Quick Tips - Don't focus on channels

One of the first things that everyone inevitably thinks about when they begin to think of cutting the cable cord is 'how can I live without {insert channel name here}'    

We get it.  We hear that question every single day from Canadians we talk to.

They are tired paying for dozens of channels you don't want or use in bundles to get access to one or two channels you do want.   

That's traditional cable though. It's a world of channels and bundles. That's the way it's been for years and for many of us it's the only way we've ever known.   

For that reason it's tough to imagine any other way of watching TV. 

Here's why you want to think beyond the channel model. Think of a channel you think you couldn't live without. Now think of the show or shows you like to watch on that channel.   

Now ask yourself the most important question. In a 12 month year, how long is that show or shows on? How many new episodes in a year long period does that show you like produce and broadcast?    

The truth is that most shows that we like to watch only produce between 10 - 22 episodes in a season and many of the seasons are stretched out over a 12 month period. 

Let's look closer at a few of the most popular shows on TV. A favourite of ours is AMC's The Walking Dead. Each season of this show there are usually 16 episodes. Wikipedia gives us a good overview of the episodes of the 2016-17 season and the broadcast schedule.      

As you can see the show starts in November and runs until mid December. It then takes a two month break and comes back on air in February and runs until early April. That is 16 weeks of episodes or 3 months.

Let's look at another show that is on one of the basic networks. ABC's Modern Family that Canadians can watch on ABC or CityTV. What can Wikipedia tell us about their broadcast schedule? 

It's similar to the Walking Dead except they have more episodes and start earlier in September. 19 weeks of episodes with breaks December and April. So Modern Family is only on for 4 months of the year.

So why are any of us paying for channels in months when the shows we like aren't on? With streaming you don't. Sure you may like other shows on some channels but even if you do, most people don't like every show on that one channel. 

So paying for one channel for only one or two shows that are only on for 3 or 4 months a year is the same as paying for a bundle of channels you don't want just to get what you do want. You are paying for that channel for reruns and other filler content for the other 8 or 9 months.

Let's also not forget that you can catch up on a show at anytime when you switch to streaming because most of the services have full seasons on demand to catch up on whenever you want.  As a cord cutter of 6 years that is something I do a lot now with the majority of content I watch on TV. 

Streaming is a way to pay for the content you want only when you want to watch it. Want to watch Walking Dead? Subscribe to SlingTV for 3 months of the year when the show is on, more importantly walk away from the subscription when the show goes on hiatus.  

The other important factor to remember about channels is that most 'channels' in Canada don't own or produce much of the content they show. They only pay for the rights to broadcast here in Canada. As such the channels you may be used to watching a program on are not the only place you can access that particular content from.

A perfect example of this is the above mentioned show Modern Family which is broadcast here in Canada on CityTV which is owned by Rogers. The show though is actually produced by the American network ABC. So for clients who want to stream it you can use ABC's streaming service Hulu to watch the show.

That's why the notion of channels is something you want to forget about. Channels are a concept that will eventually end up extinct in a world of on demand streaming.

 

'Tis the Season to Binge Watch

For most people this time of year means you have some time to spend with your family, catch up on sleep and over eat.  

For those who have cut the cord it also means you have time to catch up things you may have missed this season and binge watch.    

So here are some recommendations of what to stream over the holiday break.    

The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime)  

Amazon Prime may have officially launched in Canada but the library is still small at this point. There is some access to Amazon's original content but if you get yourself a 30 day trial you can watch the first 6 or 7 episodes of the show that is currently the most illegally downloaded show.

WestWorld (HBO Now)

HBO's latest giant series wrapped up last month but if you missed it then why not subscribe to a month of HBO Now and catch up the first season. With your one month subscription you can also catch up on some other HBO favourites like Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, Silicon Valley, Veep and many others.

Years of Living Dangerously (National GeoGraphic - SlingTV)

National Geographics second season of groundbreaking documentary event series provides first-hand reports on those affected by, and seeking solutions to, climate change. Season 2 includes reports from David Letterman, Don Cheadle, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Jack Black among others.

Planet Earth II (BBC iPlayer)

The follow up to BBC's British nature documentary in 2006 presented and narrated by Sir David Attenborough has some of the most amazing cinematography from all over the globe.

The Crown (Netflix)

Sticking with the UK theme why not watch Netflix's latest series which is a biographical story about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Horace & Pete (Hulu)

Created, written, and directed by Louis C.K, Horace & Pete is a critically well received web series that stars Louis C.K., Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda and Jessica Lange.

The Criterion Collection (Filmstruck)

If you are a classic movie fan then why not give the new streaming service from Turner Classic Movies a try that includes the entire the criterion collection of films.

NHL Winter Classic / NHL Centennial Classic (NHL GameCentre)

If you are up for watching some outdoor NHL action then you can check out the Detroit Red Wings vs Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan 1st and the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the St. Louis Blues on Jan 2nd.   

Bonus: Road To The NHL Winter Classic (Epix - SlingTV)

The NHL and EPIX have teamed up to show the lead up to both games with behind the scenes footage of all 4 teams involved. The best part is Epix is currently free with your SlingTV subscription for the next few months.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Kutko and enjoy all of your binge watching!

Pick-and-Pay, we find out if the CRTC got it right.

Well it’s December 1st and that means as of today the last of the CRTC Let’s Talk TV proceedings rulings come into effect. That means that as of today all of Canada’s cable companies as per CRTC’s rulings (link) must offer channels a la carte. Will the cable companies embrace this new world or will it be another skinny package scenario all over again?

So we decided to check in on the options. We reached out to two of the major cable companies and see how much it would cost us to get only HBO. According to the new CRTC rules it should be simple, right?

Unfortunately, when we contacted Rogers we were told the following.

