The new convergence utopia: Who owns what in Canadian media

A little under three years ago, I published a post with a chart of Canada’s media giants and what they own. Now that the CRTC has given a green light to a major acquisition by one of them, I thought it was a good time to revisit and update that chart.

The following represents who will own what once all the various deals go through, including related deals for asset acquisitions involving Corus, Shaw and Pattison Group.

UPDATE: I’ve moved the chart to this page, where I will be keeping it updated.

19 thoughts on “The new convergence utopia: Who owns what in Canadian media

  1. Duncan Kinney

    Ain’t no oligopoly like a Canadian media oligopoly because a Canadian media oligopoly is super vertically integrated and charges a lot of for mobile connectivity compared to other countries

    Reply
  2. Charles Lanteigne

    Bell Center/Canadiens? Amphithéâtre de Québec? Zik.ca? Koodo Mobile? MediaPages? Quebecor Media Book Group? Nurun?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Bell Center/Canadiens?

      They’re owned by the Molson family, though Bell has a minor stake.

      Amphithéâtre de Québec?

      I believe that’s owned by the government (they paid for it). Quebecor has a management contract for it.

      Koodo Mobile?

      Part of Telus. But I’ve added it for clarity. I didn’t want to get into every wireless service reseller in the country.

      MediaPages? Quebecor Media Book Group? Nurun?

      I’ve added these, thanks.

      Reply
  3. snowy2004

    You don’t seem to have included any CBC assets (unless they’re affiliates owned by another company). While I understand the focus on commercial operations, they still are a major part of the Canadian media landscape.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      You don’t seem to have included any CBC assets (unless they’re affiliates owned by another company).

      Originally I wasn’t going to include non-commercial assets. But since many CBC assets (like their news channels) compete with commercial ones, I’ve changed my mind.

      Reply
  4. Richmond

    Shaw tracs under OTHER is a company “reselling” in Canada Qualcomm’s OMNItracs service for vehicle/asset tracking / vehicle based communication / diagnostic reporting system not a retail customer “faced” devision

    quote
    Qualcomm’s first products and services included the OmniTRACS satellite locating and messaging service, used by long-haul trucking companies, developed from a product called Omninet owned by Parviz Nazarian and Neil Kadisha,
    /quote
    from Wikipedia Qualcomm

    Reply
  5. Kevin

    Surprised to see no mention of the largest rural broadband provider under Internet for Major Independents. Of course, I mean Xplornet.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Surprised to see no mention of the largest rural broadband provider under Internet for Major Independents. Of course, I mean Xplornet.

      Unfortunately I can’t find a list of Internet providers by number of subscribers, beyond the big telecoms. There are dozens of independent Internet service providers in Canada, so some of them will be left off the list.

      Reply
  6. Dilbert

    This is perhaps one of the most depressing charts to come along, because it shows how little is owned outside of the “majors”.

    The only place the majors don’t rule is in print media. That seems mostly because they are smart enough to see that it’s failing in a very big way. The only ones really exposed here is Quebecor, but with grand rationalization across their many properties (ie, getting rid of staff and automating and centralizing everything) they are managing to keep the wolves at bay. It seems more and more likely however that print newspapers will go the way of the dodo at some point in the near to mid term future, as ad dollars continue to deteriorate.

    What is interesting in this chart is that at this point, Bell, Rogers, and Shaw are all “too big to fail”. There is no way that the Canadian government could ever let any of these companies go broke, which is part of the reason why the CRTC seems content to make sure the Canadian public pays some of the highest cable and sat TV fees in the world, while the major players generally just repackage the same content under different names, packaging the TV channels up so that you cannot avoid paying them their fees for the same content on multiple channels.

    In radio, the CRTC has allowed and continues to allow moves that cut the number of people working at stations, increasing the amount of automation, and also allowing for incredibly amounts networking and “shared resources” in things like news, weather, and traffic. That Montreal radio will have only maybe two newsrooms of any note is a truly sad situation. All of this of course as the Tories (and the Liberals and such before them) have worked to gut the CBC, giving it a sort of death by 1000 cuts, slowly whittling away not just the fat, but the actual bone.

    So now we are left with what amounts to being a four legged monopoly, where the government and policy makers (CRTC) are unwilling to take a risk to break it.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What is interesting in this chart is that at this point, Bell, Rogers, and Shaw are all “too big to fail”. There is no way that the Canadian government could ever let any of these companies go broke

      I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. Giant media companies go bust all the time. The government let Canwest go under. That’s the main reason why Shaw is as big as it is.

