new postpaid subscribers and a five-per-cent jump in cable revenue with 15,000 net new broadband subscribers.

The company’s internet-based television service, Ignite TV, also added 66,000 net new subscribers in the quarter.

The Toronto-based telecom company said it cleared a profit of $302 million for the three months ended June 30, as revenue rose 14 per cent to $3.58 billion, up from $3.16 billion a year earlier.

The strong results reflect the gradual economic recovery as pandemic lockdowns ease, Natale said.

“While some elements of the pandemic will be with us for some time, we’re optimistic about the road ahead,” he said.

That includes potential new business tied to the return to urban centres, the reopening of offices and resumption of in-person college and university classes this fall, he said.

“There’s pent-up consumer demand and as people become mobile again and students return to school, it will drive growth,” Anthony Staffieri, Rogers chief financial officer, said.

Indeed, the increasing mobility of Canadians and reopening of stores bode well for the company’s current quarter, Natale said.

Surveys of so-called COVID-19 revenge spending place a new wireless device in the top five category of items or products consumers may consider spending on or upgrading amid the lifting of pandemic lockdowns, he said.

Wireless equipment revenue was up 26 per cent in the second quarter, largely due to device upgrades, the company noted.

The telecom operator is in the process of acquiring Shaw Communications Inc., a deal Rogers said will allow it to invest in network facilities, especially in remote and underserved parts of Canada, and grow more quickly and efficiently.

“Together with Shaw, we will be able to deliver next-generation connectivity to communities across Western Canada faster than either company could alone, helping to create jobs and attract investment,” Natale said. “We are engaged in working with the regulatory bodies as they review the transaction, and we continue to expect the deal to close in the first half of next year.”

The $26-billion purchase, including debt, will also help expand 5G across country, the company said.

Meanwhile, as travel restrictions slowly eased compared with a year ago, Rogers collected more roaming revenue in the quarter.

While that was partially offset by lower overage earnings due to the roll out of unlimited data plans, those plans have also helped keep churn rates — the number of customers leaving — low, the company said.

Also, late payment fees have been at record lows as consumers have been paying their bills on time, Staffieri noted.

The company said it earned 60 cents per diluted share in the quarter, up from 54 cents per share a year earlier.

Adjusted profits were $387 million or 76 cents per share, compared with $310 million or 60 cents per share in the second quarter of 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2021.

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

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press