CTV & Canwest Ask CRTC To Order Blocking Of U.S. Programs

The CRTC kicks off two weeks of hearings next week that place the spotlight on the fee-for-carriage fight. Last night, I participated in an interesting debate on the issue on TVO's The Agenda called A Pox On Both Their Houses: Cable and TV.  The program is embedded below.  One issue that was not raised – indeed it has not received any real public attention – was noted earlier today by Alan Sawyer.  He notes that CTV and Canwest have quietly asked the CRTC to order cable and satellite companies to establish a new policy of "program deletion."  The new policy (which is supported in a Toronto Star piece today) would mean that when a Canadian broadcaster buys the Canadian rights to a U.S. program, the U.S. broadcast would be blocked in Canada for a seven-day window. 

In other words, rather than the current simultaneous substitution policy, which allows for the programs to air at the same time and for the substitution of the Canadian broadcast on the U.S. channel (thereby leading to the annual complaints about Super Bowl commercials), the U.S. broadcast would be blocked altogether.  That would allow Canadian broadcasters to air the U.S. program whenever they like and block the U.S. version altogether.  In a world when consumers expect to view programs on their schedule, CTV and Canwest seek a return to a prior era when the broadcaster retains (now illusory) control over access to the broadcasts in Canada.


  1. fair_n_hite_451 says:

    The more you grasp at them…
    …the faster they will slip through your fingers. Once again, a business loads, aims and fires right at its own foot. Why would I pay all this extra money for a broader choice of cable channels in my premium package … if the 6 US broadcast stations I currently get are blacked out in some patchwork quilt of enforcement for 4 hours a night?

    To say nothing of nightmare of shows (see Sunday afternoon football) which run over their alloted time slot or shows which are pre-empted for special announcements or presidential addresses and the like? Are they going to then pre-empt shows they don’t even have the rights to?

    And they want me to give them extra money to watch them fumble their way through this?

  2. The corps all look to the good old days eh? If we could just legislate away all this new technology, we could go back to making money the way we were before!

  3. Vincent Clement says:

    Forget it. I’ll just watch less TV or I’ll still record the Canadian version then watch it when I want to, while skipping the commercials. Or I’ll get a good antennae and the HD versions of the American stations for free.


  4. watcher of 55 years of bad Canadian tv
    This is ridiculous-they already block American internet content, and now this. I am sick of the clumsy way the Canadian networks hijack the American shows, chopping off the starts and ends, now the very few shows left intact on the American networks, which we pay dearly for, are going to be censored? China will end up with freer communication laws than we have.

  5. Toronto Star editorial might not quite be what you think
    I read the TorStar editorial this morning, and if you read through it, it says *nothing* about blocking. What it supports is non-simultaneous substitution. In their example, the U.S. feed can show the program anytime, and the cable company will substitute the Canadian feed over top. You can still watch the indicated channel at the indicated time.

    Now – trying to find *anything* in the broadcaster comments is almost hopeless. I did see references to “program deletion” without a clear request, so I know that exists. But can anyone who has already been through this provide some pointers to documents/pages?

    Either way though – non-simultaneous substitution strikes me as reasonable, while program deletion is not. And I’m sorry if your plan was to broadcast that program tomorrow. Substitution, yes. Deletion, no.

    However – in considering a fee-for-carriage environment, do I get to decide *not* to take the Canadian signal? What if I still take the U.S. signal? If that’s what I’m paying for, isn’t that what I should get?

    Or is what’s being considered actually “fee-for-mandatory-consumer-must-buy-carriage”?

  6. Go ahead punks … make my day
    If Canworst and CrudTV can proceed with their stupid idea I suggest:
    1. Canadians cancel their cable / satellite subscriptions and Canworst/CrudTV can watch the $$ their precious watered down version of US specialty channels dwindle down to nothing.
    2. Shaw, Roger need to grow some balls and tell the CRTC to stuff it and defy their idiotic dictates. If the CRTC takes away their license, then the useless politicians will have to deal with the CRTC and abolish them,
    3. If the politicians don’t want to legalize DirecTV, etc, then the people of Canada need to kick their miserable useless carcasses out of office and elect people who represent the people and not the corporations.

  7. Lived with a MATV system for well over 1/2 my life. Worked well.

    Going back to the tower & master antenna system is looking better and better all time time.

    Couple that with FTA satellite, the cable company can go forth and multiply.

    A note to all cable television suppliers: you need US; we don’t need YOU! You are but a mere convenience; you now have graduated to being a royal pain.

    Anyone in the major US networks would do the amateurish “slice & dice” like you do with the commercials & superimposing ONCE. Then, they’d be looking for a job.

  8. TV pirates abound
    Again, Michael, your underlying assumption is that Canadian consumers deserve to have access to all TV programs regardless of who owns the rights to those programs.

