Watching This Week #104
An abbreviated newsletter with updated listings for March 20-26, 2023.
Find out where the Sky / HBO Max drama starring Billie Piper is available in Canada.
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The British drama series I Hate Suzie, created by writer Lucy Prebble and actress Billie Piper, and starring Piper as the titular Suzie, was released by Sky in the UK on August 27, 2020. Soon after, HBO Max announced it had picked up American streaming rights to the series, debuting it on November 19. Particularly in the leadup to its U.S. release, the show has received critical acclaim.
The series, which is produced by Sky Studios and distributed internationally by sister company (under Comcast) NBCUniversal Global Distribution, has also been acquired for streaming in Canada, but at least for the moment, the majority of Canadians are unable to access it via authorized means.
That's because the only known Canadian rightsholder is telecommunications company Telus, which is using the series as part of the launch of its "Telus Presents" collection of on-demand programming, consisting of – to use the company's description – "hard-to-find shows from abroad".
If you're a subscriber to Telus' Optik TV or Pik TV services in Alberta or British Columbia (the company's traditional wireline territory going back to the AGT / BCTel days), there's good news: I Hate Suzie and other Telus Presents programs are available free on demand to all subscribers, through set-top boxes as well as through the Optik TV apps and the Telus website.
However, if you live outside those two provinces, even if you have other Telus products like mobile phone service from Telus Mobility, as of this writing it appears you're currently out of luck. We tried signing in through the page linked above, with My Telus credentials linked to a mobility account, and got the following error message:
Update (April 22, 2022): We very recently became aware that I Hate Suzie was released on DVD in North America by Universal in 2021, for a suggested retail price of $39.99. The linked Amazon product page lists the release date as having been June 1, 2021, but it seems there was very little if any publicity for this release at the time. It may also be possible to rent the DVDs if you still have a large rental shop near you, or borrow them through your local public library (as of this writing, Toronto's public library system has 30 copies in circulation).
Shortly before adding a note about I Hate Suzie's whereabouts on our HBO Max page in late October, we reached out to Telus' public relations team asking for clarification about when or how Canadians outside Telus' wireline territory might be able to watch these shows, and did not receive a reply. If they do respond, we'll update this page to reflect their comments.
That said, while it's not clear when other Canadians will be able to watch I Hate Suzie, we expect it should become available to other Canadians eventually.
As a licensed Canadian video-on-demand service operator, Telus is subject to the rules of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which prohibit VOD services tied to a service provider from acquiring exclusive rights to programming – specifically, condition 16 of the standard conditions of licence listed here. (Note that "hybrid" VOD services, such as Crave, are not subject to this condition, so long as their programming is available for subscription to all Canadians via the Internet – which is not the case for Telus' on-demand lineup.)
This rule doesn't block from Telus from carrying the show first, but it can't be the only place where it's offered, at least within a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise, subject to receipt of complaints, the CRTC can investigate and potentially hold Telus accountable for violating the rule noted above.
Indeed, the Telus Presents page linked above does not say that programs like I Hate Suzie are only available through Telus, only that they are available, for free, to its IPTV subscribers. At least one of the series listed on Telus' page, the first season of Save Me, is also available on CBC Gem. Telus and the CBC have worked together on some other initiatives in the past, and the public broadcaster's streaming service carries a few other Sky-distributed series, so it's possible that some of the other series / seasons like I Hate Suzie may eventually wind up on CBC Gem.
One other possibility we're aware of: through NBCUniversal, Sky Studios also has an output deal with Corus Entertainment, which at least covers Sky-produced programs that are on Comcast's U.S. streaming service Peacock, like Intelligence. So it's possible that I Hate Suzie could eventually end up on a Corus-owned channel like Showcase or W – however, it's not listed among the new shows Corus is currently planning to air on these channels through winter 2021.
However, if a deal like that is not already in place, it may be up to other Canadian broadcasters and streaming outlets to approach either Sky or Telus directly to inquire about getting a share of the rights.
(We'll quickly note that while it's theoretically possible that Crave could pick up Canadian rights, if so, it would be unrelated to its availability on HBO Max in the U.S. – as with most of its other international acquisitions, HBO Max has acquired American rights only, and likely has no influence on how the rights are sold in other countries.)
We will strive to update this page in case there are further developments, so please feel free to check back regularly.
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