‘Skinny’ $25 cable deal no bargain for sports fans

 

Packages being rolled out Tuesday won’t mean big savings for most TV viewers

 
 
 
 
Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages Tuesday — but most consumers, particularly those who like live sports, aren’t likely to make the switch .
 
 

Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages Tuesday — but most consumers, particularly those who like live sports, aren’t likely to make the switch .

Photograph by: Stuart Gradon

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Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages today but many consumers — particularly those who like to watch live sports — are unlikely to notice big savings.

In November, the federal broadcast regulator set March 1 as the deadline for Canada’s cable TV providers to start offering customers both a basic $25 cable package and either a pick-and-pay system or small bundles of up to 10 channels.

Shaw, the dominant cable provider in Western Canada with 3.2 million subscribers, is offering a new $25 Limited package that may be a good deal for viewers who only watch traditional network television.

The Limited package offers 44 channels — including CBC, CTV and Global and the big four U.S. networks (Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC) — for $25. However, Shaw does tack on a $5 equipment rental fee, something that’s excluded from all its other packages, which will bring the actual price up to $30.

Telus

The Shaw Limited plan

The Limited package probably won’t appeal to sports fans since it doesn’t include either TSN, the exclusive carrier of the Canadian Football League, or Sportsnet, the Canadian rights holder of the National Hockey League and regional broadcaster for the Vancouver Canucks. You’ll need to shell out another $14 to receive both those channels, which means you’ll be paying a dollar more than Shaw’s existing $43 Personal TV package, which includes the sports networks. Prices for Shaw’s pick-and-pay channels, which include A&E, CNBC and Fox News among others, range between $3 and $5 per month. More popular channels, like AMC, Bravo and CNN, are only available if you purchase them in $6-$8 channel bundles. Premium movie channels, meanwhile, are priced at $18 per month.

Shaw Cable and Quebec’s Videotron were the only big Canadian cable providers to openly advertise their $25 plan before March 1. B.C.-based Telus, which has more than 1 million cable subscribers in Western Canada, and fellow telecom giants, Bell and Rogers,  all waited until Tuesday to officially unveil the channels included in their trimmed-down basic packages.

David Christopher, spokesman for Openmedia, a digital rights group that advocates on behalf of telecom consumers, isn’t surprised the big cable companies are not going out of their way to advertise the $25 deals.

“None of these big telecom companies ever wanted to move toward this new, more flexible system. They all went into this kicking and screaming,” Christopher said. “Increasingly the CRTC is making decisions geared toward consumers. Their record isn’t perfect but we are seeing a lot more of it. For years consumers have been wondering, ‘Why am I spending $60 a month for 140 channels when I only watch a half dozen of them’

“The CRTC does seem to have listened.”

TELUS OFFERS NO U.S. CHANNELS IN 'SKINNY' PLAN

The new Telus $25 Lite plan (it's $20 if bundled with another service) features 35 channels — all Canadian.  ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC, which have been staples of Canadian cable television for decades, are not included in the package but can be purchased in an extra $7 bundle.

It's a further $14 to add a sports bundle and $18 for a premium movie bundle.

Additional costs for TV hardware rental ($15 for PVR or $5 for HD receiver) and a $100 installation charge, fees that are waived for Telus's $38 Essentials package, may also apply to Lite customers.

“What we already offer is a lot like the CRTC’s skinny plan,” said Telus spokesman Shawn Hall, who pointed out that Telus already has 25 theme packages and 144 à la carte channels available to customers. “Our overall approach has been this way from the start,”

Telus

The Telus Lite plan

Delta cable has also excluded the four major U.S. networks from its $25 Entry Level package, although its offering them in a free preview until May. The U.S. networks are also not included in Bell Satellite's $25 Starter package.

Novus, which is available downtown Vancouver and in parts of Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond and Coquitlam, has the most robust "skinny" package.  For $22, Novus offers 55 channels (U.S. networks included) and four pay-per-view channels in its TV Intro package. The $9.95 HD box rental fee is not included. 

Novus

The Novus TV Intro Package


'MOST CANADIANS WILL STICK WITH CURRENT PACKAGES'

Market research conducted in late 2015 by media analysis consulting firm Nordicity found that only a small percentage of Canadian TV viewers would switch to a smaller package over the next few years, once given that choice, broadcast lawyer and consultant Peter Miller said in a recent interview.

“Most Canadians will stick with their current packages because most Canadians do look at multiples of channels,” Miller said.

“We estimate that by 2020, 15 per cent of Canadians would pick one of those smaller sets of (TV) packages with the small basic.”

Nordicity also estimated that the average consumer would be willing to pay an additional $20 for discretionary channels — either individually or through add-on bundles — on top of the $25 maximum that can be charged for the smaller basic service.

Christopher says consumers won’t be provided real choice until Dec. 1, when cable companies will be required by the CRTC to offer all of their channels individually.

“At the moment we are in this hybrid system where people have to buy these mini bundles on top of the $25 base package,” he said. “Because the price of these mini bundles isn’t being looked at by the CRTC, it does seem that once you stack on a few of them you are spending more than what you would have paying for one of the old-fashioned bigger bundles.”

With Canadian Press files

sbrown@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/Browniescott

 
 
 
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Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages Tuesday — but most consumers, particularly those who like live sports, aren’t likely to make the switch .
 

Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages Tuesday — but most consumers, particularly those who like live sports, aren’t likely to make the switch .

Photograph by: Stuart Gradon

 
Telus and Shaw introduce their new CRTC-mandated $25 “skinny” cable packages Tuesday — but most consumers, particularly those who like live sports, aren’t likely to make the switch .
The $25 Shaw Limited plan includes the U.S. networks.
The $25 Telus LITE package features an all-Canadian lineup. U.S. networks ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC are excluded from the plan.
Novus, available mostly to condo dwellers in Vancouver and Burnaby, has the most robust 'skinny' cable package.
Hand with remote control pointing forward isolated at white
 
 
 
 
 
 
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