When we contacted Bell we got a similar answer.

Ultimately if you want HBO only it seems you still have to pay for things you don’t want or need.

So with cable the cost breakdown looks like this:

A one time connection fee of $50

You’ll need at least one cable box which you can rent for between $12.99 - $14.99 per month or buy up front for between $319.99 - $499 (plus taxes)

Then you need at least the basic cable package at $24.99 per month (plus tax)

After all of that you can add HBO along with TMN for anywhere between $19.99 - $24.99 (plus tax)

So as per the new CRTC rules to get HBO alone it will cost you with the hardware rental costs 

$57.93 (plus taxes) per month with Rogers and $64.97 (plus taxes) per month with Bell.

That also means you have to get a bunch of other channels you may not want.

Does this seem like a great deal?

Meanwhile here is how much I as a cordcutter pay for HBO.

I bought my Apple TV back in January of this year which was a $200 one time fee.

HBO Now’s streaming service is $14.99 (US) per month, so about $20 Canadian depending on the current exchange rate and here is the real bonus. I only subscribe to it for about 5 months of the year.

Really only when a show or shows I want to watch is on. We are big HBO viewers in our household (Game of Thrones, Westworld, John Oliver, Bill Maher, Girls, Veep, Silicon Valley).

I don’t need to ever call the cable company to turn the channel off or on , I also don’t need to return hardware. I also can watch it on any device in my house.

The service has every single episode of every show HBO has ever produced on demand and the episodes are available on demand to watch at the same time they are broadcast live.  

I highly doubt you can call and cancel HBO very easily with Bell or Rogers anytime you want, and then what would I do with their hardware when I don’t want the channel anymore?

So my choices with cable are, I can pay $695.16 (plus taxes) a year with Rogers or $779.64 (plus taxes) a year with Bell for HBO.

On the other hand HBO with my Apple TV will cost me $300 for the 5 months which includes the cost of my Apple TV for year one. Next year it will only cost me $100 for 5 months of HBO. That leaves me a savings of $400 this year and $600 next year, all of which I can use to subscribe to other services if I choose.  

This is the real power of being a cord cutter. This is what true pick and pay looks like and why we love helping Canadians every day.

R.I.P Shomi

On September 26th, Rogers announced that on Nov 30, 2016 they will shut down their Shomi streaming service. It was existence for just over two years and today marks the final day of the service.

Its been a turbulent two years for Shomi since it launched November 4th, 2014.

When it first launched

‘the service was not available as a standalone product and could only be purchased by internet and television subscribers of Rogers and Shaw’

After its launch the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) filed a complaint with the CRTC in both Feb and April 2015 

http://www.iphoneincanada.ca/carriers/piac-complaint-shomi/

Essentially Netflix was a standalone product and anyone In Canada could subscribe to it on any device without having to subscribe to any specific internet or any other sister business.  

Rogers launched a product that was only available if you subscribed to another Rogers product.  

In March 2015 the CRTC ruled that both Rogers (Shomi) and Bell (Crave TV) would need to open up the services to all consumers.

9 months after its initial launch and 5 months after the CRTC order, Shomi was opened up and made available to all Canadian consumers to subscribe to.   

This was one the first big problems with Shomi.   

You can’t launch a product to compete with Netflix and then limit the platforms it’s available on and limit its availability to people who only buy another one of your products.    

That was pure greed and arrogance on the behalf of Rogers from the get go.  

The second major issue with Shomi was that most people might not be aware of is that it was used as a tool to simply block Netflix from growth and gaining even more market share in Canada.   

Rogers was aware that after 5 years after launch in Canada Netflix was making significant inroads with Canadian consumers. 

First off people loved the price point for the amount of content they got with Netflix. It was available on every platform imaginable and it introduced many people to the idea of being able to binge watch content without commercial interruption.   

Rogers knew that services like this would slowly start to eat away at their customer base as more and more people would slowly start to realise that they could live without live TV and all of its trappings. Rogers also knew that if they didn’t do anything Netflix with its international reach and deep pockets would soon secure the rights to a large majority of popular content in Canada.  

This was a direct threat to Rogers cable and other business divisions so they decided to play the same game and partnered with Shaw and reached into their own deep pockets and went on a spending spree and out bid Netflix and rival Bell in securing the streaming rights for as much content as they could while they rushed to build a copy cat platform like Netflix.  

By buying the right to content they could keep it away from Netflix Canada and hopefully stem the tide of its popularity.  

Unfortunately this approach backfired for Rogers. First Netflix had a platform they had invested millions of dollars in with some of the best technology. They we’re specialists in this world since launching streaming in 2007 so they had a major head start. As a result Netflix was well on their way of becoming their own TV and Movie studio instead of just being a place to watch other people's content. They were now in the game of producing much of their own content.   

Second, Rogers was late to the game. Netflix had been in Canada for 5 years already and built up a large loyal customer base already.  Don’t kid yourself the folks at Rogers knew about Netflix long before they launched in Canada and could have saved themselves a lot of time and money if they had been first to market and launched Shomi before Netflix came to Canada or even within that first year Netflix launched here.   

Lastly Rogers had a PR problem. No matter how many commercials and print ads they deploy to try and bolster their image consumers do not look at Rogers favourably for the most part. Consumers want competition and choice and Rogers was essentially copying Netflix’s model but didn’t have the same brand likability that Netflix had built up.

Rogers rushed to get a product to market and as such it showed. Most people were upset about how a lot of the content they knew was available on Netflix in other regions like the US wasn’t available in Canada especially when it was Rogers and Shaw that held the rights to that content and didn't make it available on their own streaming service.  Rather than try and truly distinguish themselves from Netflix, Rogers made a half ass effort because of the fear of cannibalisation of their own cable business.    

