On Wednesday, Videotron added three new high-definition channels to its digital cable lineup: Canal Savoir (622), TLC (665) and History (674). This is another small step in the improvement of Videotron’s HD offering, but still leaves it well behind competitors Bell and Shaw.
There are two reasons why Videotron’s English-language HD channel lineup is so far behind: First, because most of its customers are francophone, it puts a priority on French-language HD channels. (And, indeed, it’s hard to justify investing in an HD offering in this province unless you have carriage on Videotron.) That’s why it has VRAK.tv and not YTV; MusiquePlus and Musimax but not MuchMusic; LCN but not CTV News Channel; Canal Vie, Moi & Cie and CASA but not Slice; TFO but not TVO, etc.
The second reason is that Videotron is still supporting an analog cable system, which uses as many as 54 6 MHz channels, limiting how many new HD channels it can add. While Videotron stopped selling new analog cable subscriptions to residential customers a year ago, it hasn’t begun dismantling the network yet. Once it does pull the plug, those 54 channels can translate into as many as 162 high-definition channels (or more likely some mix of HD channels, SD channels, video on demand channels and more bandwidth for cable Internet).
In the meantime, it’s rearranging channels, expanding into higher frequencies and doing other things to squeeze in a few more HD channels every few months as it launches new services and upgrades some existing channels.
So what should be next on Videotron’s list? Here are the channels that are available in HD and that at least one competitor has added to its HD lineup:
Movie channels: Hollywood Suite (WB, MGM, AXN, Sony)*, Movie Network channels (MExcess, MFun, MFest) Movietime, Sundance Channel, SuperChannel* (it’s coming soon), Turner Classic Movies, W Movies
Entertainment channels: ABC Spark, Bold, Cartoon Network, CMT, Comedy, Cosmo TV, Game Show Network, Lifetime, OutTV, MuchMusic, Teletoon (En/Fr), W Network
Educational/reality channels: Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Documentary, E!, EQHD*, HiFi*, H2, Investigation Discovery, NatGeo Wild, OLN, radX*, Slice, Travel + Escape, TVO, Wild TV
News and information channels: Bloomberg TV*, BNN, CTV News Channel, HLN, MSNBC
Sports channels: Big Ten*, CBS Sports*, Fight Network, NFL RedZone*, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet World, TSN Habs*, World Fishing Network
Family/children’s channels: Family, Disney Jr. (En/Fr), Disney XD*, Nickelodeon*, Treehouse, YTV
Canadian superstations: CHCH*, CHEK*, NTV
U.S. superstations: Peachtree, WGN, WPIX, WSBK, KTLA
Third-language channels: OMNI
*Channels aren’t carried in SD either
I’ve been told that there’s a plan to add SuperChannel to Videotron’s lineup soon, in SD and HD. (SuperChannel must be distributed by providers outside Quebec, but there’s no obligation here, despite SuperChannel’s previous complaints.)
Here are my personal top 10 (in no particular order) for HD channels Videotron should be adding soon:
- Movie Network Channels: Right now Videotron distributes only the main Movie Network feed and HBO Canada in HD, while most of its competitors also carry the three other feeds. Considering how expensive TMN is on cable bills, this should be a priority.
- Hollywood Suite: Adding this package of channels would go a long way toward improving Videotron’s HD movie lineup
- Sportsnet 360: The channel formerly known as The Score is among the most requested to add in HD. And Videotron has said repeatedly it plans to do so soon. It’s even added a channel to its system, but for some reason it’s not live yet.
- Sportsnet World: Like with The Movie Network, this channel deserves an upgrade if only because of the high price of subscribing to it.
- TSN Habs: Is there really any doubt that you have customers that want to watch Canadiens games in English? I don’t know if this is Bell’s fault or yours, but it’s time to bury the hatchet.
- The Comedy Network: Comedy was a bit slower than movies and drama to make the transition to HD, but it’s there now, and there’s enough content that it’s worth upgrading Comedy to HD. When The Colbert Report moves off of CTV in the fall and goes “Exclusive to Comedy”, expect demand to grow.
- MuchMusic: The fact that this isn’t already in HD is very surprising. Both MusiquePlus and Musimax have been in HD for a long time now. It’s well past time.
- YTV: Similarly to MuchMusic, this is one of Canada’s oldest specialty channels, has a lot of original programming and has provided an HD feed for more than two years now.
- CTV News Channel: It’s the only Canadian all-news channel that Videotron doesn’t carry in HD, and though it was slow to upgrade to HD (only launching in 2012), it provides enough original HD content to justify an HD channel.
- At least one CW channel: Whether it’s New York’s WPIX, Chicago’s WGN or Los Angeles’s KTLA, which Videotron distributes in SD, the network produces a good enough block of original programming to qualify. And while some of that programming has been picked up by Canadian stations, much of it hasn’t.
But those are just my suggestions. What are your priorities? Which channels are you pissed off they haven’t added or upgraded yet?