Twin Peaks, Plate 2 by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Twin Peaks, Plate 2 by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Netflix vs. CraveTV: More Than 90% of CraveTV Titles Are Not Available On Netflix U.S. or Canada

Bell’s recent characterization of Canadians using virtual private networks to access U.S. Netflix as thieves has attracted considerable attention. Yesterday, I posted on why accessing U.S. Netflix is not theft, noting that a minority of Canadian Netflix subscribers use VPNs and arguing that the frustration seems rooted in business concerns rather than legal ones. The post added that Netflix and CraveTV (Bell’s online video service) have little overlap in content. Working with Kavi Sivasothy, one of my research students, we took a closer look at the libraries of Netflix U.S., Netflix Canada, and CraveTV. We relied on for the Netflix data and CraveTV’s own A to Z page for its data.

Based on that information, how many titles does CraveTV offer that overlap with Netflix U.S. and are not available on Netflix Canada? Not many. In fact, the data suggests that there are some CraveTV titles that are not available on Netflix U.S., but are available on Netflix Canada. Overall, more than 90 percent of CraveTV’s titles are not available on either Netflix U.S. or Netflix Canada. [UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for pointing out a few omissions from the chart. The error was due to different spelling in the Netflix and CraveTV lists. The numbers have been updated].

CraveTV currently offers 403 titles. Of those, 36 are available on Netflix U.S. but not Netflix Canada. Notable titles include 30 Rock, Cheers, Everybody Loves Raymond, The West Wing, and Twin Peaks.

However, there are also eight titles that are available on CraveTV and Netflix Canada, but not the Netflix U.S. service, including Community and Homeland. Further, there are another eight programs that are available on all three services including Doctor Who, Friday Night Lights, and Weeds. A chart of the overlap between the three services:

CraveTV and Netflix U.S. CraveTV and Netflix Canada CraveTV, Netflix U.S., Netflix Canada
30 Rock
Blue Bloods
Everybody Loves Raymond
Heart of Dixie
JFK – The Smoking Gun
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Rescue Me
Star Trek – Deep Space Nine
Star Trek – Enterprise
Star Trek – The Animated Series
Star Trek – The Original Series
Star Trek – Voyager
The Borgias
The Colony
The Escape Artist
The Following
The L Word
The Tomorrow People
The West Wing
Twin Peaks
United States of Tara
Batman Returns
The Hour
The Shield
Anger Management
Doctor Who
Friday Night Lights
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Fall

Based on the overlap data, VPN usage should be a minor competitive issue for CraveTV. There may be many people using it, but the numbers using VPNs to access titles that are available on CraveTV is likely to be quite small. The far bigger issue for CraveTV is the sheer size of the Netflix U.S. and Netflix Canada libraries. CraveTV has some good content, but at 403 titles it is tiny in comparison with both of those services. Netflix Canada currently lists over 3,700 shows and movies, making the number of titles in its library nine times larger than CraveTV. With over 7,300 shows and movies, Netflix U.S. is nearly twice of the size of the Canadian version, which helps explain why some Canadians seek out the greater choice.

Moreover, the services have different business models. Netflix is available to anyone with Internet access, making its content available on a wide range of devices and not requiring a television subscription. By contrast, as a Rogers subscriber at home, I cannot subscribe to CraveTV, which is available only to those with television subscriptions from certain service providers. That means CraveTV reaches only part of the Canadian market and effectively carries a much higher monthly cost than Netflix (CraveTV alone may be cheaper, but it cannot be bought on its own).


  1. I’m not sure that the dust being raised by Bell is as much a competitive issue as it is a management and marketing issue: Why is Bell having such difficulty building a library that will attract customers, whether or not they also subscribe to Netflix?

    My limited dealings with Bell in recent years has demonstrated to me that the company’s culture functions as if it still enjoyed a monopoly position in the Canadian telecommunications industry. From its pricing structure for all of its services to the seeming unconcern about customers (including potential customers), Bell gives no indication that a buyer is actually important to it. Friends who still use some of Bell’s services report ongoing frustration whenever they have to deal directly with the company.

    The company’s senior management need to address the numerous internal issues facing the company before lashing out at the public.

    • What’s the use of 90% unique streaming availability when it never loads. My Netflix loads with blink of my eye. I fell a sleep waiting for crave TV to load.