So Rogers made the choice to close down the service outright. It ended up costing Rogers CEO Guy Laurence his position with the company and it has been reported that Rogers lost between $100-$140 million on the investment of Shomi while Shaw disclosed equity losses of $108 million relating to Shomi in fiscal 2015 according to the Financial Post

It's sad state for Canadians who actually want to embrace streaming because now there is one less option and it seems that Rogers hasn't really learned their lesson. Since the launch of Shomi they have also launched a Sportsnet streaming service that is $25 (CDN) per month.   

That is a very extreme price for one streaming service that only offers one channel with no actual on demand content. As an example for $20 (US) per month you can get the basic SlingTV package that comes with 27 channels live including ESPN.

Perhaps Rogers should start making better choices and offer consumers some actual content they want at an affordable rate before its to late and they get left behind completely. The world of streaming is growing and changing with each passing day and Canadians are ready to subscribe to services that offer value at an affordable rate they just have very little in terms of options.

Netflix feels the pitchforks and torches of Canadians

A recent article from CBC titled 'Netflix hammers cross-border watchers and there may be no way out' published on October 16th (Source: CBC) has drawn the ire of Canadian fans of Netflix, but are the pitchforks and torches deserved?

An artist's rendering of Canadians reactions to preventing Canadian Netflix subscribers from accessing the US Netflix library.     Image courtesy of The Simpsons & Fox

An artist's rendering of Canadians reactions to preventing Canadian Netflix subscribers from accessing the US Netflix library.    

Image courtesy of The Simpsons & Fox

While we appreciate the CBC's coverage of the issue, the rage most consumers feel is directed in the wrong direction. Sure Netflix has been directed by the content owners to prevent geo fence hoppers from accessing content that is only licensed to US users.   

This is the requirement I'm sure that Netflix has in many of it's deals with the TV and movie studios it gets the content from and yet some users have gone as far as cancelling their Netflix subsciptions.    

Listen, Netflix offers an amazing product and created a whole new category and way of enjoying TV and movies in the comfort of your home on any device you can think of. The real reason Canadians are up in arms is because they finally were provided a low cost alternative from the entrenched cable giants and that now that choice seems to be limiting their choice.

Again though Netflix isn't doing this, it's the major TV and movie studios that are doing this. So any ire should be directed at them. Netflix has already moved on to phase two of it's approach with Netflix CFO David Wells just announcing that their aim is to have 50% of their library be original content moving forward. (Source: TechCrunch Sept 21)

Let's also not forget that Netflix is producing a wide range of of quality content for a worldwide audience with series like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the recent Stranger Things. What content have any of the Canadian networks contributed in the last 4 years, can you name more than two shows? Can you watch them on any platform at an affordable rate?

 

The other major point that most Canadians tend to forget is that Netflix is responsible for moving progress forward. When they entered the Canadian market in September 2010 there was not one major Canadian media company offering anything like Netflix and in fact it took Bell and Rogers another 4 years before they would launch their own services.  

On top of that, you know that content that you want to watch on US Netflix that isn't on Canadian Netflix, guess who owns the rights to that content in Canada. Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Canwest etc.

So it's not that Netflix doesn't want to offer this content to you, it's that they don't have the rights to it here in Canada. The real problem is that the Canadian media companies have stayed stagnate.

Sure some of them have some episodes available on their websites or via an app on a tablet but many of them require a cable subscription to gain access to that content. On top of that you certainly aren't going to get a commercial free binge watching experience that way.  Want to watch the last 3 episodes, no problem. You'll just have to watch it on a tiny screen and endure the same 6 ads at every commercial break. If you want to see the episodes that aired before that, then you can wait a year for them to show up on Netflix.

You see TV networks know that you want to binge watch shows and that is all thanks to Netflix. In the US many of the major networks know that the key to getting people hooked on their new shows is giving consumers the ability to watch all of the episodes of a show when you want to watch them. That's why all of the major networks in the US are investing in their own streaming services as well and we continue to see more and more growth. The game has changed and we owe that change to Netflix.

So while Canadians complain about Netflix perhaps it's time to focus the pitchforks and torches in the right direction. 

 

The Psychology of ‘Cutting the Cord’

Many times when we talk to people there is an inherit fear about leaving traditional cable behind.

We completely understand this because we were the same way before we as individuals cut the cord.

For most people who are 25 years of age and older you have probably only ever watched TV one way for most of your life.

It has revolved around channels that probably show a few shows you like to watch at specific times.

15 years ago that meant using something like TV guide to keep track of when your shows were on and making sure you were home at the time your shows were broadcast.

Then came the advent of the PVR (Personal Video Recorder) in 1999, this allowed users to record the shows they wanted to watch when they weren’t home and watch them later.  

When we consult with potential clients we ask people to think about what shows you like to watch.

If you are taking the time to set the PVR to record a show on a daily or weekly basis then you probably are invested in watching that particular program.  

There is a reason people want to get rid of cable, so the first thing you have to understand about the process of cutting the cord is that things will be very different and yet have a very familiar feeling. 

It’s hard for people to really name more than a handful of shows that they like to watch and that’s what the cable companies like. First off many shows are seasonal meaning that they spend more time off the air than on the air.