      Remember that this is a list of assets. Even in the case of a bankruptcy, profitable assets aren’t shut down.

      the CRTC seems content to make sure the Canadian public pays some of the highest cable and sat TV fees in the world

      Actually, according to the CRTC’s communications monitoring report, the average revenue per TV user is lower in Canada than in other industrialized countries. And everything the CRTC has done seems to have been clearly aimed at seeing more competition in telecommunications services and TV distribution.

      the major players generally just repackage the same content under different names, packaging the TV channels up so that you cannot avoid paying them

      I won’t argue that there’s a lot of duplication of content across multiple channels owned by the same company. I will point out though that Quebecor’s Videotron is an exception to the packaging issue. Most of its channels can be picked à la carte.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. Giant media companies go bust all the time. The government let Canwest go under. That’s the main reason why Shaw is as big as it is.”

        Actually, that whole process made things worse, more concentration in the name of saving something. The problem now is if Shaw goes broke (not suggesting they will), there are very few buyers out there for the assets – mostly Rogers and Bell.

        “Actually, according to the CRTC’s communications monitoring report, the average revenue per TV user is lower in Canada than in other industrialized countries. ”

        They made some interesting selections there. In wireless, as an example, I currently pay $24 canadian a month for 3000 minutes and uncapped LTE (speed tested at over 44 meg a second download) in wireless. My internet connection at home costs about $28 for 30 meg unlimited (upgrading to 1gig connection soon!). In almost every category on that report, I can see Canada and nearly the most expensive option. In the case of the internet, the silly low data caps are way off compared to what is generally offered around the world.

        If you look at figure 6.1.4, it’s clear that outside of Japan, Canada is the most expensive in each area. 6.15 shows that Canada has higher fixed broadband, but MUCH lower mobile broadband and mobile subscriptions.

        In TV, when you see high penetration and low revenue, that is an indication that Canadians are buying the minimum packages possible, and that viewership and subscription levels on these channels is not very high. Remember, that because certain channels are obliged carry on cable and sat systems, every subscriber to those basic services is also a pay channel subscriber in Canada by default. So the mix of the two numbers is actually pretty misleading.

        One thing that is missing here is “average number of subscribed channels” and “average number of pay channels available. I don’t think I know anyone in Canada who has a “full boat” subscription from any of the major players, it’s just too costly. A full on Bell Fibe package with all the trimmings and movie channels would run you near to $200 a month when you count the cost of the receiver and all. That’s killer.

        “I won’t argue that there’s a lot of duplication of content across multiple channels owned by the same company. I will point out though that Quebecor’s Videotron is an exception to the packaging issue. Most of its channels can be picked à la carte.”

        Not entirely. Again, because of old style Canadian content rules, language rules, and a few other nice things, you cannot obtain US channels a la carte without taking a significant number of Canadian channels to offset them – something like 5 to 1 or 6 to 1 in many cases. Plus with mandatory carriage and “cable system channels”, you always end up with some pay channels you never wanted. If you want to watch just A&E, you have to take 5 or 6 Canadian channels to offset it. It ends up artificially creating subscriptions (and minimum revenue).

        In fact, the low revenue numbers per subscriber are probably a very good indication that people are not actually watching, so the cable channels have a hard time earning actual advertising revenue. The channels exist because they are slightly profitable because of income from cable systems, but they are not making a ton of money. So instead of 10 or 15 great cable channels in canada, we have seemingly hundreds of useless channels, all supported by being part of packages on cable systems and collecting that revenue – but not because of their actual programming or viewership.

        Perhaps that would be the more interesting story Steve – what is the viewership of these cable channels, what is their advertising income, and what is their subscription income… and of course, what is their viewership compared to number of people paying. I am guessing there are plenty of channels in Canada that have a million plus subscribers (because of packages and minimum Canadian channel counts) but have few if any actual viewers. That would be a story that would really blow the industry open.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          The problem now is if Shaw goes broke (not suggesting they will), there are very few buyers out there for the assets – mostly Rogers and Bell.

          If Shaw goes broke, it’s because something drastic has happened to the media landscape and the vertical integration model has failed. In which case Rogers and Bell are probably in trouble too.

          Again, because of old style Canadian content rules, language rules, and a few other nice things, you cannot obtain US channels a la carte without taking a significant number of Canadian channels to offset them

          The regulation is that a majority of channels must be Canadian. But because the basic package already includes a bunch of Canadian channels, and because most of the popular channels are also Canadian (including Canadian versions of U.S. channels), few people run into problems with this. It’s never been an issue for me.

          Plus with mandatory carriage and “cable system channels”, you always end up with some pay channels you never wanted.

          Mandatory carriage is an issue the CRTC is looking at now, and it’s clear they’ve set the bar high. We’ll see what they decide. I’m not sure what “cable system channels” means here. Advertising channels don’t cost subscribers anything.

