Let’s talk skinny basic

Back in the dark ages of television and internet, about 15 years ago, I tried to sign up with Shaw’s most basic cable package, which included the major Canadian networks, major US networks, and not much else. Though I’d had the package before at a previous address, the man on the phone kept telling me about their smallest package which was bigger and more expensive than what I’d had before. I finally asked him to mail me a brochure since that’s where I’d originally seen evidence of it — yes, the ages were that dark — and sure enough, there was the most basic of basic plans on offer.

So the news that Bell is discouraging employees from selling the new  $25 skinny basic package mandated by the CRTC as of March 1 is no surprise, and nothing new in the cable industry. The difference today from those dark ages is the internet is now our instant-access brochure.

Since moving to just outside of Vancouver, my over-the-air antenna doesn’t work as well, and I reserved judgement on whether skinny basic would entice me back to the cable world until I could see the offerings. Because Shaw is my internet provider — and I’ve sporadically signed up for Shomi through them as well — I checked out their skinny package.

For $25 a month Shaw’s Limited TV offers more than what is mandated by the CRTC; it includes the optional US major networks for example. What it doesn’t include — and what every other Shaw TV package does — is the required HD equipment. That’s another $5 a month or $138 to buy outright. For most of us that’s $30 per month for skinny basic, then.


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Shaw’s larger packages currently have introductory offers for the first six months starting from $29.90 a month, which is smart marketing. My choice is to sign up for a skinny package that includes fewer channels for more money, knowing that in six months it will be slightly cheaper, or sign up for the package that’s 10 cents cheaper and has more channels, knowing that it will be about $13 more expensive in six months.

The 10 cent difference during the introductory period is immaterial to the pocketbook yet psychologically profound — I can’t make myself sign up for less for more, even knowing that wouldn’t be true in six months. I’d fail the marshmallow test.  And I think the CRTC failed this test. How many current cable consumers will downgrade for a package that won’t save them much money but will significantly reduce their number of channels?

Skinny basic isn’t going to lure me back to cable. But then the cable companies don’t want it to. I’ll continue to binge watch on Netflix and occasionally Shomi and watch my essential shows with the over the air antenna or online the next day. And the cable companies will continue to follow the letter of the new CRTC rules without actually offering a new benefit to consumers.


24 thoughts on “Let’s talk skinny basic”

  1. Diane Wild your editorial is poorly researched. all providers are including set top boxs but not necessarily an HD receiver. As for the lineup what the hell did you expect to have for 25.00? HBO Discovery? That would be delusional. If you buy a dodge neon are you expecting a corvette? Hell no so why expect the same from a provider. Heres a challenge to write about. How can you do for 6.00 that most providers give you for phone internet and full featured HD channel line up. As for CORD Cutters this group is the most mentally deficienct. WHERE IS ALL THE CONTENT YOU WATCH COME FROM?

    1. Did you read what I wrote before writing a rude comment? I said the skinny basic included more channels than I thought it would. And because you compare apples to apples when pricing things out, and Shaw requires the HD receiver, what I said is you pay $5 for what comes included in the other packages. My explicit point – if you were reading – is that I’m not going to pay more for skinny basic than the introductory price of a larger package and that’s smart marketing on Shaw’s part. My beef is with the PR exercise that was the CRTC’s Talk TV – they forced the cable providers into this package that serves no one, least of all the consumer. Oh and I pay for Netflix, I pay for Shomi, I watch commercials in the online apps and over the air, I pay taxes that go to the CBC. That’s how I contribute to where content comes from. So maybe tone down the insults while you spout ignorance.

      1. Good for you Diane! He was definitely out of line. We have a full meal deal with Shaw and pay almost $300.00 per month. We can afford it but I’m not sure that they need more of my money so back to basic for me. We really don’t watch most of the channels anyway. I can’t wait to have the conversation with their phone team about or change. I’m sure that they will offer us a fabulous package and save us serious $$ to keep what we have. I also have a direct account for our motor home for $200 per month but can at I least turn it off 6 months a year.

        1. Thanks Tom, and interesting to hear someone who will downgrade for the new package – I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

          The channels in skinny appeal to me but since cutting cable I’ve changed my viewing habits significantly and I can’t see myself going back for the few shows I like to watch live, not without further enticement anyway.

    2. Diane Wild your editorial is poorly researched. (missed a capital>) all providers are including set top boxs () 25.00? HBO Discovery? That would be delusional. If you buy a dodge neon are you expecting a corvette? Hell no (<missed a comma) so why expect the same from a provider.(<that's a question mark) Heres (<missed an apostrophe) a challenge to write about. ()6.00 that most providers give you for phone internet and full featured HD channel line up (<this sentence is written like a elementary school student). As for CORD Cutters this group is the most mentally deficienct (<Incorrect spelling again). WHERE IS ALL THE CONTENT YOU WATCH COME FROM?


      Please TeeCee go back and get your grade 8-12 if you want to intelligently debate someones material on the internet. Maybe the comments section isn't your forte. I suggest getting back to your minimum wage job at Tim Horton's and leave the important issues to us CORD Cutters. Or at the very least do a spell check before you click to post. Just because this is anonymous and you feel protected behind your computer screen doesn't mean that you're still not an asshole who can't read and write well.