Source: Wikipedia
"In North American television, a series is a connected set of television program episodes that run under the same title, possibly spanning many seasons. Since the late 1960s, this broadcast programming schedule typically includes between 20 and 26 episodes. (Before then, a regular television season could average out to at least 30 episodes.) Up until the 1980s, most (but certainly not all) new programs for the broadcast networks debuted in the "Fall Season", which ran from September through March and nominally contained from 24 to 26 episodes. These episodes were rebroadcast during the Spring (or Summer) Season, from April through August. Because of cable television and the Nielsen sweeps, the "fall" season now normally extends to May. Thus, a "full season" on a broadcast network now usually runs from September through May for at least 22 episodes.[14]
A full season is sometimes split into two separate units with a hiatus around the end of the calendar year, such as the first season of Jericho on CBS. When this split occurs, the last half of the episodes sometimes are referred to with the letter B as in "The last nine episodes (of The Sopranos) will be part of what is being called either "Season 6, Part 2" or "Season 6B,"[15] or in "Futurama is splitting its seasons similar to how South Park does, doing half a season at a time, so this is season 6B for them."[16] Since the 1990s, these shorter seasons also have been referred to as ".5" or half seasons, where the run of shows between September and December is labeled "Season X", and the second run between January and May labeled "Season X.5". Examples of this include the 2004 incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, ABC's FlashForward, and ABC Family's Make It or Break It.
Nowadays, a new series is often ordered (funded) for just the first 10 to 13 episodes, to gauge the audience interest. If it is "picked up", the season is completed to the regular 20 to 26 episodes. A midseason replacement is an inexpensive short-run (10–13 episode) show designed to take the place of an original series that failed to garner an audience and has not been picked up. A "series finale" is the last show of the series before the show is no longer produced. (In the UK, it means the end of a season, what is known in the United States as a "season finale”).”

There is a reason why we ask people to consider shows not channels. Channels are a flawed concept that are exclusive to traditional cable. For most people there really are only a few shows you watch on a particular channel at any given time.  

Often there are channels that people tell us that they can’t live without and for that we challenge you to answer why. Ask yourself why is that particular channel so important to you?  

Do you like every show that the channel has?

Are you watching this channel non stop or do you like just having it on as background noise?

Do you really think those specific shows you like to watch are only available on that one channel and no where else?

This is where the psychology of cable comes into play.

 

There is no channel on cable that has more than 4-5 hours of original content on it within any given 24 hour period and most barely have that. News channels like CP24 simply just repeat the same news stories over and over again and while they are nice to have on for background noise there is no content that you can’t get somewhere else in this day and age.

This is the first hurdle you want to get over in your brain. Why is cable so expensive? Because you are paying to access all of these channels all the time even though you probably don’t use them all the time.

Again remember the shows you like to watch follow specific broadcast calendars, so if those shows you like to watch aren’t showing new episodes for 8 months of the year then why are you paying for that channel 12 months of the year?

In our always on society people get the news from their phones, laptops, tablets throughout the day so by the time you get home to turn on your local 6pm news broadcast are you really surprised by any of the stories you see? 

Your TV habits will evolve when you cut the cord, but the content you like to watch will still be there just in different delivery formats.

When you subscribe to a streaming service for a month the cost of each service can range from $5.00 - $25.00 but what you are paying for is access to their entire library of content for a month long period. You watch as much as you want and then you have the option to walk away. 

These streaming services are just the next evolution of TV so if you are ready for your TV watching to evolve where you get to control what you pay each month then get in touch with us and we'll help you through the whole process.

Top 5 Problems With The Skinny Bundle

The focus of the CRTC's roll out this year as they put it:

The changes being made reflect the trend towards increasingly competitive and customizable on-demand options, while taking into account the need to bridge old and new approaches to allow for maximum flexibility in how content is distributed and consumed. Distributors will be required to offer more Canadian than non-Canadian services.

Source: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2015/2015-96.htm


While we applaud the CRTC for taking this first step we unfortunately believe that they haven’t done enough.

We talked about this back in April last year in our article 'The Myth of the Skinny Bundle'

Here are the top 5 problems as we see it with the $25 skinny bundle


We honestly don’t get what the CRTC was doing when they didn’t address the fact that one of the biggest over blown costs of cable is the hardware itself. With many folks having multiple TV’s in their homes and boxes ranging in cost from ($12.95 - $15.00) to rent and ($319.99 - $499.00 ) to buy the $25 basic package quickly snowballs.  Bell will also charge you a one time $49.95 'installation fee'.


This article does a great job explaining why the Cable-Box Rental market is a needless $19-billion industry.

This holds especially true when the FCC in the US is making the move to overhaul and open up the cable box market. This is a huge next step and one the CRTC should have addressed because a $25 bundle is no good when you are paying as much or more for the hardware.

Read more about what the FCC is doing about cable boxes here.


We have written about this before (here) but the truth is that it’s really hard now a days to tell the difference between the major Canadian networks and the US networks. Pick any of your favourite shows you watch on Canadian networks like CTV, Global or CITY and you are probably really watching shows that you can already watch on ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox. 

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais recently said the following:

"The old way of doing business — of squeezing every last drop of profit out of simultaneous substitution and rented, made-in-America content — is no longer sustainable. Truly great content is what draws viewers. Those that make that content will thrive.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/crtc-blais-complainers-1.3452008

It’s clear that both Bell and Rogers have approached the construction of these packages differently with Bell offering only Canadian networks and Rogers offering a mix of Canadian and US networks.

Again, if the goal of the CRTC is to protect the Canadian identity then why did they not just clearly mandate what channels needed to be included in the bundle?

Both Bell and Rogers decided that they didn’t need to promote or announce the skinny bundle until March 1st. CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais at one point had to tell the media companies that the spirit of the CRTC decision ought to be respected with the new offerings and he reminded them to promote the bundles.  

(source)

We agree with Mr. Blais here. These are companies that have no problem promoting everything else they launch ad nausea in every Newspaper, Magazine, Outdoor, Radio and TV station they own on a regular basis.

We recall seeing ads for Crave and Shomi over and over again for months leading up to their launches.  

In fact the CBC published an article titled 'Bell tells staff to downplay new $25 basic TV package ordered by CRTC’ which should tell you enough.  

