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.
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.”
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.
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!