  2. My personal feeling on this is that Bell and Rogers (crave and shomi, respectively are late to the party and are throwing up non-issues. The point being that if Crave and Shomi actually started using the internet model, make them stand along services available via multiple devices, appletv, chromecast etc., they may get a larger audience. As per usual, when you have a bunch of individuals at the top that do not understand the new business model, these things happen. When you put in place individuals that ‘get it’ much of these issues will go away.

    • john frink says:

      Shomi will be open to all Canadians (that have internet access) this summer. Shaw & Rogers are dropping the cable subscription requirement.

  3. I’ve actually gone out of my way to try to use Bell’s CraveTV “legally.” I cut the cord years ago for an OTA antenna and a Netflix subscription. I can’t even get Bell’s TV services in my recently built downtown Toronto apartment building, but my partner has Bell Fibe with CraveTV in his condo on the same street. He up’ed his Bell Internet plan to Unlimited and I bought a SlingBox which I installed at his place so we could legally access anything on his Bell Fibe service anywhere on our tablets, computers and Chromecasts.

    But the CraveTV UI is cumbersome and slow even controlled directly on his Bell Fibe TV service within his condo, it’s basically unusable via the Slingbox.
    I still use the Sling box to watch live TV via his Bell Fibe boxes, but I’ve given up on Crave. Since I already use Netflix frequently, I subscribed to the TunnelBear proxy service to access Netflix US, Netflix UK and BBC UK.

    I feel no guilt. I tried to use Bell’s CraveTV but Bell makes it impossible. I’m still paying a Canadian company for a monthly subscription: Toronto’s TunnelBear.

  4. Bell GOUGES their customers which is why they’re losing them hand over fist and I will leave them as soon as I can. I pay nearly $80/mo (And they keep increasing it) for satellite TV and that DOES NOT include HD channels, does not include any movies channels and does not include any premium channels such as HBO or AMC. It’s a rip-off.

    As seems the norm for Canada over the last many years, our providers are more than a decade behind the expectations. We live in a widely connected world and are reminded every time we turn on the TV or look at advertising just how far ahead the US and most of Europe are and people are simply getting sick of it. While their monopoly positions on Internet and Cellular allow them to adhere to antiquated models, their refusal to adopt widely desired business models surrounding the Internet will only hurt them in the end. The Metallica/Napster fiasco surrounding music, the BitTorrent law suits surrounding music and movies. What did any of this achieve other than to piss off a bunch of consumers? The people have spoken, they want on-demand and feel the draconian delivery methods we have in Canada are unfair and antiquated. Compounding the issue is the fact the many rural areas of Canada are still on either dial-up or other SLOW Internet. This is largely why BitTorrent usage is so prevalent in Canada, while with Netflix as an option it has been on a decline in recent years, it still remains quite prevalent.

    Canada needs an infrastructure overhaul, especially in rural areas, the rules surrounding foreign ownership and competition need to be scrapped so we can actually have proper competition in the media/telecom sectors in this country. The mega companies need to be split up so they’re not in a conflict of interest between their own products.

  5. John H in Ottawa says:

    Professor Geist – longtime fan, first time caller.

    I’m glad you’re talking about this issue, and I’m happy you’re providing some facts. However, at the risk of looking as if I’m defending Bell (shudder) – I think there may be some inaccuracies here.

    You list 29 titles available on Crave and on Netflix U.S. but not Netflix Canada. But your list doesn’t include “Star Trek: The Original Series”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Voyager”, and “Enterprise” – all of which are on Crave TV, but according to the site you cite, are on Netflix US but not Canada. I might be missing something – but if not, then your count of 29 titles isn’t accurate.

    You say:
    “CraveTV has some good content, but at 403 titles it is tiny in comparison with both of those services. Netflix Canada currently lists over 3,700 shows and movies, making the number of titles in its library nine times larger than CraveTV.”

    I counted 442 titles today on the Crave webpage, not 403. Not a huge difference, but 10% is 10%.

    Also, I don’t think its reasonable to give equal weight to all titles in the libraries. You’re counting a movie and a TV series as if they’re equal, whereas a series can have hundreds of episodes. 2852 of the titles at Netflix Canada are movies or documentaries. They have 870 TV shows – so a more legitimate comparison may be that Netflix Cdn has just over twice the number of TV series of CraveTV. True, Crave has almost no movies – but it’s also only $4 instead of $8.99.

    And finally, you close with this: “(…) CraveTV, which is available only to those with television subscriptions from certain service providers. That means CraveTV reaches only part of the Canadian market and effectively carries a much higher monthly cost than Netflix (CraveTV alone may be cheaper, but it cannot be bought on its own).”

