Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 14-09-2011
Some companies in Canada are resisting the recent influx of streaming movie and TV providers like Netflix into the market, painting them as foreign interlopers. Astral Media's CEO Ian Greenberg summed it up: "They come here and don't spend a penny."
Astral Media, which serves an HBO-like channel called the Movie Network to two million subscribers, contends that over the top (OTT) companies like Netflix and YouTube Movies should be subject to the same rules as Canadian broadcasters, paying taxes and contributing to the acquisition of local programming. Greenberg framed the issue in almost patriotic terms, noting that native son Astral contributed $170 million Canadian dollars to content acquisition and local economies last year. "They don't have any rules whatsoever," Greenbrg said. "Taxes are another issue. All that money is leaving the country. It doesn't help the economy. It doesn't employ people."
And Astral is not alone in its concerns: 40 Canadian media companies are asking for public hearings on the issue.
Canada's regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission or CRTC, decided in 2008 that OTT, non-network-based services that are accessed via Internet and mobile are exempted from traditional broadcast regulations--a model that U.S. regulator the FCC has adopted as well.
Netflix has about one million subscribers in Canada, recently having launched in the Maple Leaf nation with a $8 monthly subscription service. YouTube Movies has followed suit as well, emmigrating North from California with a service that costs $4-5 Canadian per streaming movie rental. Users have 30 days to start watching a rented film and 48 hours to complete it once it's started.
Google-owned YouTube has signed on with several U.S. production companies and a few studios in Canada. YouTube Movies launched earlier this year in the U.S. with 3,000 titles that represent a mix of old and new releases; while that's skimpy compared to the behemoth that is Netflix, coveted new releases are actually more frequently found in the YouTube catalogue than in Netflix'.
Options for Canadian Web video aficionados are limited to date. In addition to YouTube and Netflix, there's homegrown option Shaw Communications, a top Canadian cableco, which has launched an unlimited online movie streaming service for subscribers called the Shaw Movie Club. Shaw customers throughout its footprint in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario can pay $12 a month for unlimited access to "hundreds of titles" that can be watched online or streamed to the TV.