cable providers

Predictable…

Some of the cable companies have managed to get their way on skinny basic.

Yes, you will be able to get your local channels, the major American networks and the CRTC mandated channels for $25. But depending on your provider you could pay from $4 to $7 for the individual channels you choose extra, causing many to pay as much as they do now by simply choosing five or six extra individual channels.

Some of the providers are also limiting their skinny basic to standard definition, forcing their customer to pay more for the high definition channels. And one has to wonder how much they will charge for the rental of their boxes and extra outlets.

Those getting cable television over the internet don’t fare better either. To watch television they must subscribe to a high speed service and rent or buy modems, which adds to the bottom line. And in the end most will simply be offered an existing package by the customer service representatives, who were asked to downplay skinny basic.

Unfortunately those wishing to cut the cord have also been subjected to off the air signal reductions, requiring outdoor antennas. But I suspect more independent providers will take advantage of these issues and offer cheaper services.

Vmedia is one of the few IPTV providers to offer their services nation wide but Ontario and Quebec are also serviced by Beanfield, Distributel, Vianet Canada, and Zazeen. And many of these providers are expanding.

Apple TV is also an option, as are streaming serves like Netflix, Crave TV and Shomi, although the streaming services are still catching up on content.

I’m personally waiting for the dust to settle and for my contract with my cable company to expire to investigate my options. But i’m leaning towards cutting the cord if the shenanigans continue.

Vmedia Offers Free Trail

Independent cable provider Vmedia is offering a free trial for their services. Please contact Vmedia for details.

CRTC Hearings Start Today

The public hearings in regards to television in Canada have started today and will continue for six weeks.

Issues discussed will be basic cable rate maximums, channel packaging and the options to pick and pick individual channels, internet based television broadcasting, and whether off the air television should continue.

Unfortunately I had attempted to “cut the cord” and get my local channels off the air here in Ottawa and failed because of numerous issues caused by the broadcasters themselves, as explained in a previous blog post. But i’m hoping the CTRC will consider continuing off the air television broadcasts and attempt to fix the associated issues.

I’m hoping they will consider moving all digital broadcasts off the VHF band to the UHF band and allow the use of sub-channels, which would allow CTV 1 and CTV 2 to broadcast on one channel, for example. But I get this feeling that the broadcasters are going to try to end off the air television altogether, which would be rather annoying.

Yes, a reduction of basic cable to $20-$30 would be good. But I suspect this will result in some channels being removed from the basic cable line-up, especially now that some of the providers are pushing exclusivity.

What i’d personally like to see is must carry status for music networks that feature Canadian music videos and live performances by indie bands and lesser known acts. And yes, I know these stations have pretty much packed their schedules with “reality programs”. But is an hour or two per day too much to ask for ?

I’m going to keep an eye on this issue for the blog but if you want more details on what’s going on at the CRTC, click here or tune in on CPAC live weekdays at 9AM Eastern.

Free Television Online ? Tou.tv Update.

Francophone service Tou.tv has decided to offer extra content to their subscriber. But again it appears that some people will get this content free and some people will need to pay $6.99 per month for the service.

Now rebranded as ici.tou.tv, the Radio-Canada affiliate will offer their extra content free to Telus and Rogers subscribers but this commercial free content will only be available as a subscription to everyone else.

Personally I used the service to catch up on Radio-Canada Television programs La Facture, L’épicerie, Découverte and La Semaine Verte whenever I missed an episode of these series. But now I don’t know if the service will remain accessible on my Smart TV, as is, or if it will only be able to access a few episodes because I am not on Telus or Rogers.

The site is currently in beta so details are light. But it appears that users might already be limited to one or two seasons worth of episodes online.

I have checked the recordings for the aforementioned series and they appear to be limited to the most recent season, which is acceptable. But hopefully they are not considering further cuts to the free content.

I have noticed that they have added quite a few Pierre Richard films so I’m a bit tempted to take advantage of their $3.49 offer, which is valid for three months. And I’m sure if they were to offer more films from TV5, TFO and Telé Québec I would possibly consider subscribing. But I’m guessing they will take some time to get the site up and running at full speed.

Is Free Television Being Phased Out ?

Do you guys remember when we were first told that off air television broadcasts would go digital and that more people would be getting free television using antennas ?

Do you remember when we could watch television programs for free online legally through the Canadian network web sites ?

Well, if you want proof that the cable and satellite companies don’t want people to “cut the cord” you just have to look at the current status of television in Canada.

It started with Global Television in my area.

I had decided to stop paying $7 plus tax per month for extra outlets and although I was able to receive Global Television clearly for months, it has suddenly disappeared one summer.

Apparently the owner of the network decided to reduce the strength of the transmission so now an external antennae is required. But this was of course no problem because I was able to access television programs online via the network’s web site.

Then a few months back I noticed I was no longer receiving CTV, which had a strong signal until then.

I am located within 15 kilometers from the broadcasting tower for both stations so there was no reason for my loss of CTV as well. But like Global Television, CTV is also owned by a cable or satellite provider so I had assumed that they also reduced their off air broadcasting strength. And again I decided to stick to on demand and online broadcasts until I get an external antenna.

