CRTC is Making Changes to Canadian TV March 1

Cable TV

The Canadian CRTC has mandated that all television providers must offer a low cost basic “light” channel package. The new light television offering must start at $25 or less per month. In addition, the providers must offer specialty channels separately at “reasonable” prices.

All of this takes effect March 1. With less than a month to go before these changes come into effect, so far the big players are mute about the offerings.

Rogers TV

Rogers TV

Rather than seeing this as an opportunity to win back cord-cutters, it is clear by the silence that the major providers will only grudgingly make these packages available.

If this was something the major providers wanted they could have offered this any any time they wanted to. Ultimately, gaining them a competitive advantage. In 2011, the CRTC even went so far as to “strongly” recommend this to the industry. Not seeing any changes, the CRTC has forced the option on the providers.

TV Cord Cutters

TV Cord Cutters

Cable TV started out competing with free TV off air in the 70s. While it was hard to compete with free, cable’s main hook was offering a consistent clean picture no matter the weather. In addition, cable provided more channels than were likely available locally. At the time, Canada became the most wired nation in the world.

By 1982, Pay-TV entered the uh, picture. This was the first time the concept of paying for specialty channels was introduced. Prices and channels have continued to balloon often 4 times the rate of inflation since then.

Customers have been leaving cable providers in record numbers since the introduction of streaming services. In 2015, television providers lost six times more customers than the year before. On their way out the door, they have been complaining to the CRTC.

The CRTC responded in 2015 with the new law you likely haven’t heard about.

So far, only the new upstart VMedia has announced its pricing model. Offering a basic TV package starting at just $17.95. Specialty channels are available starting at $2.25 each.

VMedia utilizes a new technology called IPTV to deliver television to its customers. IPTV offers the ability to stream television over an internet type connection. It can be a little confusing but the channels are not sent over the internet at large. Rather the channels are sent over the private network between your connection and your internet service provider in this case, VMedia. The technology is similar to the more familiar VoIP. (Voice over Internet Protocol)

With these new changes and technology options available today, it is clear the landscape of television is changing again. We’ll have to wait until March 1 to get the details.

Read more about this story here.

My Story

In 2009, my family moved over the months of November and December. Between the move and Christmas, we decided rather than transfer our cable TV to the new house we would try to live without cable TV altogether.

I bought a roof top outdoor antenna and a mast. A year later, I added a signal booster to help smooth out the fringe channels.

HD TV Antenna

HD TV Antenna

To this setup, I added a full PC to the main TV. This PC includes a TV tuner card and is able to handle off air PVR functions and a cable TV like channel guide. With this current setup, we receive over 27 local and US channels.

Naturally, Netflix is a big part of the setup in addition to the basic over-the-air setup.

With the new (digital) high definition over-the-air broadcasts, channels look better than they do over cable. This is due to the fact that most cable TV providers compress the channels to be able to send more down the pipe. Compression, as it does with compressed music, flattens out much of the detail.

Over the air HD on the other hand (depending on the individual channel) is broadcast in HD uncompressed.

So with this set up including PVR functions, the ability to watch one channel and record another, searchable channel guide – what’s the downside?

There are a few, the first is channel consistency. Just like the over-the-air experience in the 70s, a bit of bad weather knocks out about 10 channels.

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center

Then, there is the software that makes all this work. Microsoft Media Centre. Microsoft Media Center is the backbone of the over-the-air support and handles all the PVR functions. This is all done with a nice remote-friendly TV interface.

Microsoft discontinued Media Centre with Windows 10 and there is precious little that touches it. So until a replacement is found the PC set up is only as good as long as Windows 8.1 is supported.

While $25 per month is tempting, wait what about the hydro bill? Looks like I’ll stick with free TV and Netflix.

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  • If I’m not mistaken, the “skinny basic” $25 or less package is mandated for March 1, but the “a la carte” pick and pay specialty channel requirement is not mandated until December 1.

    • Yes the pick and pay can be rolled in between March 1 and the end of the year. But must be in place before 2017.