Many customers who called in several weeks before the launch of March 1st deadline reported that the customer service reps had zero information about the packages.  

It’s also worth noting that many consumers thought that ‘a la carte’ channels would also be available come March 1st. The CRTC mandate stated the following:

While we have seen some new packages with the launch of the bundles none of the cable companies offered  any real a la carte pricing. Although they are not mandated to do so officially until Dec 1st it speaks volumes about the approach of the cable companies. Any one of them could have got a jump and offered individual channels at the same time as the $25 skinny bundle and earned some much needed good will from their customer base.   

Time and time again the cable companies only seem to do the absolute bare minimum that is required of them by the CRTC.

 

One of the biggest problems we have with the direction the CRTC is taking is that many customers we talk to don’t have any interest in what we call the basic channels. Many of the channels in the skinny bundle can now be obtained with a simple OTA (Over The Air) antenna.   

There are consumers who really only want one or two channels and only want them on occasion.  

Let’s use one of the most watched shows, Game of Thrones as an example. The upcoming season will start in April and run for about two months.   

In this new world if you want to watch it you will first have to buy the skinny bundle, then the hardware and only then can you add the HBO package.   

That doesn’t seem like choice to us. That seems like the same old thing of having to take a lot of what you might not want just to get something you do want.  

Meanwhile in the US consumers have the choice of subscribing directly to HBO for only $14.99 (US) a month where they can watch it on multiple devices like Apple TV, Roku, X-Box, Playstation, computers or tablets without the need for a cable box or any other channels. You can cancel anytime with the simple click of your mouse and without spending 30 mins on the phone with your cable company.

  That is what true choice looks like.

 

We appreciate that the CRTC is trying to change things for the best of the consumer, but unfortunately the progress is moving at the speed of a horse and buggy.  

This is why we believe so firmly in cord cutting. Progress is happening, just not in Canada.

Canadian cable companies refuse to progress unless they are told to do so. 

We hear a lot of people use the example of the launch of Shomi and Crave as a sign of progress except for the fact that they didn't launch those services until 5 years after Netflix came to Canada.  Do you consider that leading or following?

It's time for real competition in this market.

If the CRTC wants to really fan the flames of choice and competition then it's time to let foreign competition into the market and let Canadians choose.

The Canadian media companies are the ones holding back progression.

If you really want change then we encourage you to take the time to write to the CRTC.

Click the image below and tell them you want real change and if you are ready to #CutTheCord then give us a call!

 

The Cable ‘Channel' = Groundhog Day

There’s one thing you need to forget about when are going to consider #CuttingTheCord and that is the idea of ‘channels’

Channels are something that is unique to traditional cable and is the main reason why your monthly cable bill is so pricey.

When we speak with our customers we advise them to stop thinking in terms of channels.  

Why? Channels are a lot like the great 1993 Bill Murray / Harold Ramis movie ‘Groundhog Day’

 

In case you forget, the movie Groundhog Day is about Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. 

Your cable bill is made up of bundled channels and and we advise every customer to begin with an audit of your TV habits and to note what shows you like to watch, rather than channels. What you’ll begin to see in most cases is that your favourite channel is also caught in a time loop, repeating the same episodes again and again.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Here at Kutko we are big fans of the channel AMC and their original content.

But there is one small issue with AMC, they have very little in terms of original programming.

That results in only a few hours of content you want to watch in a week/month and the rest of the time the AMC channel broadcasts older movies that most people can find on Netflix in this day and age. See an example of AMC's broadcast schedule for a week.

 

This is one of the biggest problems with cable and the idea of 'channels' and one of the great things when you #CutTheCord.

Look at any channel you you like to watch and ask yourself, how much actual original programming is on that channel per day, per week, per month? 

Are you watching that channel 12 months of the year, because you are paying for it 12 months of the year in the cable 'channel' world.

How often do they re-broadcast the same content over and over again?

Is that worth paying what you are paying per month?

If you want the channel AMC in your cable package you need to spend the following:This example below is based off the prices on Rogers.com as of September 2015

Cable Package $63.99 per month

Installation Fee (One Time) $49.99

Activation Fee (One Time) $14.95

Cable Box Rent $24.95 Per Month or Buy $499.99

 

So to watch AMC for a year would cost you with cable

Cable Package $767.88 Per Year

Cable Box Rental $299.40 Per Year

Total $1067.28 + Tax Per Year

 

So how else can you watch AMC’s Fear of the Walking Dead show?

Amazon.com sells the season of this show for $15.99 (US) which is available to watch the next day after it airs.

You own the season and can watch it on any device anytime you want.

We recommend you watch it on the Roku 3 which sells for $100 (CDN)

 

So to watch that one show on AMC in the world of cord cutting it will cost

Show $15.99 (US) per season

Hardware: Roku 3 $100 (CDN)

Total $130

 

Our advice pay for what you want to watch only when you want to watch it.

Or you can be like Phil Conners in Groundhog Day and live in the time loop that is the cable TV 'channel' and watch the same thing over and over again.

 

If you are ready to #CutTheCord then we can help.

 

The myth of the 'Skinny Cable' bundle

One of the biggest questions we get as of late from all our customers revolves around the recent announcement by the CRTC of the ‘skinny cable bundle’.

In case you missed it, the CRTC recently announced that starting in March of 2016 cable companies must offer a basic cable package for no more than $25 per month.

What channels will be included in the ‘skinny cable bundle’ has yet to be determined. Most likely it will include most of the major local Canadian channels and possibly all the Canadian speciality news channels. 

Will it include the basic US cable channels? It has been suggested that this will be left up to the cable companies to determine, so our guess is don’t bet on it.

The other part of the decision by the CRTC is that by Dec 2016 cable companies must offer pick and pay of additional channels.

While we like what the CRTC is trying to do here, it’s still a case of to little too late.

