I regret to inform you that Bell and Quebecor are at it again.
The latest skirmish? Bell’s announcement that it is launching a French version of its Crave streaming service, or more accurately making its existing Crave service bilingual. This adds a third player to the (paid) Canadian French-language TV streaming market, joining Radio-Canada’s Tou.tv Extra and Quebecor’s Club Illico.
That sounds pretty simple, and generally good news for the market. Annoying for Quebecor, obviously, to have a new competitor, but hardly something they can complain about.
Except at the same time, Bell is doing with its Super Écran pay TV channel what it did with The Movie Network in 2018: Integrating it into Crave and forcing TV providers into a new deal to get access to Super Écran’s on-demand content for their subscribers. (Super Écran will, thankfully, keep its branding though, and be referred to as a Super Écran add-on to Crave.)
Bell has reached such deals with some providers, but not Videotron, which is calling foul because Bell has shut down Super Écran Go, through which Videotron customers subscribed to Super Écran could access its content online.
The 2018 Crave-Videotron war didn’t last too long, but it needed a $100-million lawsuit to settle. And Bell and Quebecor aren’t exactly great at negotiating these days.