  9. Excellent job on TVO Michael you seem to have a good tooth on the situation! It really is interesting watching the dance steps of the industry players, public and the CRTC. Truly history in the making as the Captains of yore navigate into the great blue. Even better viewing than what is on the tube! Oh and thanks to TVO for the stream.

  10. Watcher: Denis McGrath predicted your response title
    Blaming the people who want to make home-grown TV for those who actually want to watch it – and yes, I’m part of the latter group, which I suppose earns me co-scapegoat status in your eyes by extension – is something he expected, per this posting:

    Enough of that, please.

  11. What I don’t understand is why rights of US programs in Canada are getting sold to Canadian monopolist companies that refuse to further license said programs to video streaming providers.

    Its not like the rights to sell the same DVD of said program belongs to CTV or Global, but god forbid if a company like wants to bring it on demand over the internet.

  12. buy canadian
    I’m surprised to be saying this but I’m okay with this if the result is that more $ and jobs are staying north of the border.

  13. wow
    If this goes through, this might finally convince me to cancel my cable subscription and just go exclusively to internet content. Torrents and streaming media it is.

  14. @Bob: No, the assumption is that the original creator, regardless of their country of origin, wants to make sure their product is seen by as many eyeballs as possible. What is being proposed by CTV and Canwest work against *their* wishes. Our wishes just happen to mesh.

    @chris: Except the result will still be CTV and Canwest buying American programming. Which means not a single “$” or job saved. Not that they would have been in either case.

  15. Point on why the internet is no ready to stream TV
    In the video one of the guys was saying that TV cannot make the jump to the Internet in the mainstream because its too slow. To him I say: whose fault is that? There is a monopoly on service (DSL/Cable) practically everywhere in the nation. The wholesale of Bell Internet is not what I would call real competition since Bell water it down. These companies just don’t spend money on Internet infrastructure like other countries do. They hoard profits. They work together in an oligopoly to stagnate or raise costs. This is why we are lagging behind in Internet speed and bandwidth usage. I think that we have a problem with Internet TV because rogers and bell both have unreasonable caps on bandwidth. Remove those and watch the percentage of online TV viewers increase.

  16. Bill Chalmers says:

    Funny to hear the old timers poo poo the internet citing bandwith and lack of quality amongst streaming. Im also not sure of the sources for increased TV watching but I would be very surprised if this were the case. Lets face it the corporations are terrified of the Web or else we would not be facing the looming threat of ACTA.

    I am 31, my fiance is 26, we have a 50″ plasma television, and the handful of shows that we do like are stored on a 1TB USB hard drive.

    The money that we would have otherwise handed over to Rogers/Bell for “service” we are investing in a mutual fund. Makes me chuckle every time I hear what people pay monthly to these dinosaurs and wonder how long that it will be sustainable.

  17. CRTC,Bell AND Rogers Don't care about the little man says:

    I bet after this passes there’ll ONLY be 25 canadian channels via satelite(All FOREIGN AND US Ones will be wiped out).Viewers will drop like flies,then Bell AND Rogers WILL THEN think TWICE before screwing around with canadians anymore!

  18. What this proves is that these broadcasters have nothing but American content
    This is the only weapon they have, limit access to US content. They should just pack it in. I can get my news from the CBC.

  19. P2P/Online is here
    Downloading videos online is the most versatile way of getting television content. Shows downloaded from the Internet are usually only 175 megabytes (22 min. show) 350 (44 min. show) so I don’t understand how they say there’s not enough bandwidth. Even in HD programs are only 550 megabytes to 1.1 gigabytes. If you only watch a few shows a week it falls within most bandwidth caps and some ISPs (like Teksavvy) offer unlimited bandwidth plans. There are a ton of media players/gaming consoles out there right now that can handle files downloaded from the net. Online streaming is good but people also want to be able to watch content on their TVs or in a better resolution. TV stations should offer their content online for download with ads in it, people would flock to it immediately.

  20. Harris Nigels says:

    One Word
    One word:


  21. Gary Bueford says:

    I would love to delete CTV and Global… the 2 most useless stations in the world.

  22. Jean-François Mezei says:

    With satellite/cable, is there really a need for more that one station per time-zone ?

    From a democracy point of view, local news are important. But must those be on a dedicated TV channel that otherwise carries US programming via CTV/Global ? Perhaps local news are best made available through the internet and we can simply forget about local TV stations.

    If we were allowed to watch US programs on US channels (with generally better picture/sound quality), then the leaches (CTV/Global) would have to learn to provide either better quality retransmission (for instance, remove any/all logos and animations on top of the programs) or learn to provide unique programming and import from other countries as well.