  2. Bell’s skinny offering is garbage and designed to be unacceptable by tv viewers. Bell seems to be actively mocking the CRTC’s requirements and insulting its own customers. In Toronto it doesn’t include CITY-TV nor Global TV.

    1. It does include Global. I don’t think it’s mocking the requirements to fulfill them. I think the CRTC mandated something that isn’t actually a good deal.

  3. Bell’s skinny package is anorexic. I am so glad that I canceled my Cell, Internet and Home Phone with them this year.

    1. Ha yes – Bell seems to have the worst package. Will be interesting to see if they lose customers to another provider that has more at that price.

  4. Ì cut the cord last week and now pay R
    80$ for unlimited Internet. My neighbors would like to give me 20$/mo. for my password x6= 120 $.
    ÃŒs this ok?

  5. These offers from the cable companies are not surprising, they are tailored to fit the flawed CRTC new rule which explicitly excludes equipment…

    If you get only a few OTA channels, it could be that your antenna is not up to the job. Before even looking at those cable packages, see if you can upgrade your setup. A new / better antenna, with installation (if required) may cost you a few hundreds, but it will quickly pay for itself.

    We cut the cord 2 years ago and switched to high-speed unlimited internet with VoIP landline phone and to a rooftop antenna connected to a Roku and a Tablo DVR. With 23 American and Canadian over the air TV channels, we never looked back. Our own setup was not cheap ($800) but was paid back in 8 months…

    Not having any kind of cable package is by far the best way to respond to any cable company offer!

      1. I guess having all those nice mountains around Vancouver comes with its drawbacks!

        There are ways around this. One of thew is with Tablo’s Connect feature (kind of a slingbox). My daughter doesn’t have cable or an antenna; when she wants to watch TV, she simply connects via internet to my Tablo. She can even watch my recordings or program her own.

        1. Ha yeah – it’s also my orientation and where my condo is in the building that means I get fewer channels than I did when I was right in the city and facing the other way. I’m ok with my current set up, just thought skinny basic might tempt me back especially for the US channels but especially without a receiver it’s not quite appealing enough.

          1. If you haven’t already, check out USTVNOW(ABC,NBC,FOX,CW,etc) for you U.S. broadcast needs. It’ll work on your Roku for a trial period and always on your computer. There is also an app called LiveTV which will give you a bunch of Canadian broadcasters(CBC,Global,CTV) for free on Roku. Filmon, which also has a Roku app, has over 40 UK live streaming channels…..I’m a fan of Roku, can you tell.LOL

  6. Hi Diane,

    Great article! I really liked it. I’m 33 and I’ve always been a Cord cutter (or Cord never had it). I watch Netflix but that’s basically it. I’ve actually been watching YouTube more and more and I was curious what your thoughts are on that trend? 18 – 25 watches more YouTube than TV or Netflix combined. And 26 – 35 isn’t far behind I think. YouTube made $8B in ad revenue last year and with YouTube Red being the biggest app in the app store at the end of the year, it’s likely to continue.

    Thanks for the great article. I’ll be back on the site soon and have followed on twitter. Definitely want to see more of your thoughts.



  7. In December, don’t they have to completely unbundle? So what- $40 a month for FX, $5 a month for OLN? $80 for HBO, $2 for ComedyGold?

    In theory this was a good idea but so was eliminating 3-Year cell phone contracts. Did the consumers actually save money? No.

    Did Bell, Rogers and Telus recently raise their cell phone prices-again? Yes, but not everywhere. Where didn’t they? Manitoba, Quebec and Saskatchewan. What’s different about them? MTS Mobility, Videotron and SaskTel. I wonder why a lot of people want telecom competition?

    But..we have Wind Mobile…that Shaw wants to buy. Shaw who owns Global, Corus and has already teamed up with Rogers for their “Netflix fighter” Shomi.

    Anyone else see a lot of brands all linked to a few of the same names? Doesn’t that look like a problem?


    1. Yes, March 1 was the deadline to either offer small channel packages or individual channels, and by December they have to do both. That might benefit some people if they want a few extra channels, but it will take some careful pricing out to see if they actually come out ahead from a larger base package.

      And I completely agree with the cell phone/competition comparison. Bell, who aren’t adding US channels to its skinny basic package as compared to their competitors, obviously feels like it doesn’t want or need to compete for consumers who are looking at that price point. And it’s not great for consumers when where I live, for example, I have maybe 2 viable choices for cable providers.

      And if you look at it from the other way – the content producers instead of consumers – there are maybe 3-4 places to sell your content. Bell calls Letterkenny a Crave original, for example, but they gave it a greenlight before Crave existed. It was a Comedy original back then, and it will still air on Comedy after it runs on Crave. The giant conglomerates are an issue for consumers and content creators, but the CRTC and the Competition Bureau aren’t halting the consolidation, they’re going for these very specific fixes that don’t seem to fix anything.

