Who’s up when: Let’s Talk TV

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By Julianna Cummins, Melita Kuburas and Val Maloney

This fall the CRTC is set to hear talks from every side of the industry, aiming to shake up the system with its Let’s Talk TV series. From simultaneous substitution to pick-and-pay and terms of trade to set-top box measurement, stay with MiC as we dive deep into the issues in the coming weeks ahead of the hearings. This week, we offer a preview of who is talking when in Gatineau this September, with a summary of what they will be saying.

Digital players up first

Monday, Sept. 8 will lead off with presentations from big digital players Google, Netflix and Amazon.

The video streaming companies will present their cases to telecommunications regulator CRTC, which has the power to impose subsidy quotas and mandatory taxes. Such a policy would be a major thorn in the side of foreign digital content carriers, who are currently not required to abide by the same protectionist policies as domestic media.

Interestingly, Amazon has also been invited by the CRTC to weigh in, even though the e-commerce company does not currently operate a video-streaming service in Canada.

Unlike its counterparts Netflix and Google, Amazon did not participate in the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV process, in which it invited the public and industry stakeholders to submit arguments for or against changes to the way Canadian television is regulated.

It would be surprising if Amazon, which develops original web programming for Prime Instant Video, was to take a position that differs from its counterparts. More than likely it will side with Netflix, which is rebuking calls from local producers and BDUs to be strong-armed into funding local content.

In buying up Canadian content for its library, Netflix argues that it provides new revenue streams by distributing Canadian content within the country and internationally. “For example…popular Canadian series such as Bomb Girls and Murdoch Mysteries (pictured) are currently offered on the U.S. service,” Corie Wright, director, global public policy for Netflix, writes in the company’s statement to the CRTC.

“Each month Canadians upload more content to YouTube than all of Canada’s major national television networks broadcast in 10 years. This is more content than any viewer could comfortably watch in a lifetime,” according to a Google statement submitted to the CRTC last month.

What to expect from the big Canadian players

Bell

Bell is the first of the major Canadian broadcasters to present, with its slot coming up Wednesday, Sept. 10. In its intervention submission the broadcaster stated it was against the CRTC mandating a skinny basic package, and favours pick-and-pay across all channels, putting that option on top of basic cable.

The company says the major US stations should be omitted from Canadian basic packages because they offer duplicated programming and harm local stations. The company also stated it favours maintaining simultaneous substitution, but is also working to increase the value of Canadian advertising on tent pole live events like the Super Bowl through an ad challenge to the advertising community in partnership with the Canadian Marketing Association.

Shaw Communications

Also up on Wednesday of the first week is Shaw, who came out and said it is against pick-and-pay overall, saying it would cause issues for the broadcaster and the consumer because of increased issues around billing. Shaw’s intervention says BDUs should offer at minimum a majority (at least 51%) of their services on a pick-and-pay basis, in contrast to the CRTC’s proposal that every discretionary service be made available on a pick-and-pay basis.

The company said it would take until late 2016 or early 2017 for Shaw Cable to sort out the new billing options if pick-and-pay went into effect across the board. It supports the option of giving consumers the choice to opt out of more expensive sports channels (of which Shaw owns none) in their specialty packages.

Rogers

Rogers presents on Thursday, Sept. 11, with its intervention suggesting a skinny basic package that includes the major US channels, suggesting that to exclude them would be unfriendly to consumers. “In our view, for those customers who want to subscribe to a small basic service, BDUs must be able to remain competitive in the face of these over-the-air (OTA) and online alternatives,” the company said in its intervention to the CRTC.

The company also suggests BDUs put more than 50% of their channels up for pick-and-pay options, as well as enable companies to also continue to offer pre-assembled packages.

It suggests allowing an IPTV distribution system with open standards that would allow companies to layer in social media applications, search capabilities and the ability to integrate access to online content on TV screens.

CBC

The CBC is the last of the major players to present, with its talk coming on Friday, Sept. 12. The pubcaster is asking it be included as part of any skinny basic TV packages, arguing that its exclusion would have a negative impact on its services. It is also asking that the CRTC develop a financial business model that will help conventional TV stations survive, with those choosing not to operate over the air transmission systems getting access to affiliation fees from BDUs on the same legal basis as other licensed services do today.

Stay with MiC, Playback and Stream Daily as we examine the interventions to be presented and the issues being discussed ahead of September’s hearings.

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