    Global won’t carry BBC programs on its main channel because it owns the BBC-Canada franchise as a specialty channel. It carried the failed US remake of Coupling (it failed because all the jokes were censored) even though Global had the rights for the original BBC “Coupling” which would have been a great success if not censored.

    Global and CTV need to stop competing on who can buy the most US programmes which we already can get. They should compete on broadcasting programs we don’t already get.

  23. There’s three DirecTV dishes….
    …. for every Canadian StarChoice or Bell dish in my neighborhood.

    People have had enough of Canada’s B.S.

  24. It’s all going on-line
    I’m surprised Michael didn’t refute that you can watch online content on a big high-def screen with products like the Slingbox or even a Mac mini.

    Really good discussion though, very interesting.

  25. These guys are idiots. They may as well close down the cable companies if this law goes forwards. No one in Canada would wait 7 days for an American show. No one. People will cancel their cable subscriptions on the spot if this happens.

    I won’t pay for a service that does this, not in the age of online streaming, torrents, and usenet. Sorry CTV and Canwest, you can’t go back on technology just because you don’t like it.

  26. TPB
    Something tells me that The Pirate Bay will be getting a few more hits during primetime hours.

  27. “These guys are idiots. They may as well close down the cable companies if this law goes forwards. No one in Canada would wait 7 days for an American show. No one. People will cancel their cable subscriptions on the spot if this happens.”

    Oh, and here’s a thought… maybe all those cable subscribers who would just up and cancel their cable because they had to wait a week for a show would also get up and move to the USA in protest! (/sarcasm)

    In fact, a majority will only cancel their cable subscriptions if or when there is an alternative that is just as convenient as cable is. Putting up an antenna might work (but then that’s going to require some effort and sacrifices some of the convenience of cable). Further, an antenna would work only if you happen to live in an area that gets the station you are interested in over the air, which in many cities in Canada simply isn’t very likely, unless you’re talking about satellite (which usually requires a subscription to decrypt the channels, and the company that provides it may end up being subject to the same restrictions as the cable companies). And with an antenna you’re dealing with varying reception issues, which was a major reason that people initially started migrating from antenna to cable in the 1970’s. Instead of reception difficulties being your own problem and having to go outside (usually on to the roof) to fix it, they were solely the responsibility of your signal provider… cable gave consumers increased convenience, at an increased cost.

    So, what else is new?

  28. Captain Mike says:

    What is shocking here is the expectation that Canadian cable and satellite companies have the right to distribute what ever TV signals they, regardless of who owns them. This is a false sense of entitlement that originats from regulatory protectionism Canada has provided for its cable industry. if you want to want to watch US programming, move to the US (and if you watch in on cable in the US, your cable company will pay retransmission fees to the local station and you will have no access to distant TV signals or timeshifting) or watch it here in Canada, in the comfort of your living room from those who properly own the programs.

  29. Brian Jenkins says:

    No More for Me
    I watch US signals uninterrupted via a SlingCatcher catching streaming signals from my brother’s house in California. It’s great. No more CrudTV and Crapwest Globull for me!

  30. Lazy Crooks
    We are dealing with bunch of money hungry crooks. The only reason that CTV & Canwest are asking the CRTC to order the blocking Of U.S. programs is because they make a lot more money by just sitting back and airing American shows than by making their own low quality, low budget garbage shows like TV Made me do it, Whatever happened to…, Inside the box, Carlawood and the list goes on and on. And people that actually think these are quality programming must have extremely low standards. Canwest has proven time after time that they don’t give crap about the Canadian public. Have you noticed that in the last few months they have doubles the amount of commercials during the movies on MovieTime, ShowCase and the rest of the Canwest channels? Or how they show the same movies day after day week after week? Or how they air the same garbage Canadian shows over and over on 4-5 different channels?

    It’s all about trying to maximize Global and CTVs profits … it’s nothing about Canadian culture. They only reason they haven’t also gone after out-of-market Canadian stations is because with the duopoly those two have, there is really little competition.

    You want us to watch more Canadian programming, stop pocketing the money and spend it in offering better quality programming. Every other house on my street has an American dish on it and I don’t blame them a bit for breaking the law. They are sick and tired of CTV and Global’s annoying antics. Unfortunately this is going to be an issue until CRTC start growing a pair of balls and start dealing with these douche bag owners of Canadian TV stations. The CRTC has always protected the money makers in these scenarios from day one and almost always at odds to what would benefit you and me and every other Canadian.

    The corporate importers of entertainment cloak its business in the American flag by slapping in a few Tim Horton’s commercials here and there. We are forced to pay too much to Canadian corporations acting as the mafia that want a cut of the action. Corporate welfare supported by bamboozled idealist nationalists.

