Just over 11 years ago, I wrote a column for the Toronto Star titled U.S. Web-Streamed TV Could Change Game for Canadian Broadcasters. The piece argued that Internet streaming of television was in its infancy, but could soon become the norm with major implications for Canadian broadcasters:
While the use of the Internet to by-pass Canadian broadcasters is still relatively rare – most U.S. programs bundle the broadcast and Internet rights together – the decision to stream the games directly into the Canadian market could soon become the norm. The key determinant will obviously be money. Once U.S. rights holders conclude that it is more profitable to retain the Internet rights so that they can stream their programs online to a global audience and capture the advertising or subscription revenues that come with it, Canadian broadcasters may find that they can only license broadcast rights with the U.S. rights holders competing directly with them via the Internet.
I continued by noting that the Internet was on the verge of disrupting the longstanding Canadian broadcast model and its reliance on cheap U.S. programming. I speculated that the result would be that Canadian broadcasters would recognize the need to create their own content that they could licence online around the world.
That column came to mind during Bell’s appearance before the Heritage committee on Bill C-11 yesterday.
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Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly view of cultural policy shifted gears in recent months with her emphasis on the need for all players to contribute and rhetoric on “no free rides”, a position that could lead to taxes on Internet services. While Netflix has been a popular target for many Canadian cultural organizations, according to documents released under the Access to Information Act, Canadian Heritage officials appear to have evidence that Netflix spends more on Canadian English-language scripted programming than the Canadian private broadcasters. The revelations come in a June 2017 internal memo to Graham Flack, the Canadian Heritage Deputy Minister, which respond to correspondence from BCE’s Mirko Bibic. Bibic met with Flack in April 2017 and was concerned with department comments about Netflix outspending Bell.
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Rogers Media’s recent decision to slash 110 jobs and end all newscasts at OMNI, its multicultural channel, has sparked outrage among many ethnic communities, who have lamented the cancellation of local news programs in Italian, Punjabi, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Supporters argue that OMNI programming is essential to those communities and worry that the cancellations will mean that viewers become less politically engaged.
Last week, a House of Commons committee held a hearing on the OMNI cuts as members of Parliament from each party took Rogers executives to task. Rogers was unsurprisingly unapologetic, noting that the decision was based on simple economics as it pointed to declining advertising revenues that made the programming unsustainable.
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The furor over Bell Media President Kevin Crull’s banning of CRTC Chair Jean Pierre Blais from CTV news coverage following the pick-and-pay decision made for a remarkable news day yesterday. From the initial Globe report to the unprecedented response from Blais to the Crull apology, it was a head-spinning day. While Bell presumably hopes that the apology brings the matter to a close, that seems unlikely to be the case as there are bigger implications for Crull, CTV News, and Bell more broadly.
Crull’s future has been the subject of much talk, with some calling for his resignation, particularly since there is evidence that this is not the first instance of the editorial interference. Assuming it has occurred before (the reference to “re-learning” in the Crull apology is telling), CEO George Cope was undoubtedly aware of the practice and must surely have condoned it, suggesting that Crull will survive. However, Crull’s bigger problem may be that his ability to represent Bell Media before the CRTC has been irreparably damaged. Bell could have Cope represent the company rather than Crull (indicating the seriousness of the issues), but Crull will struggle as the public face of the company before the regulator for as long as Blais remains chair.
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BCE CEO George Cope is claiming that the company approached the government with concerns about the forthcoming spectrum auction (as I note in this post, Bell has been a longstanding opponent of changes to the foreign investment rules and spectrum set-asides). BCE was particularly concerned with the potential for a […]
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