      1. They say one thing but in actual rulings seem to keep the status quo: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/crtc-wireless-decision-1.3454095

        As for being a content creator, I totally don’t blame them for moving to the US if they grew up dealing with the telecoms and don’t want to (indirectly) work for them. Comedy Network is probably safe no matter what happens as long as television can stay relevant in the streaming age. And yet, they make exactly *one* ad for each new show and run it 50 times a day. That makes viewers annoyed with a show they’d otherwise have checked out.

        A little over two months from now Orphan Black S4 returns. A show that is filmed here, with a Canadian star and mostly Canadian cast and crew. It’s got a lot of attention and won our Screen Awards and their lead even got an Emmy-nomination. Now, it’s US co-owner tries to keep the spark alive even in the hiatus. Fan polls to choose a prop on set, and even a line of a dialogue. ComicCon videos. Small little gag videos of old footage over the break. Promos and interviews every week during the episode-run, new ones usually up instantly after an episode finishes airing. A massive fan art contest where the top ten finalist all get their art made into posters signed by the cast. The winner’s art becomes a real and Entertainment Weekly, and Times Square, and they get a premiere screening for 50 of their friends. Can Canadians enter this contest because most of us live right near the border and the show is *at least* half ours? Nope.

        Now, Canada doesn’t have a Time Square or something with the pull of EW, but what has Space done so far to promote the show? One poster a few weeks ago and 3 little teaser trailers, all from the same video just cut up into 10 seconds long. The original video being just a minute long. During the actual episode-run, One promo (albeit with slightly different footage then the US one) a few days later on their YouTube channel. This is the most critically acclaimed show they’ve made possibly in their entire existence as a channel.

        And the ironic/sad part is it still gets more promotion then anything else because of the 10-20 minute After the Black interviews that US fans can also watch online after the episodes. If I’m a showrunner I need marketing power behind me. Canada is smaller then the US but the telecoms clearly make profit they could fund resources with. Where is the effort to keep actors/creators here?

        1. Stupid typos, *an Advertisement in Entertainment Weekly that also becomes a giant one in Time Square*

  8. We recently had to take early retirement on meager CPP and move from Toronto to St Catharines. In Toronto our son was paying about $ 280/m for Rogers and Ultra-Hispeed internet for the gaming he loves. Over 500 channels we never watched, barely anything on those we did. We were panic-ing about TV and internet in St Cat. I guess my wife must have said so at the time and her then boss said – try Kodi/Genesis(now Exodus).

    We later found out dedicated Kodi player boxes are available in most computer chain stores for under $ 200, but, be aware, they are not computers.

    Long story shorter, after considering various options like antenna vs dedicated player boxes and such, Netflix, Shomi et etera, we decided getting a suitable low cost new computer for the versatility would be best option, we bought a tiny ASUS EeeBook notebook with W8.1 & free upgrade to W10, a 500GB hard drive, two USB ports, HDMI output to TV, and WIFI, also a microSD card port if ever needed, for $ 271 from Canada Computers, and 15mbps Teksavvy Internet 150G/m for $ 45.19/m plus the modem we decided to also buy – if we’d had one already we could have used it.

    Now we stream all the shows and movies we want, from here and all over the world, yes even HD quality, both brand new as well as stuff going back about 40 years, to watch till the cows come home and never come close to our transfer limit, averaging just over a 1/3rd of it.

    Plus there’s games and programs and music and radio and god knows what else available via Kodi we’ve never found time to even check out.

    And because we chose to do it with a notebook it does all the ‘computer’ things we want too.

    Technically, streaming is currently legal, because one is supposedly not even temporarily storing a copy on a DVR/PVR. (knock on wood that dosen’t change)

    Reprehensible ? Yes, and we feel terrible guilt.

    But, the cable/satellite TV/movie companies are way beyond reprehensible for what they do. Even this new ‘basic’ package thing they’ve been forced to provide is being done in ways that are equally reprehensible.

    Because of our meager existence budget now we’ve been forced by those cable companies to resort to Kodi streaming to get what we need to keep from going completely insane in our retirement years.

  9. Dish Net in the US has had a streaming package for over a year now with many cable channels available (Sling TV). DirecTV will have a streaming service later on, according to Variety http://www.variety.com/2016/digital/news/att-directv-internet-tv-packages-ott-1201719571/

    Why hasn’t Shaw or Bell done anything similar? I expect a lot of defections to this new service. Is it time to say goodbye to Canadian sat/cable? You’ll need to use a VPN, of course.

  10. It’s KODI time…I think!

    We live in Calgary with good jobs. But the economy has me thinking about the future and I don’t want to be indebted to anyone. Thus, trimming the fat is not only wise it is smart no matter what your income level.

    To save money, I have revisited my home and auto insurance policies. Without moving to a different company, we have saved $1000 a year with better coverage!

    We have moved to a lower tier Shaw cable plan but still pay to way too much for what we get. This bring me to KODI. We have been thinking about it for a couple of years and I am about to call Shaw and go to the “Skinny” plan at $25. Then, buy a KODI box by a company called Android Bros for around $240 and get IPTV for $35 a month. They claim their IPTV service provided 1300 tv channels.

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