    I don’t understand how these flag-wrapped defenders of Canadian culture don’t want to go head to head with their own Canadian produced shows against American shows. What are you trying to do here anyways CTV and Global… print easy money? Why don’t you just set up your own printing press and print some U.S. greenback out for yourselves???

    It’s time to face the reality of what the average consumer actually does, not what he says.

    I too will go grey market so fast if this happens. Canadian broadcasters can kiss my a**. Create something I want to watch and quit riding on the U.S. coat tails and I might think about watching your channel. Otherwise, pi** off.

  31. Internet TV?
    Fine if you have access to high-speed. I don’t have it, and can’t get (perhaps if I were willing to pay $80 per month for 1.2 Mbps satellite I could, but that comes with a 300 MByte cap). Cable is but a rumor in my area. I’ve tried to have wireless installed at my house, but topology means that the signal is too degraded even though it is only coming 3 km.

    This leaves me with dial-up. The crappy phone line means that I can get, on a good day, 26,400 bps. Roughly 2.5 kByte/sec. So, using Jeff M’s numbers above, that means 19 hours, 20 minutes to download a 44 minute show. That is also 19 hours with my phone tied up. So, no, internet TV is NOT an option for me. City folk, who have access to high-speed, tend to forget that broadband access is Canada is not universal. It is concentrated in areas of higher population.

    One thing I did find in the video. The bundling that occurs is “to support the niche channels” that couldn’t get enough subscribers otherwise. Frankly, if they can’t get enough subscribers, why don’t a few of them get together for one channel, in the same way that Omni-TV puts together a number of the ethnic services which, on their own, don’t have enough viewership to justify a full channel? Spread the costs.

  32. Self-fulfilling prophecy…
    I like it when you said “most people will watch this show online”.

  33. Excellent show, thanks for speaking for the digital generation Mike!
    You can watch streaming live tv on your big screen….
    You can watch youtube on your tv or download tv shows via torrent less than 15 minutes after they air. In HD, without commercials.

    The time is now. If you have an old pc with TV out or an old xbox try googling XBMC.
    If you have an xbox 360 you can use a program like TVersity on your pc to stream youtube or other online video right to your tv.

    The guy they quoted from Macleans had it exactly right. Let me pay for what I want to pay for. I don’t want to pay for Tvtropolis,slice,CMT, any of the dozens of duplicate Global, CTV and CBC channels that all carry the exact same programming…. Remind me what’s local about local tv? The news? Riiiight.

    There’s no local station for me, and I live in a city of 50,000 and our local option is an hours drive away in Kingston CKWS. But they have their own news and own stories to tell let alone devote any screen time to news that happens in a place like Belleville or Marmora.

    They claim 500 channels. Most of those channels just mirror each others content or play endless reruns repeating their programming on a 3 hour cycle.

    I can only hope that the CRTC can see their time is up and make the right choice for the people of Canada before it’s too late.

  34. Sigh
    And we wonder why Globe media is facing bankruptcy? Do these idiots not realize that unless they make it easier for Canadians to view the content they want when they want, we will simply go elsewhere and get it?

  35. Please Don't Go!!! says:

    I Love Canadian Television
    I just love Canadian televison networks. I really do. I even have a bumper sticker stating that.

    I hope that the CTV threats to shut down are just that – threats. I couldn’t imagine life without CTV.

    I mean, where else would we have found great Canadian dramas like CSI, American Idol, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Daily Show, Access Hollywood, Law and Order, Ghost Whisperer, Without A Trace, CSI: Maimi, Criminal Minds, Dancing with the Stars, Oprah, General Hospital, TMZ, Dr. Phil, The Bold and the Beautiful, CSI: New York, the NFL, The View, Supernanny, Desperate Housewives, The Amazing Race, Cold Case, the OC, Law and Order: SVU without CTV.

    I will truly miss these great Canadian shows if the network with the slogan “Canadian Television” disappears.

    I hope that the CRTC finds $100 billion dollars to help CTV produce these great shows listed above.


  36. Furry Fighter 20X66 says:

    Say no to both Cable and OTA Networks.
    Look, the over-the-air television model of broadcasting is about to run over a cliff. Just like record industry are trying desperately to justify their place in a post-Napster world, soon networks like CTV and CBC will be competing with on demand programming and the very likely scenario that they won’t be needed when each one of us can go to the companies that make the content and purchase them to watch without ANY commercials or stupid ads popping up in the corner of the shows.

    If we allow the Networks to start sucking at the taxpayers teat they will forever be doing it. I, for one, don’t want to support a failing business model with bailouts. Bad enough we gave tons of free money (uh.. Loans.. I mean loans) to GM.

    Cable companies best not be crowing either. In five years they will be in the same boat when half of their business model collapses. Heck, even their internet service may end up in jeopardy if some of the interesting proposals I see on Slashdot ever come to happen.

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