The CRTC tries to drag our TV “system” into the 21st century

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The public hearing announced by the CRTC last week (Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2014-190) came with two other newsworthy documents.

One is the Commission’s trial balloon on instituting a pick-and-pay system for TV subscribers, which takes the official form of the CRTC’s Response to Order in Council P.C 2013-1167 (“Maximizing the ability of Canadian consumers to subscribe to discretionary services on a service by service basis” – here). This document contains the seeds of what might be a significant reform to the channel-bundling model. Continue reading

What you don’t know about your ISP service will hurt you (2/2)

teksavvy_infographic-3Infographic released by TekSavvy in February, from omnibus survey by IDC Canada

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(Please see previous post for the setup to this one)

In early February, TekSavvy released the results of five survey questions fielded by IDC Canada on its behalf, which probed for attitudes to Internet service among Canadians. In keeping with its White Knight role, the maverick ISP is not only going Ottawa one better on the research. TekSavvy also took the opportunity to launch a new tool to help customers navigate the decisions involved in choosing a particular access plan. They call it Find Your Plan and apparently people like it.

Tina-2I spoke recently about this initiative to Tina Furlan, TekSavvy’s Director of Marketing and Communications, and the brains behind last year’s dramatic rebranding. The two main questions on my mind concerned a) why her team decided to plunge into the research game, and b) were they surprised by the results. Tina points out that TSI’s subscriber base across Canada (for all services) is now close to 270,000. Naturally, with that kind of growth, its traditional customer base of younger, techie males has broadened into a more mainstream and technically unsophisticated group, the very end-users who are especially puzzled and frustrated by all the bafflegab ISPs usually throw at them. Continue reading

Pick-and-pay, Netflix and the CRTC’s TV policy review (1)

7111-mayfair-car-1dCar detailing – Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London W1 – Aug 2013

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tv-flag-4Memo to the CRTC: Even if pick-and-pay were to be implemented, it will never on its own advance consumer welfare by lowering costs or expanding choice, thanks to the market stranglehold enjoyed by Canada’s vertically integrated congomerates (VICs). When Chairman Blais kicks off the so-called “conversation” on TV policy this Thursday (Oct 24), he’ll face a daunting task: having to promise real change in the face of a) legislation that’s two decades out of date (which the Tories are not going to fix); and b) a heavily concentrated industry determined to preserve its bounteous status quo (which the Tories are also never going to fix). The best indicator of a meaningful review won’t be whether TV subscribers can simply pick and pay from among Canadian services at BDU prices not disciplined by either competition or regulation.

The real barometer of any new TV policy and its success or failure will be whether subscribers can choose services freely from outside the regulated broadcasting system – especially non-Canadian services delivered online, like Netflix, and do so without being subject to anti-consumer punishments like price-gouging through data caps. Netflix is a good marker to watch because it has conquered the OTT space and continues to grow in popularity; and because if the big broadcasting groups see any threat from a new policy framework, the first words out of their mouths will be, tax Netflix! If the CRTC continues to allow the VICs to brandish undue preference in our vertically-integrated media universe, then we’ll know the TV policy review has been a failure.

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ballon_fire-1Trial balloons and red herrings

So the Harper government wants to help consumers. As the Speech from the Throne indicated, that help would allegedly embrace TV subscribers, who might some day be allowed to select which television channels they want to pay for, rather than being forced to pay for bundles. As Greg O’Brien at Cartt.ca pointed out, the timing is a little weird: “Who’d a thunk the first submission to the CRTC’s television policy review would come straight from the federal government.” Continue reading

Obsessed with Netflix (3): tips for reinventing Canadian TV

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What do [Canadians] think of this country’s ‘television’ system? Do they feel that the
public interest is being served? I speak of ‘television’ for lack of a better word, because technology has outpaced language.” –JP Blais on pending CRTC review of TV policy

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Blais pic(1)In his speech at the Banff Festival on June 12, Chairman Blais indicated the CRTC plans to undertake a top-to-bottom review of how to manage “television” in the digital age. The Chairman brings a tremendous amount of credibility to this exercise, which he’s earned in his first year at the CRTC helm (a Globe editorial called his speech “very promising” and “visionary”). But even this well-placed friend of the consumer is going to have a difficult time rescuing Canadian broadcasting from its current state of arrested development.

Here are a few of the challenges. Continue reading

Obsessed with Netflix (2): cable’s war on Internet innovation

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“It is absurd to suggest that, in today’s highly competitive video marketplace, obtaining some level of exclusivity is anticompetitive.” –Time Warner’s response to recent charges of anticompetitive behavior

“They are not paying for exclusivity. They are saying you can sell to X, to Y and Z, but you are forbidden from selling to this new class, called A.” –Richard Greenfield, market analyst, BTIG Research

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In my previous post, from way back on June 8, I tried to explain some features of the Netflix value proposition, along with the battle that’s developed between Netflix and our conglomerates. That battle revolves around two topical points of contention: the Bell-Astral baloney about needing ever more concentration to fight off the American demons; and the outrageous use of data caps by the conglomerates to protect their legacy video businesses. I then said:

In Part 2, I’m going to add a few more comments about why the Netflix value proposition isn’t just about content, and challenge the idea that it’s going to need ”a lot of exclusive shows” (Pete Nowak’s take).

So here goes.

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Nope, content isn’t always king I hear people say they’re not interested in subscribing to Netflix because much of its library consists of old movies and TV shows. But Netflix isn’t a poor man’s version of cable. If it were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. “Old” content does not necessarily make an OTT streaming service any less original or innovative. Continue reading