          In fact, the low revenue numbers per subscriber are probably a very good indication that

          So you’re arguing that the evidence that Canadians pay more for cable TV is that they pay less for cable TV? Maybe we should suspend this debate until we get more numbers.

          Perhaps that would be the more interesting story Steve – what is the viewership of these cable channels, what is their advertising income, and what is their subscription income.

          I don’t have access to ratings information, but advertising and subscription income for channels belonging to the big four are made public by the CRTC. I used that information to point out a rather extreme case, Book Television, which gets 98% of its revenue from subscription fees.

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          1. Dilbert

            “I used that information to point out a rather extreme case, Book Television, which gets 98% of its revenue from subscription fees.”

            The point is while you mention it in another place, you don’t seem to be connecting the dots. If 98% of their revenue is from subscriptions, it’s because so few people are actually watching for them to make anything on advertising. Generally it’s the sort of channel used as filler to support the ratios required for Canadian versus US programming. Clearly there are channels like Fashion Television and BookTV which appear to be nothing more than shells collecting subscriber fees, because they produce little in the way of content, and have only a small percentage of their income as advertising.

            In a market where the consumer really had 100% choice, these channels would likely die. They exist for a reason, but it’s not to improve consumer choice.

            “Mandatory carriage is an issue the CRTC is looking at now, and it’s clear they’ve set the bar high. We’ll see what they decide. I’m not sure what “cable system channels” means here. Advertising channels don’t cost subscribers anything.”

            Anything that isn’t part of OTA comes at a price. It’s often “included” but it’s there. The cable companies don’t operate these channels at a loss. They may be operated as a cost of the system, but the overall basic system access price pays for them.

            The mandatory carriage issue is important, in part because it does create an imbalance on the Canada / US ratio of channels. It’s a real artificial bend in the market not in keeping with true consumer choice. Then again, while the CRTC repeats that sort of wording, the reality is that with canadian channel mix requirements, it’s pretty hard to say that consumers really have a choice.

            “So you’re arguing that the evidence that Canadians pay more for cable TV is that they pay less for cable TV?”

            No, actually Canadians pay more for cable TV as a whole, so many stick with basic packages to try to keep their costs down. If every time you want to add a single US channel you have to also pay for 6 Canadian ones, the price tends to get out of hand very fast.

            I suspect you will find that, once you strip away the nonsense channels, replications, and the “music” channels that aren’t really TV channels at all (hi Galaxie!), you will discover that Canadians get a woefully small number of actual non-duplicative channels in their packages, and pay highly for them. You can look at Dish or Directv in the US as an example, take their basic packages, look at the price, look at the number of channels, and compare it to Canada. In Canada, when Bell says “you get 100 channel” or somethhing along that line, 30-40 of them are the local network affiliates who all play pretty much the same programming. That I can watch the same dull daytime TV on a local channel from Regina instead of from Montreal doesn’t really add much – except channel counts!

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              If 98% of their revenue is from subscriptions, it’s because so few people are actually watching for them to make anything on advertising.

              Yes. That is exactly my point.

              In a market where the consumer really had 100% choice, these channels would likely die.

              And that could happen. The CRTC is looking at its licensing scheme for these kinds of channels over the next three years.

              Anything that isn’t part of OTA comes at a price. It’s often “included” but it’s there.

              Right, but for something like The Shopping Channel, the cost isn’t paid by subscribers, it’s paid by people who buy things on it.

              The mandatory carriage issue is important, in part because it does create an imbalance on the Canada / US ratio of channels. It’s a real artificial bend in the market not in keeping with true consumer choice.

              Obviously mandatory carriage restricts consumer choice. That’s because in the CRTC’s view the channels that have it are exceptional enough to require everyone to pay for them. Channels like APTN, AMI (described video) and others have this status because they benefit minority groups who don’t have the numbers to survive unaided.

              You can look at Dish or Directv in the US as an example, take their basic packages, look at the price, look at the number of channels, and compare it to Canada.

              The problem with that comparison is that the U.S. market is 10 times the size of Canada. So TV providers that are national in scope will have a lot more revenue for a given amount of expense. But I’d be happy to look at any statistics that have been compiled on the subject.

              Reply
  7. It's Me

    BBC Kids is not owned by Shaw/Corus. It is owned by a Knowledge Network Corporation/BBC partnership. Shaw sold it a couple years ago. And HARDtv is now called Playmen TV.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      BBC Kids is not owned by Shaw/Corus. It is owned by a Knowledge Network Corporation/BBC partnership. Shaw sold it a couple years ago.

      Missed that. Thanks.

      And HARDtv is now called Playmen TV.

      I won’t ask how you know that offhand ;)

      Reply

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