Reactions roll out to Let’s Talk phase two

Media execs note that decreased channels may lead to a jump in costs, depending on the channels that get picked most.
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By: Staff

After largely keeping silent following the first phase of Let’s Talk TV announcements March 12, a few Canadian media pundits offered reaction to the CRTC’s decision Thursday regarding the unbundling of cable channels.

Execs note that while much still depends on the pricing models established by the BDUs, the changes are likely to make it harder to reach niche audiences if smaller channels shut down.

Bob Reaume, VP, policy and research, Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), says he doesn’t think the drop in channels will be drastic, but says overall the changes will result in less choice, not more.

“I find the pick and pay options ironic because last week the CRTC was talking about moving towards an era of abundance and I think we will be moving back towards days of channel scarcity,” he says. “I do think we will lose some very good channels that would appeal to niche, and in particular, light TV viewers. This will lead to an emphasis on the popular TV channels, those are the ones that will get picked and played,” he says. “Advertisers will use those of course, but you can only go so far with that.”

That drop in channels will likely mean higher prices to buy ads, noted Lina Alles, chief trading officer at Mindshare Canada.

And Bruce Neve, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Canada and chair of the CMDC, says he is surprised the CRTC didn’t go further with its decision, noting that the requirement of a skinny basic package “doesn’t go all the way in giving consumers choice.”

“I thought the ultimate objective was to start with no mandated basic package,” he says. “This model won’t stop the evolution towards cord cutting.”

On the broadcaster side, Rogers, which stridently argued for the inclusion of U.S. “4 + 1″ channels in a skinny basic offering in last fall’s Let’s Talk TV hearings, was muted in its official reaction to the CRTC’s ruling in favour of a la carte cable channels and skinny basic (which may include 4 +1), only stating that it was already on the path.

“We know consumers want more flexibility and we started down this path several years ago – we already offer dozens of services a la carte and in theme packs. This decision gives us more certainty so we can offer even more choice,” the company said in a statement provided to Media in Canada.

Shaw was more robust in its initial company statement, issued after the CRTC’s late afternoon announcement, focusing on the positives for consumers.

“We are pleased that the Commission has built on the foundation of previous Talk TV decisions to support a bold yet balanced and orderly policy framework that will give Canadians increased choice, while providing producers, broadcasters and distributors more freedom and flexibility to innovate and create the next generation of content experiences for Canadians,” Brad Shaw, CEO, Shaw Communications, said in a statement issued to Playback.

“While this new regulatory environment will not be without challenges, the Commission has provided real opportunities for Shaw to continue delivering the best content experiences possible for our customers and viewers within a healthy, dynamic and competitive environment.”

Bell Media declined comment on the day’s announcement.

On Friday, the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA) weighed in, praising the unbundling move and new wholesale code of conduct as positive for its membership, comprised of 115 indie cable, telcom and internet companies.

“In order for our member companies to provide more choice and flexibility to our consumers, we require more choice and flexibility in our wholesale arrangements with the large programming suppliers,” the organization said in a statement. “Today’s announcements provide small and medium sized distributors with the much-needed flexibility and clear guidelines that should allow us to compete fairly with the vertically integrated companies and ultimately provide better service to Canadian customers in all parts of the country.”

with files from Katie Bailey, Val Maloney and Julianna Cummins

Updated on March 20 at 11:26 a.m.

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