Considering how volatile America’s current ratings environment is, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that other countries are struggling with cord cutting as much as one of the world’s biggest media producers.
Canada, which has a strong relationship with American television networks, is one such country. But unlike its fellow North American nation, Canada is taking the consumer behavior directly to task. In an effort to stop the cable dump, something that many are attributing to the rise of streamers like Netflix, Canadian media giants are offering “skinny” pay packages, or entry-level TV channel packages, as a means of discouraging people from dropping their cable subscriptions.
These types of bundles on the surface might not seem like anything new to Americans, but the way Canada’s big cable providers like Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications are offering them signals the country’s major first step to combating the drastic shift towards cable shaving.
Beginning today, Bell Canada is offering a $25 per month cable package, which features no cross-border U.S. network station signals or American cable services, but does incorporate 10 French-language services among the 26-channels included in the bundle. The approach is a historical change, as American networks behind the United State’s most popular primetime series will be left off the company’s most basic cable package—something Canadian cable viewers haven’t seen since bundling began in the country during the 1970s.
It should be noted that while Bell Canada is excluding U.S. networks, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications have their own skinny cable packages that start at $25 per month and include major U.S. networks like PBS.
Dwayne Winseck, a professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication, told The Hollywood Reporter that the decision to lock out U.S. based channels would give the effort a “stillbirth.” Although it may be true to some degree when you consider how much viewership American network programming brings in both nationally and internationally, it’s an interesting move when you consider how the second aspect of the new “skinny” packages work.
In addition to cutting down on the number and types of basic cable channels Canadians are offered, they can now purchase networks individually, as part of a pick-and-pay option. Channels will range in cost from anywhere between $3 to $20, with more popular stations like HBO or cable sports sitting at the higher end. That means Canadian cable subscribers can have both the basic option and build onto it with networks like Syfy, FX or AMC at their choosing.
It’s a major twist in the competition over giving viewers the most control, which seems to be the best approach to keeping consumer loyalty. A twist that was motivated by the CRTC, the country’s TV regulator, in an effort to publicly discourage cord-cutting and cord shaving.
Though consumers may appreciate having the ability to choose only the channels they like, it could get pricey depending on how many channels they want. Add to this that with providers like Bell there are additional hardware and Internet access charges, and you can see that things will quickly add up.
Still, it could be a better option for those that don’t want to deal with cable bundles and instead are looking for specific cable content. And for viewers that want the broader content and are willing to shell out for it, the Canadian cable companies are offering the ability to keep your current package.