    You can’t watch CraveTV without a Bell TV subscription, true. But you also can’t watch Netflix without an internet subscription. Netflix subscribers need a robust internet plan, which also adds to its monthly cost. Watching Netflix will eat up your bandwidth, forcing many people to upgrade to unlimited data cap plans which aren’t cheap. CraveTV, as I understand it, is delivered through your Bell settop box, and doesn’t count towards your bandwidth cap.

    In the end, I agree with your conclusion – as long as Crave is limited to Bell TV subscribers, it’ll remain a niche product. That might change if they open it up to other cable providers (as they’ve said they want to do), but for now, VPN use just presents less friction than other options.

    Thanks for the blog, and for keeping these issues in the public eye.

    • You sound like you work for bells PR dept. 10% of 400, who cares, it’s only 1% of netflix’s offering.
      Also, EVERYONE has internet, it’s not an additional cost if you have it anyway. And if you have a “cap” on your internet, you’re getting it from the wrong provider. Caps are a scam to get you to pay more for an imaginary benefit. Blarg, wake up people…

  6. Fool Me Once says:

    I pulled all my services from Bell & Rogers years ago and am much, much happier. I don’t know how big a factor this is, but no matter what they come up with, on principle alone, I will not give them any more money.

    They abused me as a customer and didn’t care when I left so they’re never getting any more of my money. How many other people feel the same way?

  7. The problem is that “tv” is soon to go the way of the dodo. Bell and the ilk are trying to keep you tied to the old model, the one our parents and many of us grew up with. I too can watch a lot of shows online provided I enter my cogeco password. So, I can watch shows “free” online provided I also pay monthly for cable tv. How is that “free”?
    The internet market (providing a connection and ripping people off for bandwidth as if it’s a tangible commodity) is nowhere near as lucrative as piping some tv station broadcasts (most simply repetitive) into homes. They don’t want to let go of that. They are panicking because they too see the future of internet tv (not just some movies and programs but all of them) and don’t know how to keep the revenue coming in. Don’t forget, it’s not just Bell and pals being greedy, we’re talking about the advertising dollars drying up. And then of course there is the matter of the advertisers wondering how they will send their brainwashing message to the masses with online streams sans ads. Do you actually know how much companies spend to get you to buy their junk? And by watching nfx, you aren’t “getting the message”. That irks them to no end. So yes, the future is streaming but the challenge is how to make money at it (nfx is probably going to add ads in the future) and how the businesses will get their ads to you. It will be interesting to see how long and in what way conventional “tv” will be able to hold on. In the meantime, Bell and others will continue to provide little alternative in order to keep you tied to the old model, and even when they do, try to keep you tied to the old model. Interesting times.

  8. Le Correct says:

    In regards to “Fool Me Once”, above. they state: “They abused me as a customer and didn’t care when I left so they’re never getting any more of my money. How many other people feel the same way?”

    It should be quite obvious that what Bell is after are some sort of law/power to deny you access to your choice of content. Thousands of Canadians feel as you do, and act as you do. However, Bell won’t stand for it. They’ve been raising the VPN stink for a few years now.

    Even if a standalone service, thousands won’t touch the Bell product due to past abuses so Bell needs to force it upon people and remove choice.

    The title in this topic says:
    “More Than 90% of CraveTV Titles Are Not Available On Netflix U.S. or Canada”

    Does that mean Bell has content no one wants? Or does it mean no one wants a Bell service due to past abuses?

  9. Kelly Madsen says:

    Personally I think it is all about our available free time. We all have a limited amount of time per day/week to consume TV and so advertising on TV. Bell doesn’t care if we smoke crack as long as it is their crack. They have proven time and again if they can use underhanded tactics to force us to use their products rather than compete fairly and allow the consumer to choose the best products they will go for the the underhanded option every time. It’s all about forcing our finite amount of free time onto their platform. Allowing us to choose is a risk that they do not want to take.

  10. I have lived a long time in Canada. We seem to always pay more for less; however, only when available. Our dollars should “pay the bearer on demand”; yet all-too-often, there is either no availability or we find ourselves outside and looking in. Free enterprise is restricted in this country and and the streaming discussion, once again depicts the ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ mentality. We wonder why most of our provinces are have-nots; we simply fail to compete in a free market. We love to build fences. Give the consumer what he wants at a competitive price and he will pay for it!

