By Diane Wild of TV, eh?
I’ve lived without cable before. I’ve lived without a television set before. But my decision last month to say goodbye to Shaw came with the expectation that cutting cable wouldn’t significantly reduce my access to content. So far that’s true, for both US and Canadian shows, despite being geoblocked from Hulu and US network sites. Through a combination of Canadian network web streams and iPad apps I’m (legally) watching as much as I ever do. iTunes and Netflix offer additional options, though I haven’t resorted to them for my TV consumption.
The method of delivery has changed, but my habits have changed very little. I’ve fallen in love with the portability of watching TV on an iPad, but for the most part I still watch whatever I want to watch and still on my TV set, either through the Xbox that came with my switch to Telus internet, or with my iPad connected to the TV.
Watching off-network does come with sacrifice. The serendipity of flipping channels is gone, though I haven’t been prone to channel surfing since adjusting to the PVR a few years ago. If I watched a huge amount of television I’d have to worry about bandwidth caps.
Selection is reduced, though so far I haven’t run into a series I watched via basic cable that I can’t watch online now. Pay cable series from HBO Canada and The Movie Network/Movie Central are another matter – as far as I can tell, there’s no legal way to catch current episodes of their series. What happens when Call Me Fitz starts up again? Do I invite myself for dinner every week to the home of a friend who subscribes? I can’t see going from zero to a package that includes those premium channels just for one show.
The biggest downside I can see affecting me is the time delay. Even as a PVR convert, recording everything and watching on my time table, I frequently enough watched shows the same day they aired that I wonder: with Twitter discussing shows as they’re broadcast, friends posting opinions to Facebook, maybe even real-world chatter with friends and colleagues, will I want to wait for the latest episode of my favourite series to show up online, even if it’s just the next day?
My TV, eh? webmaster license should be taken away for saying this, but the real test will be when the fall season of US programming begins. Summer is the time for many Canadian shows, but I have yet to be spoiled or even engaged in a “did you SEE that episode last night?!” conversation over any of them. So stay tuned for how my willpower holds up over time.
In the meantime, here’s an overview of the cable-cutting experiment so far, focusing on Canadian shows on the major Canadian networks.
CTV (Bell Media)
Surprisingly, of all the networks, CTV’s alternate content delivery is my least favourite. Their online video is clunky and they’re the only major Canadian network not to have an iPad app. Still, from the website you can catch current and past Canadian shows from the mother network as well as specialty channels such as Space and MuchMusic. Annoyingly split into several clips are full episodes of Dan For Mayor, Hiccups, The Listener, Degrassi, Canada’s Worst Handyman, Flashpoint, Sanctuary, Robson Arms, and more Canadian offerings. Many of their US imports are also available. If you’d rather pay a couple of bucks an episode for a less frustrating experience, a similar selection of shows is on iTunes.
When I first downloaded the CBC iPad app it was glitchy, geoblocking me in Vancouver. That’s been fixed and they have a great selection of their current and current-ish series on the app and online – 18 to Life, Dragons’ Den, Heartland, InSecurity, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Republic of Doyle, The Rick Mercer Report, and Village on a Diet among them. The public broadcaster also puts some of their series on Netflix and, sometimes for free, on iTunes.
Global (Shaw Media)
There’s a scarcity of Canadian programming on Global – currently Rookie Blue and the last few episodes of Shattered are the only ones available online and in their iPad app, and Shaw Media’s specialty channels aren’t represented in the app. Showcase is where their Canadian content is at, so fortunately their site does have full episodes of King, Endgame, Lost Girl, Haven, and XIII.
Citytv barely airs homegrown shows, so it’s surprising it doesn’t seem to have the online rights to Murdoch Mysteries, its only scripted drama. Maybe that will change when new episodes start airing in June. Available online and in the iPad app are Glenn Martin DDS, My Rona Home, and Cityline, for example.The mini-network has the best app as long as you overlook the lack of Canadian content and the intrusive, repetitive, and badly edited-in commercials. Which, come to think of it, is a lot to overlook. But the US selection is great – I’d forgotten how many of my favourite US comedies air on Citytv – and it has features the others don’t, like letting you flag your favourite shows and get a notification when a new episode is available.
Any other sources you like for Canadian series? Have you cut or are you considering cutting cable?