Canada to mandate la carte TV packages

DetailsJoseph O'Halloran | 21 March 2015

After months of public discussion and pushback from Big Media networks, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ruled to mandate la carte TV options for pay-TV subscribers.

It's a massive change: pay-TV operators must offer subscribers a basic programming tier, priced at no more than $25 a month, and then can offer a range of small bundles of thematic content that users can add to their invoices.

Cable, satellite and IPTV operators have until March 2016 to create the basic channel packages. By December 2016, selections of a la carte channels and small bundles must also be made available.

"Today's decision reflects what we have heard from Canadians," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said, reported the Toronto Sun. "They told us bundles offered by cable and satellite companies were large, unwieldy and expensive. They expressed frustration that to access a particular channel they had to pay for a station they did not want."

Canadian bigwig providers were quick to issue statements."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," said Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications. "We support the government's direction and the commission's commitment to maximize choice for Canadians."

Rogers Communications' spokeswoman Patricia Trott meanwhile said: "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 customers even more choice."