  11. Michael Richardson says:

    BTW: I was watching Twin Peaks last year on Netflix Canada.
    If it’s gone, I didn’t notice. I guess I’ll never know who killed Palmer.

  12. Michael Richardson says:

    Star Trek: The Original Series”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Voyager”, and “Enterprise” — are all available on Netflix Canada, too btw.

  13. Bell just wants to deny customers any other alternative.

    It’s what a good oligopolist does.

  14. One of the biggest problems facing Netflix Canada and prevalent usage of VPN to access Netflix US is not so much the missing titles which, granted, there are A LOT of, it’s more the titles that are incomplete, lacking or partial. Weeds is one example that I noticed and another I noticed is Classic Doctor Who, of which Canada has very limited access to as compared to the US…4 serial, being essentially 16×24 minute episodes…enough to tease, essentially. Here are a couple recent lists that compare US to Canada. According to my Netflix, that I just signed up for yesterday, Star Trek: The Original Series”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “Voyager”, and “Enterprise” are NOT available to me. Nor is Twin Peaks. Perhaps Michael Richardson needs to turn his VPN off. 😉



    • John H in Ottawa says:

      Thanks, “IamME”, for verifying those Star Trek shows are not available in Canada on Netflix. That’s what the site had indicated when I checked; nice to have the confirmation.

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  16. John mcfet says:

    This is really still about back catalogues.

    The real issue is going forward when Netflix Canada and Bell/Rogers/Shaw compete with one another for the Canadian rights to new shows produced. Now that they have their own services, Bell/Rogers/Shaw will buy up all the rights to keep the shows away from Netflix.

    • This strategy may not work in their favor and could drive more people to use VPN to access American Netflix. The other thing is, just because Bell/Rogers/Shaw tries to buy up rights doesn’t mean I have to give it them. Netflix, while it may not pay me as much in the short term may ultimately reward with more sustainability and much broader exposure compared to any of the media dinosaurs. If I were a content producer, I’d think long and hard about how I wanted my content distributed. Direct content, such as the Netflix original content, is gaining a lot of traction and could very well be the way of the future. I’ll tell you, if I were an actor, I’d want my face on Netflix above any other platform.

      • John mcfet says:

        Yes, of course, it may not work. But it’s why they’re calling VPN use “theft.” They’re trying to protect a model that doesn’t work anymore. What’s even more frustrating is that the model was based on the idea that the Canadian market was protected for these companies and in return they would produce Canadian content (because while it is “content” it’s also “culture” which complicates things). But now they’re barely producing any CanCon and they still want a protected market.

        For the content producers Canada is an aftermarket and they’ll always take the most money in the short term. The Canadian sale doesn’t affect sustainability at all, the shows live or die based only on what happens in the US.

        • Not sure what one would call the use of VPN. It’s not copyright infringement…not trademark infringement, certainly not piracy. It’s hard to call it theft when it’s something you’re paying for and copyright owner is still gets paid. At worst, it’s a legal exploit. Essentially VPN allows us to take out the Canadian middle-men and their associated mark-up. In this case, Bell/Rogers/Shaw. Essentially we’re taking profit from one distributor and paying another, the content owner gets paid either way…nothing illegal to see here, but I can see why they’re having a hard time with it. I will be canceling my Bell subscription as soon as I can confirm my Internet will remain stable with Netflix. Even without using a VPN, the $9 for Netflix Canada is better than the $80 I current pay for Bell and there is PLEANTY of kids content on there to keep the kids busy for years to come.

          I know with bike parts, unlike in the US, Canadian shops are actually not allowed to buy directly from parts manufacturers such as Shimano or Intense. They HAVE to buy their spare parts through a distributor who, of course, levies their own markup on the items. Some American parts manufacturers won’t ship to Canada, while most will, and I can buy parts quite readily and often substantially cheaper, even considering exchange, from places like Pricepoint (US), Chain Reaction (UK) or Real World Cycles (US). This tells me it’s not illegal to circumvent the middleman and distributors. How much markup is there? Bearings for the rear suspension on my bike and I need 8 of them and they’re $12-$16 each in a local bike shop, $96-$128. Bought directly from Real World Cycles, the manufacturer…$50 for a full set…including shipping and some free stickers.

          I would imagine markup on media distribution is even more drastic since it’s not a tangible product and there is essentially no competition.

