Invoice payment button by Recrea HQ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Invoice payment button by Recrea HQ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Beware of the Scare Tactics: CRTC To Announce Pick-And-Pay TV Today

The CRTC will release its latest decision in the TalkTV consultation later today as it announces much-anticipated plans to require cable and satellite companies to offer consumers the option of picking the television channels they want without requiring them to purchase expensive bundles. The decision, which builds on earlier rulings that focus on a more competitive marketplace, will fulfill the government’s promise to bring in consumer choice for television packages, which was a prominent part of its 2013 Speech from the Throne.

The specifics are yet to come, but the CRTC will likely require distributors to offer a basic service of Canadian and mandatory channels at a relatively low price (a 2014 working document suggested a cap of between $20 – $30/month), offer consumers a pick-and-pay option, and adjust the Canadian content requirement for bundles.

Consumers will emerge as the clear winners, benefiting from increased choice and the potential to lower their monthly bills. Yet the CRTC decision will undoubtedly be greeted by doomsayers who will argue that pick-and-pay will increase prices and decrease choice (because some channels will fold).

It seems likely that some channels with small audiences will shut down, but that merely means that consumers have been sustaining them through inflexible bundles for years. The notion that consumers are better off paying for channels which they don’t watch merely because distributors enjoyed market power to force them to do so is a strange notion of consumer welfare. If there is a public interest in maintaining a channel, there are better forms of support than forcing millions of Canadians to pay for something they don’t want.

As for consumer costs, there may well be sticker shock at the prices of some services sold on an individual basis. However, this Financial Post article notes that analysts expect monthly revenue per user to decline by $5 to $10 per month. In other words, the amount consumers spend on cable and satellite subscriptions will decline. Consumers may choose to spend that money on other programming – Netflix or other online video services – but their choices will now better reflect their interests, not those of the broadcast distributor. In fact, while some specialty services will be very pricey on a standalone basis, the increasing availability of streaming alternatives for sports, movies, and other programming suggests that there will be competitive pressures to keep prices in check, particularly given the threat of consumers leaving the system altogether in favour of unregulated alternatives.


  1. Except…except…except…if your cable provider and internet provider are one you can expect to have your internet costs suddenly soar if you cancel your cable.

  2. 100% what Dana said. Eastlink is about to put a cap of just 80GB on their 20Mbps plan. Eastlink also offers cable TV. If you go over the cap, they’ll charge you 0.20c per extra GB, up to a max of $30. Expect of course if you subscribe to their TV package, in which case they’ll only charge you up to $10.

    Smaller, independent ISPs have a much higher cap and looser bandwidth restrictions because they don’t have any secondary interests in curbing your Netflix use.

    I just love it!

  3. Sadly its a loaded situation. I want unlimited Internet – which means I have to pay for all the channels anyway to get a decent rate for the Internet. Can’t win.
    If I could get unlimited Internet and NOT pay for cable TV/Bell TV/? TV it would be the obvious choice but no such option exists – nor do I expect Rogers/Bell to ever offer such an option.

    • Lots of companies reselling bell/rogers connections with higher or unlimited caps at reasonable prices. Google around…you’ll find some interesting options that are consistent with ever-increasing demand for monthly data usage. Bundling is the only compelling reason to get home internet from Bell/Rogers.

    • I’m already doing this.
      Unlimited internet.
      VPN, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime & HBO Go.

  4. Devil's Advocate says:

    Sure, the incumbent providers will try hitting their customers with discouraging rates for the individual channels in the beginning. But, they’ll quickly see that plan backfire, as people refuse to pay for unnecessary components.

    Most of the standard network channels are available over the air, for free, and presently with much more clarity than with standard cable. That leaves the specialty channels.

    If competitive rates aren’t offered for the specialty channels, people will just get their content from things like Netflix, and internet sources, resulting in less revenue for the incumbents.

    If they try to rattle the cage too hard on this, they’ll just find themselves being the only ones in it.

  5. You can get unlimited internet without TV: just not from Rogers/Bell.
    The question is: will I be able to buy a specific channel over the *Internet*?

    • Uhm. No. Particularly from a revenue standpoint.

      But even from a technical standpoint, how would you expect to receive/view this channel “over the Internet”? A URL that you click on? O some new settop box from the cable provider? I’m not sure I see the point of that. That is still ” black box” delivery.

  6. My beef is the CRTC giving the distributors a year to comply.
    They could do it way faster than yet …despite what they may protest.

    • It may actually have to do with giving the smaller speciality channels some time to deal with the new financial reality they’re about to find themselves in.

  7. Of course they get a year to comply. When those channels that are going to go bust start reporting job losses, it’ll be a new election term. No one wants that kind of press right before an election. It’s also conveniently pretty standard practice for large changes such as these. I’m sure the timing of this ruling was considered very thoroughly.

  8. I wonder what measures are being put into place to prevent pick-and-pay from becoming a non-starter as result of the cable/satellite companies pricing individual channels out of reach (i.e. making it cheaper to actually continue to buy the stupid bundles).

    @Devil’s Advocate seems to think people will just not buy (i.e. and not watch) channels that are priced exorbitantly high. I disagree. North American’s are addicted to their TV. If they could buy their channels somewhere else, then maybe there would be market pressure to push the prices down, but there is no “somewhere else”.

    The choice will be The Cableco or The Satellite provider (neither of whom ever actually seem to be competitive on price — I’m not making accusations of price-fixing or anything like that, just making an observation that there doesn’t appear to be any actual competing going on in that duopoly). There is no real free market here.

    I can’t see anything except regulatory pressure making pick-and-pay a viable alternative to the bundling that these two like to do.