“Skinny cable” now offered to Canadian TV viewers

Canadians now have the choice to pay no more than $25 a month for basic cable as the deadline for the CRTC-mandated so-called skinny cable and satellite packages dawned Tuesday.

Cable and satellite TV companies, like Bell and Rogers, are now required to offer their customers a basic service package that costs $25 or less.

Affordable said package should include at least 10 local and regional TV stations, and educational channels.

Rogers, for instance, offers 30 to 40 channels, depending on service location, and includes USA network channels.

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a group advocating for better TV programming, has warned many people will likely see their monthly bills get bigger under the pick-and-pay system.

The bundles offered starting March 1 must offer channels either individually or in packages of up to 10 channels, the CRTC said.

“Providing Canadians with the choice between a reasonably priced entry-level service offering and the television service provider’s first-tier offering would be consistent with the Commission’s objective of maximizing choice for Canadians in that they would not have to receive and pay for a large number of discretionary services that they may not want”, the commission wrote in passing the rules last March.

“Most Canadians will stick with their current packages because most Canadians do look at multiples of channels”, Miller said. The CRTC’s mandatory distribution list includes CBC, Global and CTV, as well as public interest stations like APTN and minority French or English language channels.

What’s a basic cable package? Bell has excluded major American broadcasters offered in MTS’s and Shaw’s starter packs.

“We estimate that by 2020, 15 per cent of Canadians would pick one of those smaller sets of (TV) packages with the small basic”.

The CRTC said the move toward full pick-and-pay is focused on consumer choice, not on cost of service. Consumers can top their plan up with channels that are not included in their skinny package.

The Vancouver broadcast services consultant and Shaw subscriber said he would rather have an even smaller basic service, paying extra for the channels he watches. Service providers can add access to channels in the USA, such as NBC, FOX, ABC and PBS.

“This is their moment to shine”.

The entrance to the Bell Store in Toronto's Eaton Centre


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