          • John mcfet says:

            Well, the only competition is the three companies – Bell, Rogers and Shaw bid against one another for the Canadian rights. But then the shows are resold to us as part of a package of networks so it’s pretty much impossible to get an accounting for individual shows. And there have always been rumours about shady deals – if they want a particular hit show they have to also buy a much less popular one, that kind of thing.

            In the past the Canadian companies have always trumpeted local news as the shows being subsidized in return for the protected market but there doesn’t seem to be much talk of that recently. And the Canadian companies have never really wanted to make their own shows and would stop immediately if the CRTC didn’t force them to make some – it’s still complicated between making Canadian culture and also creating jobs here.

            But if the territorial wall between Canada and the US comes down then it’s likely that TV production in Canada will pretty much dry up, the same way the TVs themselves were once made in Canada but aren’t anymore. Some people get upset about the idea of all our TV being imported but most of what we make is just pseudo-American anyway. Another way that Bell and Rogers have done it to themselves.

          • John mcfet says:

            Here, I see it was actually floated back in March:

            “The proposed regulations would allow the owners of such video services to offer exclusive content, avoid a requirement that they contribute to Canadian programming and deliver their offerings over television set-top boxes as long as they also make the services available over the Internet.”

            So, no more Canadian content. And anything “proposed” by the CRTC really comes from Bell and Rogers, that’s a perfect example of “regulatory capture.”

            Here’s the article:

          • It should not be Canadian content vs. American content, vs. UK content…it should simply be “content” and if the content isn’t up to par that it cannot survive on it’s own then what does that say about the content? There have been some great Canadian shows and they’ve generally been recognized for that, but why do we keep pushing sub par content just because it’s Canadian? In the US, if a show underperforms does the government step in to protect it just because it’s American? Of course not. This antiquated system needs to be put out of its misery. Content producers need to produce shows/movies people want to see and those on the delivery end need to deliver them at a reasonable cost otherwise everyone suffers and consumers take their business elsewhere.

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  18. You know, I was thinking about this the other night. Netflix, in general, is mostly old stuff, usually, at least a season old for currently running shows. How is me using a VPN to access the content on the American Netflix to watch a show not on Canadian Netflix any different than running out to Walmart or Amazon (Or even better, a second hand store) and grabbing a DVD season pack of some show or buying a movie on DVD? It’s EXACTLY the same thing. I’m watching it in my home and not using their service to do it. How is it any different than buying/renting the show from iTunes (Which is arguably much more expensive) and no one is complaining about them? How is it any different than running out to a video store and renting a copy? The content owner gets or has gotten paid with the original purchase either way. Again, with a VPN, the content owners still get paid, we’re just cutting out the Canadian middlemen….in this case Bell/Rogers/Shaw. The problem from Bell/Rogers/Shaw’s point of view is obviously not the delivery of the content, but the price at which Netflix is doing it. If Netflix was charging $50 or $60 a month, I bet no one from Bell/Rogers/Shaw would be complaining. They can’t or won’t compete with the Netflix/VPN combo (Usually well under $20/mo combined) with their current business models and don’t want to change…plain and simple. Their gravy train is coming to an end and they’re too stubborn or too stupid to do anything about it. It will go down in history as a business mistake on the scale of suing Napster.

    • John mcfet says:

      It’s mostly old stuff now but it won’t stay that way. All of the content delivery systems (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.,) are starting to produce their own content. Ten years from now we will buy all the content directly from the producers. Bell/Rogers/Shaw know the model they have now of re-selling third-party content is coming to an end, they’re just hanging on as long as they can.

      The problem wasn’t really the model – it was a good enough theory to maintain a small-market like Canada as an independent culture in the face of American cultural imperialism (which isn’t an intentional goal of the US, just a side-effect of being so much bigger) – but the problem is, it was squandered by the Canadian networks even before they were the media giants they now are. Even when they were protected networks like CTV and Global and CITY they never wanted to do the work necessary to create content. Well, Canadians companies don’t spend on R&D, it’s not just a media problem.

      So, Canada becomes like a minor-league farm-team. The Canadian Film Centre can train a guy like Jeremy Podeswa, but of course he’s going to direct Game of Thrones instead of some low-budget Canadian show. Canadians don’t seem to mind that all of our culture will be foreign so that part of the argument is almost never mentioned anymore.

      I just feel in these discussions it’s worth mentioning what we’re going to lose when this model does disappear. But, like I said, we squandered it anyway.

      And, you know, if you care about Canadian stories you can just read books. The publishing industry in Canada is doing great work.

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