Yesterday I landed on the Web page that’s home to tech omnivore Pete Nowak, where I was stunned to read the headline, The downside of Netflix-exclusive series. Impossible, I thought. Must be a typo, mental or otherwise.
As luck would have it, I’ve been posting notes myself on how the boob tube is morphing – including notes for my interminable series of posts on must-carry TV. Moreover, I’m a devoted Netflix subscriber and big fan of Reed Hastings and his disruptive business activities (apart from occasional lapses like his privacy-busting partnership with Facebook). Continue reading →
In post #3, I did some analysis of part of the national survey conducted by Canadian Heritage last fall and put into presentation form as Canadians’ Attitudes and Opinions Towards Canadian Feature Films (it’s taken from the full version that in report form goes by the name Canadian Books, Film, Music, and Periodicals Opinion Survey).
Today I’m adding a further critique of this kind of advocacy research, in the guise of the survey commissioned by Starlight for the current must-carry proceeding (they included both pieces of research in their application). Both surveys exploit similar tricks of the trade, with one big difference between them: the Starlight survey addresses the highly sensitive matter of price. But first… Continue reading →
As I’ve noted earlier in this series, the Americans have their own version of Canada’s anti-consumer, mandatory-carriage policy. But with this difference: the US is also seeing the rise of a video revolution that’s opening up new vistas for a more curious, engaged and demanding audience. The old guard, who got rich and complacent on top-down, linear TV, are fighting the upstarts tooth and nail. The courts in both countries have been alive with the sounds of the old guard squawking about their right to keep making gobs of money – up to and including threats to take their over-the-air networks off the air and make them cable-only (says Fox COO Chase Carey, among others).
Must-carry isn’t Ottawa’s only anti-consumer, anti-Internet policy failure
Let’s consider one regulatory development in Canada first of all, in order to put the current must-carry proceeding into context. That context draws from the same old story: the CRTC has never felt bashful about making consumers pay to keep broadcasters thriving. In other words, the must-carry proceeding is not an aberration; it’s business as usual for Ottawa’s costing of “cultural” initiatives. Continue reading →
Artist’s rendering of pentup demand for 22 more mandatory TV channels
Update (Apr 11). In citing Michael Geist’s post below, I neglected to point out the suggestion he makes to replace must-carry in the service of viewer interests. A must-offer policy would require “broadcast distributors to offer all licensed channels to their subscribers in a pick-and-pay format.” That idea seems sensible, although it’s difficult to see how it could be implemented across the board without a) confronting capacity and delivery issues, especially for smaller BDUs; and b) having the Commission set demand thresholds for very marginal broadcast services. What happens if 50 people request a service on a system with 5,000 subscribers? Whatever the merits, the big distributors are not exactly enthusiastic about pick-and-pay, if only because of the money they would have to leave on the table. But these are all yesterday’s battles and they demonstrate clearly what’s wrong with Canada’s broadcasting system: it’s 20 years out of date, based on outmoded assumptions about infrastructure scarcity, the need to “protect” our sovereignty and the passive role of the TV audience. If only we had a technology that offered a more economic, personal and interactive way to communicate. Wait. We do. It’s called the Internet.
In my previous post, I concentrated on channel-bundling in the US and how the market has been reacting to the pros and cons. Today I want to talk about the CRTC’s must-carry proceeding, an event that has triggered a lot of debate (see Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-19).
Rather than convincing millions of Canadian consumers that their services are worth buying, the broadcasters need only convince a handful of CRTC commissioners that their service meets criteria such as making “an exceptional contribution to Canadian expression.” That is supposedly a high bar, yet it is surely far easier than convincing millions of people to pay for your service each month. Continue reading →
HighlightsThe CRTC is moving ahead with its must-carry decisions for 22 niche TV channels on the basis of whether they are of “exceptional” importance to Canadian culture (public hearing begins April 23). Canadian TV subscribers will be forced to pay for all of the services that succeed, without any regard for their viewing preferences. This approach suits the old media guard perfectly, because it guarantees a revenue stream even for channels few people are watching. While American consumers are being subjected to the same abuse, their TV world is being revolutionized from two directions.
