Canada’s TV industry still needs to get its act together on streaming

Want to watch the Super Bowl tonight online or on mobile? No problem. You just have to prove you’re subscribed to CTV through a participating TV provider.

Now, that might sound a bit ridiculous, since CTV is a free-to-air television network and doesn’t collect subscription fees, but it’s nevertheless true. Bell Media is streaming the Super Bowl only on its CTV GO app, and that application works only if your TV provider has a contract with Bell Media to provide it.

Unfortunately, while English Canada’s big providers — Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Eastlink and of course Bell itself — are participating providers, Videotron and Cogeco are not. It doesn’t matter how many RDS or TSN channels you subscribe to, you can’t get mobile access to the Super Bowl or other Bell Media sports content until they make a deal. And there’s no word on when that’s going to happen.

I explore this frustration a bit in this business story, which appears in Saturday’s Montreal Gazette. It quotes Videotron saying they’re negotiating, and noting that they have Global GO, TMN GO and some other services, but that’s it.

There are gaps all across the compatibility chart. I can’t find one cable provider that offers all TV everywhere products, nor any broadcaster that’s available on all cable systems.

Quebecor seems to be the worst offender on both sides. Videotron subscribers don’t have access to most Bell Media, Rogers or Corus applications. Meanwhile TVA Sports has live streaming available only to Videotron and Cogeco subscribers.

Why is it like this? Because as Canada’s vertically integrated media companies get bigger, they’re more able to play hardball. Negotiations for carriage become more complicated, and a company like Quebecor trying to hold out for a better deal for itself and its customers ends up getting left out.

(Of course, since negotiations are secret, we have no idea which side is being unreasonable in its demands.)

Online streaming isn’t regulated directly by the CRTC, but vertically integrated companies have been told to play nice on TV everywhere products linked to licensed channels. The problem is that a deal can be considered “commercially reasonable” and still be a bad deal.

TV everywhere compatibility has gotten a lot better over the past few years, particularly as Bell, Rogers and Shaw signed deals to make their programming available on each others’ systems. But if the industry wants to show the CRTC and the government that the free market works better than government regulation, if it wants to show customers that cable is still better than over-the-top streaming, it needs to grow up, sit down together and make this work.

TV everywhere should work everywhere. If it doesn’t … well, just remember how easy piracy is these days.

10 thoughts on “Canada’s TV industry still needs to get its act together on streaming

  1. Patrick

    I loved Videotron and was with them for 17 years for my TV needs but just recently switched to Shaw because of their access to CTV. I need CTV Atlantic since I keep a close eye on news & weather for my family back east. You’d think with all the maritimers in MTL that the Atlantic channel would be a given in the line-up- but instead they offer CTV Vancouver (!?). Plus, this garbage about not having access to any content on the CTV News website always bugged me. At least with Shaw I get ALL CTV channels from coast to coast thanks to their timeshift option. Even though I still don’t get access to the online content, I’m sure Shaw will strike a deal with Bell before Videotron does, anyway.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      You’d think with all the maritimers in MTL that the Atlantic channel would be a given in the line-up- but instead they offer CTV Vancouver (!?).

      The purpose of offering Vancouver and Seattle stations is to let people time-shift prime-time shows. So if you miss a show at 8pm ET, you can watch or record it at 8pm PT, or 11pm ET.

      1. Patrick

        I figured as much. But as a consumer, when a provider is not giving me what I want (even after asking multiple times over the years), I take my money where I will get what I want. They’re really under no obligation to change their channel line-up, but likewise, I’m under no obligation to stay with them. I’m one of the rare consumers who makes good on his promise to take his business elsewhere if I don’t get what I want… and that’s the only way your voice can be heard by a business.

  2. mdblog

    I’m a longtime Videotron subscriber and I’m super happy with the content available on Illico on Demand. I am subscribed to The Movie Network package, which includes HBO content so that’s a huge win for me. I was also surprised to see that I have access to the new show “Billions”, which I thought would only be on services like Crave. Anyways, if you have a decent Videotron subscription their streaming service is really really good.

  3. Marlene

    I would love to see or stream The Tennis Channel but it’s not available. Is this blocked on the Canadian side
    or is it just not available?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would love to see or stream The Tennis Channel but it’s not available.

      Tennis Channel is not available in Canada. Most rights to tennis events are held by either TSN or Sportsnet, so you’ll find tournament broadcasts on those channels.

  4. Dilbert

    The issues of streaming are like the entire Canadian media landscape distilled to it’s very essence:

    – Limited number of players
    – Monopolistic approaches to distribution
    – Vertical integration and “self tied” distribution rather than wide appeal
    – Limited content due to content distribution restrictions from the US and other countries.

    That’s all of it, in a nutshell – and you are nuts to expect better.

  5. ClearChannel

    One comment about these new streaming services, it will create a whole new generation of couch potatoes as people will be moving less and sitting around more. No more jaunts to the video store for that DVD.

    1. Paul

      Many streaming services like Netflix strip out the commercials which can translate into less time sitting in front of the screen. You get more content in less time and you can stop and resume.

      I like to watch Netflix on my smart phone while running on the treadmill at the gym. Binge-watching on the other hand is best done in moderation.

      The reality of what Bell is doing is this. As a non-subscriber, blocking me from streaming on the CTV website means I will watch those shows (or other shows) using an alternate service and you will lose your opportunity to show me commercials.


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