Will the 'skinny cable bundle' actually save customers money?

Will the 'skinny cable bundle' actually save customers money?

Here’s what you have to remember. 

A skinny package of $25 is still going to include channels that most consumers don’t want. On top of that this decision doesn’t address the cost that most customers have to pay for hardware. One of the bigger cable companies currently charges you $25 a month to rent one HD PVR.

When it comes to pick and pay, the CRTC is allowing the cable companies to set the prices of the individual channels. That doesn’t seem like a great idea to us.

You won’t be able to just pick say 3 or 4 channels without also signing up for the skinny package. So in essence some customers are still being forced to take a bundle that they may not want.

Lastly all of this doesn’t take effect until end of 2016.

We understand change takes time, but the cable companies knew this was coming. The CRTC hearings started in early 2014, so why is it taking so long to roll things out?

Your telling Canadian cable customers that you heard them loud and clear. Customers are sick of paying through the nose for services they don’t want and yet the CRTC is telling them that they have to continue to do so for another year and a half.

So while we like that the CRTC is trying to change things, it’s our belief that none of these changes will result in any real change for customers in the end. In fact we expect that customers will actually end up paying more.

If you are waiting for the ‘skinny cable bundle’ to take effect then you may want to cut the cord sooner.

Forget skinny cable bundles and pick and pay. Cutting the cord is already true ‘skin-and-bones’ and you can get it today and we can help show you the way.

The Time for Change is Now.

The full court press by Bell & Rogers continued as Canadian consumers wait for the CRTC to release it’s next round of updates from it’s Let’s Talk TV hearings that wrapped up back in Sept 2014.

First at a industry conference on Feb 26th in Banff it was reported that Senior Vice President, Content at Rogers Communications, David Purdy was heard saying that he thinks that the government should prevent Canadians from being allowed to use VPN’s.

ashtononpurdy.jpg

 

 

 

 

Rogers and David Purdy have denied saying this, but refuse to clarify what was actually said.

Following that Bell Canada President, Kevin Crull was quoted in a speech on Friday in Ottawa as saying:

“Do we need [the American over-the-air] networks? Are these signals necessary for Canadian viewers? No. Canadian networks buy the rights to 99 of the top 100 American shows. No viewer would be denied popular content,” Mr. Crull said. “... Fix this and we don’t need simsub.”

The CRTC has said that the next decisions stemming from the CRTC’s massive TV Policy Review (the Let’s Talk TV proceeding) are scheduled to be released on March 12.

The CRTC will not be addressing things like a mandated skinny basic cable package or pick and pay rules because the coming announcement is expected to address content only.  Sources have reported the following: 

"the decisions on distribution and packaging are tentatively set to be released a week later – on or about March 19, according to sources. That day is not set in stone, however"

We're not sure what’s taking the CRTC so long. The Let’s Talk TV hearings wrapped up in Sept 2014 and they announced that they would make announcements by the end of 2014.

Instead what we have seen is small announcements made in Jan and now more to come in March.

What is clear is that both Bell & Rogers know that Canadians are unhappy with the current state of the market and that change is coming. Unfortunately instead of trying to adapt and innovate, Bell, Rogers, Shaw and other Canadian providers seem to prefer to demand regulatory change in an attempt to try and keep Canada locked down.

 All you have to do is read the wikipedia page that breaks down the current CanCon rules. It say's:

"For broadcast stations, the CRTC presently requires that 60% yearly, and at least 50% of prime-time programming, 6:00 pm to midnight, be of Canadian origin. In May 2011 the CanCon requirement for private television broadcasters was lowered to 55% yearly. 
Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, must still maintain 60% CanCon quota. However, historically, much of these requirements have been fulfilled by low-cost news, current affairs and talk programs in off-peak hours. It is usually not difficult to fill the daytime schedule with a sufficient amount of Cancon, often through reruns, while two-thirds of the latter requirement can be filled simply by airing an hour of news every night at 6 pm and again at 11 pm. 
As described above, often the remaining domestic content has consisted of low-cost science fiction or drama programming primarily intended for sale to the U.S. and elsewhere, and has aired on nights or in time-slots where it is unlikely to attract a large audience, freeing up other time-slots for American network programming. It is also a fairly common occurrence for stations to sign off during the overnight graveyard slots to reduce their Cancon liability."

With Kevin Crull’s recent remarks it’s clear that Bell wants to role back the clocks. US TV stations (NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC & PBS) have been available on Canadian cable for decades now. Now Bell is saying that they want all US providers blocked both on the cable lineup and via OTA. 

So for those of you keeping score, Bell & Rogers are now against net neutrality, US TV stations and Netflix.

Kutko believes in innovation and choice. Bell & Rogers seem intent on limiting choice. The internet was meant to open up the world and allow it’s users to access any content that they want at anytime on any platform. Instead Bell & Rogers and other Canadian media companies think that they should make said decisions for you.

They want to decide what shows we watch, when and what platforms they can be watched on.

If that's the case then we'd like to point out as an example that Yahoo has a service called 'Yahoo Screen' Here is a review on the AV Club's website of a recent SNL episode. Yahoo Screen's video player is used on this page. Yahoo Screen in the US has the US rights to SNL's content, where here in Canada Global TV has the rights to SNL's content. Unfortunately Yahoo Screen's video player content is blocked from Canadians.

Although it's a little thing, it proves that Canadian media companies are failing consumers here. There are many instances of this, and instead of trying to make things better for Canadians it's clear that the media monopolies here in Canada simply want to tighten the geo restrictions. 

What's next? Will Canadian media companies tell us that we can only visit their sites?

Meanwhile all of these Canadian companies complain that the current model they operate under is just not sustainable.  It's time for the CRTC to change the entire game, because if it's not working for the consumer or the broadcasters then why continue this way?

