Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week, what Canadian channels will be casualties of à la carte?
Earlier this year, the CRTC announced that Canadians will—by the end of 2016—have access to a $25 skinny basic cable package they can augment with a pick-and-pay structure to add more television channels to that package. That model, of course, means channels that were previously protected in packages and could count on sustained revenues will be forced to go it alone and rely on paid subscribers to keep them alive. Simply put, not all of them will make it.
With almost a year and half to go until the pick-and-pay changes take effect, there are already shifts in the industry as networks prepare. Earlier this month, Corus announced it was shuttering Teletoon Retro effective Aug. 31. Fans of Care Bears, Babar, The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin will have to go elsewhere for their throwback TV fix; Corus says some of those shows will migrate to Teletoon, though a list hasn’t been provided yet.
And while Corus hasn’t officially announced what is taking Teletoon Retro’s spot, the fact Disney Channel Canada launches the next day indicates the homegrown offshoot of the juggernaut will occupy that space. Corus acquired the rights to Disney Channel a month after pick-and-pay was announced and I’m pretty sure it’s not a coincidence. After all, Disney Channel will bring in way more eyeballs with Bunk’d and The Radio Disney Awards than Teletoon Retro ever did.
Other channels that may find themselves on the chopping block include Showcase, Bravo, Action, DejaView, DTour, NatGeoWild, Bio, OLN, G4, Comedy Gold, MuchLoud, MuchMoreRetro, MuchVibe and FashionTelevisionChannel. My selections are all conjecture and I have no proof any of these will be going away, but it’s a pretty safe bet that in this new television world, only the strongest will survive.
My guess is that the more obscure of the specialty nets are the most vulnerable, the ones people don’t even know they have so why would they pay for them in an a la carte world?
The trick is who will keep their place on the dial as mandated must-carry channels by the cable companies, and who will fight to the death by having programming a large enough percentage of Canadians want to watch? Canada is a small country. Can we sustain 35 million channels to go with our 35 million people?
My biggest hope with a la carte is that broadcasters will find that sharp original programming and a brand — as in, people see the name of that station and know what to expect from that station — will become an actual thing here in Canada, where something like Showcase became relegated to “that former near-soft-core network that now carries shows that could be on Global if Global wanted original programming.”
Book Television is my go-to example of a channel that has been coasting on its Category A must-carry designation with no must-watch original programming, and as such I wouldn’t mourn its loss.
The only way I can see all channels in what are currently “multiplex” channels — such as Movie Network/Movie Central along with HBO Canada and its baby M networks, or the Super Channels – surviving is if they continue to be offered as a bundle. Otherwise I’m betting all but the main Movie channels and HBO Canada will disappear.
There are some channels, like APTN or OUTtv that serve underserved populations and I’d fight for their survival — reluctantly in OUTtv’s case, since their reluctance to have original programming means letting Logo signals across the border might be a better solution — though that’s unlikely to be necessary. APTN at least has a spot on basic cable and Logo isn’t likely to be a viable alternative up here.
I’d hate to see Showcase, Bravo or OLN go under but because they are primary specialty channels of the major broadcasters, with some signature originals of their own, I am not betting on that happening anyway.
However it seems to me many of our specialty channels aren’t so special and aren’t filling an important cultural niche, so some downsizing would not be a terrible thing.