Artists including The Weeknd and Ariana Grande were momentarily caught in the cross-hairs of a nasty battle launched by a senior Rogers Media executive against Bell Media and the heads of Universal Music's affiliated Republic Records.
The drama started on Friday (Nov. 6th) when Rogers Media Content & Programming VP Rob Farina sent a letter via e-mail calling for a boycott of all Republic Records artists by his fellow broadcasters, such as Corus, Newcap and Cogeco. The action was called for after Farina perceived that a special arrangement with Bell was sealing content exclusives between the US label and its roster of high-profile artists.
The drama was quelled by late Saturday with Bell Media VP David Corey stating flat-out that all of Farina's assumptions were incorrect, and Farina on record saying that the fracas was resolved but offering no further comment or explanation.
The backroom drama blew up in Billboard online and underscores simmering tensions between the two media groups, and the increasingly thorny issues that come with exclusive content deals, real or imagined. The lifted embargo was to have taken effect today but this isn't happening now. What the fall-out will be from this apparently misplaced attack remains to be seen. Even in the sedate war rooms of Canada's competing broadcasters, going public with suggestions of cronyism, especially unproven, isn't likely to sit well with the status quo, and one senses repercussions rather than settled waters lay ahead.
Karen Bliss was fast off the mark in capturing this ticking time bomb on Saturday. Her Billboard exclusive can be found here.