By then I had switched from Rogers Cable to Bell Fibe TV so I was mostly just watching television programs on demand for free, just like I has done with Rogers. But since Rogers had purchased the rights to the hockey broadcasts there appeared to be issues relating to what could be viewed by what subscribers online.

Now Canadians are being asked to login their cable or satellite provider accounts to view television programs on the major network sites. And the selection of programing is currently  limited to the networks owned by their provider.

Bravo.

Personally I think we should be able to get our local channels off air and online based on our IP address.

There should be enough advertisement revenue there for networks to profit on and cable and satellite providers could always give people access to specialty networks and  on demand programming.

We should be progressing off the problematic off air VHF frequencies and move stations to UHF like most American networks have.

Phase 3 of the “Let’s Talk TV” consultations at the CRTC will begin in April with the publication of details on the public hearing scheduled in September. And from the government’s response last Budget Day, it appears that our cable/satellite channels may get unbundled.

Hopefully this will not be more expensive for consumers, a concern we should all share because these companies have been hiking their rates excessively over the past few years.

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting estimated in Oct 2013 that many of Canada’s cable companies had hiked their rates from 81% to 96% since 2002 ; Almost five times inflation. And Forbes believes the model is unsustainable so we’ve got to wonder what exactly we’re going to be subjected to as consumers.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had mentioned that “cable-TV companies have become like utilities because there are only so many providers that offer the service in a certain region” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last October so perhaps the current government is considering regulating them. But I guess we’ll only know for sure after  the public hearings in September.

By the way, you can access information in regards to the previous phases of “Let’s Talk TV” on the official CRTC web site, which includes comments from the public.

My Thoughts On The Throne Speech

There were quite a few music related  issues mentioned in the throne speech that I’d like to discuss, so here they are in the order presented in the speech :

Government assets

“Our Government will review federal assets; when it is in the best interest of Canadians, they will be sold.”

Unfortunately that may include the CBC/Radio Canada, which has been in the cross hairs for years.

The CBC/Radio Canada has remained a constant for the promotion of Canadian music so its loss to another major network would be felt through-out Canada. And I’m hoping that the support shown during the recent CRTC hearings will keep the CBC/Radio Canada going. But I suspect the current government will cut into this public broadcaster’s budget again soon.

Heather Conway will be the new executive vice-president of English-language services at the CBC in a few weeks so we should know CBC’s fate soon.

Cable/Wireless

“Our Government will take steps to reduce roaming costs on networks within Canada. Our Government believes Canadian families should be able to choose the combination of television channels they want. It will require channels to be unbundled, while protecting Canadian jobs.”

A deduction on wireless roaming fees would be great. But I have some doubt in regards to the reduction of cable fees through unbundling.

Yes, it would be more convenient to choose which channels you want. But will choosing individual channels result in lower monthly bills for the average consumer ?

The providers have been hiking their rates significantly higher than the rate of inflation, claiming the expansion of their services justified these rates. And I suspect they will fight any reduction tooth and nail until their industry is eventually decimated by online broadcasting.

The CRTC will be holding public hearings on the future of Cable and Satellite television, starting on the 24th of this month, and I’m sure Canadian consumers will make it abundantly clear that it’s time to move on.

I, for one, will probably only have an antenna and internet access in four to five years if they don’t get their hikes under control.

Rural Internet

“Our Government will continue enhancing high-speed broadband networks for rural Canadians.”

Good news but I just hope the rates will be more reasonable. There definitely needs to be a reduction in price to make these services more affordable to the average Canadian consumer.

I would hate having to download music and stream music videos using the very limited speeds found in some rural communities. And with cutbacks at Canada Post access will become essential.

At Par Purchasing ?

“And our Government will take additional action to protect Canadian consumers. Canadians are tired of hidden fees. They deserve to know the real cost of paying by debit or credit card. And they should not be charged more in Canada for identical goods that sell for less in the United States.”

When I purchase books I mostly purchase music biographies, industry books and sheet music. But I’ve pretty much given up on purchasing books in my local book stores because of the higher Canadian sticker prices.

I don’t think the industry can be helped now because of the e-Book, which is much more convenient. But it could help people who prefer paperbacks, like yours truly.

My most recent paperback purchase was Belinda Carlisle’s Lips Unsealed: A Memoir, whose regular price is $17 in Canadian book stores but $15 in American book stores.

The difference in price is usually attributed to higher labour and transportation costs but many consumers have been questioning whether this is a valid argument since our dollar got strong.

Seriously, if it weren’t for the shipping costs I’d probably buy more from the states and several Americans companies have already started offering free shipping to Canadians. The Canadian retailers definitely need to get their prices down.

The prices on compact discs and DVDs/Blu-rays are o.k but when it comes to imports I can still find better deals outside of Canada, even with shipping & handling.

For example, I just imported Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven On Earth" and "Runaway Horses" CD/DVD boxed sets from England for $35, shipping and handling included. These British releases would have cost me at least $42 to purchase in Canada, with free shipping but taxes not included.

I don’t know what measures can be taken to help this situation on the federal level. But as a consumer I’d appreciate lower costs.

I’m sure rural Canadians would enjoy an elimination of the fees associated to paper billing proposed in this speech. But I’m guessing public consultations will probably be required for most of these changes.

I will of course post additional details on these issues as they come along.