Good news for T.V. consumers who think they’re paying too much: starting tomorrow you’ll be able to choose a slimmed down cable package, build one yourself out of any channel on offer.
The move comes a year after regulators called for a “smaller, more affordable basic service that prioritizes Canadian television.”
Under the new rules, providers will need to offer up a “skinny basic” package costing no more than $25 a month – without equipment.
They’ll also need to let customers “pick and pay,” that is, choose channels on a stand-alone basis or in packages of up to 10.
But some critics are already wary of the new packages. Delta’s Bruce Krahn, President of the Consumers Association of Canada, says it might not be quite the deal people are expecting.
“Once people take a look at these skinny packages, and they add on some other bits and pieces here are there, they are back to what they are paying or even more expensive. I don’t think this is what the CRTC originally attended, but it’s what we got.”
“The packages have been made known for the past couple of weeks in some cases, but we are not hearing from anyone who is ecstatic thinking they are saving some money or being able to get the channels that they want to watch at a more reasonable price.”
Bell TV has already taken heat this week for reportedly telling staff to downplay the new package, and to refrain from mentioning it unless customers asked about it first. Shaw released it’s offerings last week, while Telus won’t unveil it’s package until tomorrow.
Shaw and Bell have already revealed the contents of their “Skinny Basic” packages
But while consumers might be cheering and consumer advocates are pushing for changes to go further, some business analysts see storm clouds on the horizon.
A 2015 report by media consulting firm Nordicity argues about 16% of people will “cord shave” by 2020, which it calls bad news for the Canadian broadcasting sector.
The report argues that under current rules, about three quarters of the channels basic subscribers are getting are Canadian, while about two-thirds of those in expanded packages are.
But it says while under the new rules, “skinny” packages will be limited to five non-Canadian channels, the “pick and pay” option will let consumers stack as many U.S. channels they like on top, with a net effect of cutting Canadian content out of the market.
That, it warns, will “materially exacerbate reductions in support for Canadian programming,” slashing spending on Canadian programming by about a half a billion dollars, with a potential loss of about 15,000 jobs.
With files from Shelby Thom