First, OVD upstarts like Netflix are demolishing the idea that broadcasters should control viewing. Netflix is enhancing viewer choice by e.g. posting an entire season’s episodes all at once, in some cases of shows it has financed. Second, a backlash is under way in the US against the market power that limits choice and picks consumers’ pockets. Even US pay-TV distributors are fighting program providers that bundle their popular fare with channels nobody wants. Meanwhile, Canada is clinging to an outmoded cultural ideology that will bring about exactly the opposite of the intended effect, by chasing viewers out of the regulated broadcasting system and into the waiting arms of Netflix, YouTube and the Pirate Bay.
The absurdity of force-fed bundling: follow the money
Before I get to the CRTC’s must-carry proceeding, I want to touch on the debate raging in the US over whether TV subscribers have a right to “à la carte” service – the ability to choose only the channels they want from their service provider, as opposed to being obliged to take bundles of channels they don’t want but have to pay for anyway. Channel bundling is the subject of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in late February, entitled “New Attack on TV Bundles” (here, pay wall). Continue reading →
(Updated Friday with some corrections and minor edits.)
Score another one for the public interest.
On Wednesday, Federal Court Prothonotary Mireille Tabib said yes to CIPPIC’s request to intervene in the Voltage “piracy” case. This order is very positive news in several respects.
(The Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic describes its mission in part as working “to fill voids in public policy debates on technology law issues, ensure balance in policy and law-making processes, and provide legal assistance to under-represented organizations and individuals on matters involving the intersection of law and technology.”)
1 – Full intervenor status. The Federal Court has put no restraints on CIPPIC’s participation – meaning they will be allowed to cross-examine the plaintiff’s witnesses, a big tactical advantage. The one issue tabled for the hearing judge’s future consideration concerns possible cost awards to CIPPIC. The order sets out the following five conditions for CIPPIC’s participation:
CIPPIC shall be permitted to produce affidavit evidence and to cross-examine the Plaintiff’s affiant.
CIPPIC shall be permitted to make arguments on points of law.
The rights of CIPPIC to seek or its liability to be made subject of any order for costs on the motion shall be determined by the Judge seized of the motion.
CIPPIC shall be served with all materials filed and to be filed by other parties, non-party respondents and Interveners, if any.
The schedule for proceeding on the Plaintiff’s motion pursuant to Rule 238 of the Federal Courts Rules shall be as set out in sub-paragraph 3 of the Order of January 18, 2013. Continue reading →
Update (Nov 23).For a good time, give a listen to this 15-minute audio version of the TekSavvy conversation that Devin put together – quite different from my original edit of the transcribed text below.
Our broadband future may not be a wasteland after all
Last week I sat down to talk shop with three TekSavvy execs who are breathing new life into the indie ISP sector. At the table were Marc Gaudrault, co-founder and CEO; Tina Furlan, Director of Communications & Marketing; and Pierre Aubé, Chief Operating Officer. They were wrapping up a visit to the Toronto ISP Summit, where the keynote speaker was CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais.
We discussed the broadband market in Canada, including the continuing enthusiasm over J-P Blais. We also talked about TekSavvy’s cool rebranding campaign and how it reflects the company’s approach to growing its subscriber base, now at 180,000. If you haven’t seen the new creative, here’s what one of the ad banners looks like…
This one has proven so popular in the Toronto subway that riders are actually stealing them as souvenirs. Continue reading →
[Was supposed to continue from Oct 15 post on Ms Motzney...]
What you’ll find in this post instead:
The Bell/Astral decision is (virtually) unprecedented
“Public” benefits now refers to “we the public” – not just dudes who make TV shows
Cabinet won’t intervene
Consumer-loving Bell shocked and outraged
CRTC watchers eat crow. Don’t you hate it when the world changes faster than you can write about it? Thursday’s triumph over Bell is wonderful for consumers; for the thesis I was developing here, not so much. The comments I’ve read – Geist (This Is Not Your Parent’s CRTC); Cartt (CRTC says “Non!”); the Globe (Ottawa says it can’t intervene in CRTC’s BCE-Astral decision); etc – all indicate the Astral decision shows Chairman Blais really does intend to build a consumer-oriented CRTC. I trust he will understand why industry watchers, present company included, had been pretty much unanimous in predicting he’d never, ever turn down Bell on this acquisition. Continue reading →