Monday, February 29, 2016

TV's next chapter: Pick and play comes to Canada

If you're Canadian, then mark tomorrow, March 1st, on your calendar. That's the day when Canadian cable and satellite distributors are required by the national broadcast regulator to make $25 entry-level packages - so-called "Skinny Basic" - available to subscribers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled last year that television service providers would have to make the low-cost packages available no later than March 1, 2016. By December of this year, consumers who want more than just the basic package of local and regional stations, public interest channels, education outlets and community channels and services will be able to subscribe to additional channels a la carte as well as via small, affordable packages. If you're happy with what you're already subscribed to, you'll be able to keep that, as well: No one's being forced to change anything.

Leading up to tomorrow's deadline, the cable and satellite distributors were somewhat low-key about these changes, largely because a mass migration of subscribers to cheaper packages could potentially have a significant impact to their bottom line. Bell quietly updated its offerings over the weekend, while Rogers had its plans leaked on Reddit last week.

If you're expecting a massive discount, however, keep dreaming, as the availability of less expensive entry-level offerings won't necessarily lower consumers' bills. If you have a taste for steak when it comes to your TV choices - say, specialty movie networks and sports packages - then don't expect to suddenly be paying hamburger prices. As always, good entertainment will cost you.

And there could be other costs, as well. Removing the protective coverage of bundling - along with its guaranteed revenue streams for normally low-demand channels which would otherwise have difficulty selling themselves to a mass audience in a completely free market - could force the price of individual channels up, in some cases significantly. It could also result in a number of more niche-focused channels going dark. Either way, we must be careful what we wish for, because when we get it, it may not be everything we had originally hoped.

I was quoted in a piece by Christopher Reynolds for the Toronto Star, Bell’s TV Starter package is now only $25 — but will anyone want it?

I also discussed it with Marci Ien on CTV's Canada AM earlier this morning. Here's the link to the interview. Here's another one because, you know, redundancy.

The CTV National News included a clip in a report by Richard Madan. Video here. CTV London ran a clip in its 6 p.m. newscast, as part of a report by Sean Irvine. Newscast video here. Report video here.

Your turn: Have you cut the chord to cable or satellite? What does the future of TV look like in your house?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It can't come soon enough...and it's coming tomorrow! I have heard the chatter about the end price being closer to the current price, which I understand, but the concept of choice is long overdue. In our house we are desperately trying to "cut the cable", but admittedly, it's hard to give up the live sports. Tomorrow, I'll hopefully see some options that will get me closer to that goal (cut off everything except live sports), but my expectations are low.