Simultaneous substitution, the Superbowl & Canadian identity

The CRTC recently announced that as of Superbowl 2017, Canadian broadcasters will no longer be allowed to swap Canadian advertising into US broadcast signals carrying the Superbowl.

The CRTC has said that the 2012-2013 broadcast year, ad switching provided approximately $250 million for Canadian broadcasters in ad revenue.

Live-event simultaneous substitution specifically makes $40 million for CTV, which currently owns the broadcast rights for the Super Bowl.

This year, CTV is believed to be charging between $170,000 and $200,000 for 30 seconds of airtime during the game.

But don’t let any of the numbers fool you.

For one, this new rule only applies to the Superbowl. So that means other big US events like the Oscars, Grammy’s, Golden Globes and others will still have Canadian ads substituted on American broadcast signals.

So at most CTV alone stands to make $40 million less a year in ad revenue. They also now have two years to figure out a way to make up that revenue.

After the announcement I did a lot of reading about the decision and opinions of Canadian consumers about this announcement. 

The history of simulcasting goes back all the way to the 70’s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simultaneous_substitution

Many of the comments applauded the decision. There were also some odd comments revolving around the notion that that the CRTC should leave things like this alone. Many people mentioned that they don’t care about the commercials and that they don’t get the need for people to watch ads for US products that aren’t available in Canada.

The CRTC has said they get the most complaints after the Superbowl from Canadians who complain about not being able to see the US commercials live. As well one of the biggest complaints with simultaneous substitution for any show/event is timing complaints. 

Often the Canadian broadcaster doing the simultaneous substitution will run long with the Canadian commercials and cut back to the original broadcast late often missing 2 - 10 seconds of the broadcast. For a sports fan I get that can be extremely annoying.

It’s no secret that the Superbowl is a big event. Coming from an advertising background it’s a well known fact that advertisers in the US put a lot of perparation into their executions for this one day. Brands can turn their latest creative effort into a social media wind storm if they hit the mark.

The cost to air one ad on U.S. television during this years broadcast is as much as $4.5 million for a thirty-second-spot.

So for some, the commercials are as much a intrinsic part of the experience. That experience has not translated to the Canadian advertising market. Tell me one Canadian brand that embraces the US Superbowl like the American advertisers.

During this years Canadian broadcast on CTV I saw at least two Bell ads at every break. The majority of them were for CraveTV or other Bell products or CTV promotions for broadcasts of other American shows they have the rights to. Many of the other commercials were for US films or international brands. So for all of those people who want ‘Canadian’ commercials, then go ahead and watch the CTV broadcast. 

Let’s be clear though, CTV adds nothing to the broadcast except Canadian ads and their CTV logo in the bottom right hand corner (even when the NBC logo was still in the top right corner). There are no Canadian personalities doing play by play, there are no back stories about Canadian players in the game and there is no Canadian music artist substituted in during the halftime show. This is all about ad revenue, and that’s it. People who complain about this killing the Canadian identity should be complaining why the majority of Canadian stations show lineups are US shows and not actual Canadian produced TV shows.

Here’s the thing, consumers want choice in this day and age. There is a fairly large sub set of people who watch the Superbowl to see the US commercials. It’s a live event and people want to see these commercials as they are broadcast live so they get the full experience that is associated with the event. They don’t want to wait and go online and watch them later.

They'd also like to see post game coverage. CTV didn't even show the Vince Lombardi trophy being awarded, instead Canadians got to enjoy Master Chef Canada (note I don't count Master Chef Canada a 'Canadian' show and if you do then don't bother complaining to me about CanCon).

Now come 2017 people will be able to choose what experience they want. CTV and other Canadian broadcasters can still broadcast the game on their channels with the Canadian commercials and the consumer will have the choice to watch one or the other. 

My question is why? 

If the average Canadian cable package has CTV, Global, CBC and CItyTV along with NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX then why are Canadian channels spending millions of dollars for events like the Superbowl? Especially in a day and age when Canadians are watching less and less traditional TV? 

This year NBC.com streamed the game free internationally. CTV.ca also streamed the game, but you had to have a traditional cable subscription to watch it, and their list of providers was very limited.


This announcement by the CRTC does little to help the Canadian consumer slash their over priced for cable bill or address any of the real issues.

The commercials have been a large part of the Superbowl for years now and the CRTC seems to be realizing this just now. Canadians now have two years to wait to enjoy the game like so many others already do.

People who complain that US live events without Canadian commercials substituted in is the death of Canadian identity should just relax and stop watching said US events then, because commercials are not what CanCon rules are for. 

Canadian Content?

The media has been buzzing over the last few weeks with the announcements from HBO and CBS.

In case you missed it HBO announced that starting in 2015 they will offer users the chance to purchase a direct subscription to their digital service called HBO Go. Up until now users have required a valid traditional cable subscription to use the service.

On the heels of HBO’s announcement, CBS announced that they will also launch a streaming service called CBS All Access. The service will cost users $5.99 (US) a month. CBS says that it offer thousands of episodes from many of CBS’ current programs and classic series from its library.

Much of the cord cutter world has been a buzz with this news. There has been a steady request of people asking HBO to move in this direction for several years. Their HBO Go service is considered one of the premium streaming services for a few reasons. First and foremost is the content. HBO has some of the top rated programming with shows like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, Girls, The Newsroom, Veep and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The unique aspect of HBO Go is that shows are live streamed. So when the latest episode of Game of Thrones is broadcast at say 9pm (EST) on a traditional cable TV channel, users who have HBO Go can watch the episode as well with the digital service at 9pm (EST) as well.

It’s unique because with many other streaming service like Hulu, Amazon Prime or Netflix users have to wait until the next day to watch episodes. In some cases they may have to wait until the entire season has been broadcast before episodes are made available to watch.

