CRTC: cable, satellites growing; ad rules under review

The federal regulator says it will rethink some of its rules in early 2008, including whether to do away with ad time limits and genre protection.

Numbers were up in 2006 for cable, DTH satellite and multi-point distribution systems, according to new figures released by the CRTC yesterday. Revenue for cable television hit $6 billion last year, up 12% from 2005, while DTH and MDS operators reached $1.7 billion, up 17.7%.

The BDU numbers are a stark contrast to those of private, conventional broadcasters, which saw unchanged revenues and falling profits in ’06, according to a Statistics Canada report released last week.

Cable, DTH and MDS companies contributed over $270 million to the creation and production of Canadian programming last year, according to the 44-page CRTC report, up from $247.3 million in 2005. Of that amount, half went to the Canadian Television Fund, while $33.4 million was awarded to independent funds and $100 million to local expression.

The CRTC is preparing to review its rules for cable and satellite broadcasters – taking a second look at topics including genre exclusivity, non-Canadian satellite services and ad time limits on specialty, pay and VOD outlets.

The federal watchdog – which held a similar review of over-the-air broadcasting earlier this year – has slated its review of broadcast distribution undertakings for January and floated a lengthy list of issues to be discussed. Among them: that it may be time to do away with the genre exclusivity currently in place for pay and specialty channels; whether more non-Canadian satellite services should be allowed; and whether current limits on ad time on specialties should be relaxed or eliminated.

Ad time limits were lifted following the OTA review, and are set to disappear on the low end of the dial by 2009. The CRTC says the rules are due for a rethink, noting that licensees face more competition on more fronts because of the rise of digital technology. The current BDU rules were laid down in 1997. The BDU review is set for January 28, 2008 in Gatineau, PQ. The deadline for written comments is October 9.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.