There’s a lot of press on the CRTC’s pick and pay decision and a lot of different opinions on what it means for consumers and for the broadcast industry. I’m reluctant to throw in my 2 cents but here goes.
Only time will tell.
During the Talk TV public hearing there were a lot of studies submitted on the potential impact of unbundling. Many of them had differing opinions on consumer behaviour because of the variables at play. To what extent would the CRTC require unbundling and if it did, how would the cable and satellite companies price their individual services or packages? How would consumers react to their options? No one could (or should have) concretely said ‘if channels are unbundled, the consumer will do x and the result will be y’.
And we still don’t know.
Here’s what we do know. The cable and satellite companies have until March 2016 to implement a skinny basic at $25 that includes local channels, mandatory carriage channels (e.g. CPAC and APTN), educational channels and provincial legislature channels. It ‘could’ include the big U.S. networks but must be sold at no more than $25 per month. On top of that they must offer either the opportunity to pick and pay for individual channels or small packages that they either build or are themed. By December 2016 cable and satellite companies must offer both individual and small package choices on top of skinny basic.
Here’s what we don’t know:
- How much will individual services have to cost when sold on their own
- How much will they cost in build your own or themed packages
- Will US networks be included in skinny basic or will you have to pay extra for them
- How will the US specialty services react to pick and pay. At the public hearing some threatened to cancel contracts due to breach if pick and pay was implemented. The CRTC is hoping that they will be ‘good corporate citizens’ and play along.
- How many people will opt for skinny basic and a few other channels and will they be cord shavers or cord cutters re-entering the system?
- How many people will only pick U.S. services on top of skinny basic once they are given that opportunity
- How many smaller Canadian specialty services will have to shut down because their paying audience is too small
We won’t know what this means for the industry until the cable and satellite companies start to market the new offerings (possibly later this year) and consumers react to it and the dominoes start to fall. Or not.
One thing I do have to note is that it appears that the CRTC has given the Conservatives an election gift. It has provided them with the opportunity to say ‘look, we gave you cheaper cable bills’ before unbundling is implemented and the consumer has a chance to say, as may be the case, ‘no you didn’t’. That could be completely unintentional but it cannot have been unexpected.
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