At the same time HBO Go offers users the ability to watch much of it’s popular content from over the years with full seasons of shows like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, The Wire and Band of Brothers available to enjoy. 

HBO’s service has resulted in many people borrowing logins from friends and family to use the service and earlier this year HBO’s president made it clear that he had no issue with this. The service has been so popular that at times it’s crashed. Social media was a blaze with the finale of True Detective this past season and with the Game of Thrones premiere when users were unable to log into HBO Go (source)

HBO will clearly have some work to do to staff up on this side of the business, but it obviously they are well aware that there is an opportunity here to create a whole new line of revenue. They have a vast library of quality content that they own and that users are willing to pay for.

What remains to be announced yet is what the price point will be.

With both announcements it will be interesting to see what this means for Canadians.

I’ve seen a lot of friends in Canada post about both announcements on various social media platforms talking about how change is coming in the TV industry. Unfortunately we’ve seen this before and if history is correct Canada will be shut out of these services once again.

The CRTC has yet to make any announcements after holding their recent two week “Let’s Talk TV” hearings and they aren’t expected to make their recommendation until December this year.

Two things became abundantly clear with the hearings though. First off it’s clear that the CRTC really has no place in this day and age. The Globe and Mail wrote in an editorial "Watching CRTC commissioners questioning cable-company executives and other stakeholders about whether Canadians should be able to choose which channels they pay for made it painfully clear that the commission’s usefulness is being outstripped by technology”  - source 

There was a ton of coverage of the hearings and while I applaud the CRTC for trying, I don’t have much hope that the hearings will result in any real change for Canadian consumers. According to the 2014 edition of the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report released earlier this week reports that in 2013, the average Canadian family spent $191 per month on communications services, a 3.2% increase from $185 per month in 2012. (http://canadajournal.net/technology/canadians-spend-cad-190-per-month-communications-crtc-report-17348-2014)

All through the hearings Bell, Rogers and Shaw pushed back on a consistent basis on the CRTC proposed changes. Two of the big items Canadian consumers clearly stated that they wanted the CRTC to address were the cost and size of the basic cable package along with channel un-bundling. All of the big media companies presented nothing but doom and gloom when it came to these subjects.

Much of the defence on both subjects from the folks at Rogers and Bell included the argument that the majority of their customers through their own research indicated that customers didn’t want change. Of course no proof was provided. There was also constant warnings that from the providers that any change would be disastrous and result in increased prices, loss of jobs and the death of Canadian content.

Of course there is little to no proof of any of these predictions would come true, and it’s very hard to believe that any of these companies have anything but their own vested interests in mind. Instead there was intense push back from all the providers on what has become their major competition, the internet.

It was proposed that the CRTC begin mandating Netflix to comply with Canadian content rules and at the same time Canadians start paying a ‘Netflix Tax’ that would go towards the subsidization of domestic programming. 

The notion that in this day and age Canadian content needs protection is laughable and worse that this suggestion is coming from the Canadian media companies who besides CBC are hardly in the business of producing any real Canadian content makes it even more of a joke.

All you need to do is look at the show lineup of any of the Canadian networks.  If you look through the gallery below you can clearly see that 95% of the prime time shows that these Canadian networks are promoting are American series.

 

It was clear throughout the hearings that the big Canadian players are scared of the future. That future is the globalization of media. Netflix is the first entrant of this new world into Canada. A recent study by Sandvine indicates that Netflix accounts for 34.9% of all North American bandwidth traffic.  Rogers and Bell are well aware that the tide is shifting.  This article recently published indicates that Rogers and Shaw lost close to 200,000 cable subscribers in the last year.  In 2013 this CRTC report indicates that that average adult streamed 1.9 hours of TV content which was up 45% from the previous year.

To try and combat this trend Rogers, Shaw and Bell have tried to jump on the Netflix bandwagon launching their own streaming services.

Rogers and Shaw have teamed up to launch Shomi. Two things stand out about this launch. First the fact that Rogers and Shaw have teamed up to launch a service that has required them to spend millions of dollars in purchasing the content rights for various content. Despite this upfront cost and what one would think the final goal would be to capture additional audience who are clearly leaving traditional cable behind for streaming services, the rules of getting Shomi baffle us. This brings us to the second stand out point. The amazing thing about Netflix is that for a simple $8 a month you get access to large volumes of TV and movie content with zero contract.

Rogers and Shaw though for some reason have decided that for a service that brands itself as "a new kind of video streaming service" that at launch only people who are actual Rogers or Shaw internet or TV customers can actually use the service.

It's a curious tactic. Even more curious is the fact that these users get a 30 day free trial but then after the 30 days are expected to pay $8.99 a month. So in essence Rogers and Shaw customers are expected to have traditional cable or internet service with them and then on top of that pay an additional $8.99 a month for a service that is still in beta. Not a great way to reward your existing customer base and one that in most cases is looking for cheaper alternatives. It's also rather bizarre that if you were trying to win market share back from Netflix why you wouldn't allow users who have already left Rogers and Shaw a chance to try the service and compare it in hopes to win customers back. Again, odd since it bills itself as "a new kind of video streaming service"

Bell is poised to launch their service entitled 'Project Latte' although no official date has been given yet. We'll see if they launch with the same tactic. 

In the meantime it's worth noting that the Canadian media companies continue to simply try and duplicate innovation that others design and launch all the while they point the finger at these original companies as being a threat to 'Canadian content' rather than their own traditional declining business models. 

Are we really going to remain behind the times in terms of choice while we wait for Rogers, Bell and Shaw to catch up?  

It's Kutko's belief that Canadians should have full access to everything out there and will continue to do our best to help every one of our customers navigate this new world.