Beginning March 1, 2016 you will be able to subscribe to an affordable basic TV package that costs no more than $25 per month. Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that cable and satellite TV providers in Canada must offer a basic Cable TV option for customers priced at $25 or less. Not only that but they will also be required to have more options to add to that service as TV service providers must offer channels either individually or in packages of up to 10 channels.
The regulator has directed that all TV providers in Canada must provide a “skinny bundle” worth $25. On top of that, the regulator is demanding for the provision of a pick-and-pay model so that viewers can enjoy the benefits of cheap individual bundles.
First, let us look at the background of these events and then the effects.
2015-the year when all this started
This latest announcement is a culmination of what CRTC started in March last year. If you can recall, the regulator promised that from March 2016, it would force operators to offer affordable and flexible channels in the name of “skinny bundles” to users.
Specifically, the regulator released the Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-96, which highlighted the following requirements:
- Offering choice for Canadian TV viewers
- Opening the TV market for more players
- More control and choice in the hands of viewers
- A dynamic and healthy wholesale market
Basic TV and Pick-and-Pay TV Providers
By the look of things, even major operators such as Rogers, Shaw Communications, Bell and TELUS do not have any other option but to adhere by these regulations by March 1, 2016. Given the response from some of the players so far, we can only wait and see whether they will finally be up to standard.
As you would expect, the operators received these regulations with many reservations. The government has also responded with indignation.
In a memo sent by the CRTC a few days ago, the providers were warned against trying to evade the new regulations. Jean-Pierre Blais, the head of the organization, discouraged anti-consumer behavior and urged the telecommunication companies to improve their products for the benefit of clients. Despite this directive, cable TV providers are still not keen on providing information to clients about pick-and-pay TV and the “skinny” basic TV package. There are even reports of Bell telling its staff to downplay the new package.
What Is the Bone of Contention?
A major outcry has been that the introduction of the Affordable basic TV package, small TV packages and pick and pay TV channels will render thousands of employees jobless. In a report by broadcasting expert Peter Miller and consulting company Nordicity, about 7,000 jobs and hundreds of millions in terms of funding will be lost. Their concerns are somehow justified because since august 2015, 400 people have lost their jobs at Bell Media, according to records.
Some pundits are also wary that this move could be a blow to niche stations. Unbundling means that such stations will part ways with bigger players and eventually lose audience.
The government is obviously taking this initiative to counter the wave of cord-cutting. Some experts believe that many Canadians will have migrated to the online platform by the time this directive comes into full force.
Consumers who are willing to wait can at least afford a smile — some firms have already started rolling out the cheap basic TV packages as expected by the regulator. For example, Shaw has already launched a 40-channel bundle at the recommended price of $25.
Mandates for Cable and Satellite TV providers
- As of March 1, 2016, cable and satellite companies must offer channels EITHER individually OR in packages of up to 10 channels.
- As of December 1, 2016, channels will be offered BOTH individually AND in packages of up to 10 channels.
Hitherto, conventional TV has been under threat from the likes of YouTube and Netflix. Now it seems that the battle is even fiercer, with the introduction of new TV pricing and content regulations. The main question is whether TV service providers will manage to overcome this onslaught. To find out more, visit the CRTC website.