Posted March 8, 2021 • Last updated March 8, 2021

This Week in WCIW #12

There's a new BBC channel coming to Canada, plus some other programming updates.

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Welcome to the March 8th edition of This Week in WCIW, the weekly newsletter from Where Can I Watch – covering the latest news on where TV shows and movies will be available in Canada.

Scroll down for information on where the Meghan and Harry interview is available (if you haven't seen it already), and a few newly-announced documentaries on Crave. But first: a new BBC channel in Canada.

Beeb Beeb, Beeb Beeb, yeah

When Corus Entertainment announced at the end of last year that it would be shutting down BBC Canada, there seemed to be a combination of concern from some quarters, and shrugs from others.

Honestly, we were probably more in the latter camp – we hadn't checked in on it much, but at any given time it seemed to be a mix of mostly random repeat British programs (not always from the BBC itself, of course) and Canadian home-reno reruns, with little in the way of newer programming beyond the latest seasons of Antiques Roadshow, Top Gear, and The Graham Norton Show – and the latter (now distributed by ITV despite airing on BBC One domestically) had moved to Hifi this past year.

The rights to the biggest programs aired by the BBC in the UK – some, but not all, produced in-house by BBC Studios – are increasingly being taken up by other services, like Doctor Who (CTV Sci-Fi), Bodyguard (Netflix), Fleabag (Prime), His Dark Materials (Crave via HBO), Line of Duty (Super Channel), and EastEnders (VisionTV, in a two-hour late-night block each weekend). A few others have shown up on the Acorn TV streaming service. Meanwhile, the BBC (or its licensees) have now launched not one but three over-the-top services in Canada, including BritBox, which had seemed likely to be the future home of any remaining BBC original programming from BBC Canada.

So it was a bit of a surprise to learn this week that there will, in fact, be a new BBC channel launching in Canada later this month. Though given that fact, it's not a big surprise who is launching it: Blue Ant Media, which launched a Canadian version of the nature-focused BBC Earth channel in 2017 (which is also available as the second of the three OTT services mentioned above), and is owned by the same person, Michael MacMillan, who ran Alliance Atlantis when that company launched BBC Canada in 2001.

Blue Ant will be rebranding its Hifi channel – which, as mentioned, had recently picked up Canadian rights to Graham Norton – as BBC First, a channel brand that BBC Studios has run for a few years in countries like Australia, Hong Kong, and South Africa. The relaunch is scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, with a free preview running on most providers until April 16.

BBC First will be taking over the first-run Canadian rights to longrunning shows like Death in Paradise, Top Gear and Antiques Roadshow, while also offering a few older series like The Office (the original series with Ricky Gervais) and Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators (already available on BritBox).

But unlike the BBC First brand in much of the rest of the world (like, say, Australia), there won't be other buzzy first-run series – at least to start. All of those other shows listed above will be staying where they are for now. So for now, the channel's schedule will include a heavy dose of older Hollywood movies like Dirty Dancing (as did Hifi), and reruns of Schitt's Creek, which (as great as that show is) can be found in many other places.

Finally, as was the case with BBC Canada (and most other BBC international channels), BBC First will have ads.

Why even bother with a new linear channel, as opposed to, say, focusing on BritBox, or BBC Select, that third OTT service the Beeb just launched here? Well, for one thing, BBC Select is a very different high-brow service, closer to the domestic BBC Four channel. For another, BritBox is a joint venture with rival British broadcaster ITV, meaning it splits any profits with the private network.

It seems like BBC Studios is happy to use a mix of approaches to make its programming available – and, as best we can tell, they are obliged to maximize the international revenue they get for programming in order to minimize hikes to the BBC's domestic TV license fees. We can only assume that BBC Studios is expecting to get more revenue from this arrangement than focusing on BritBox. But, as was the case with BBC Canada, they also won't leave money on the table and automatically send everything to BBC First when, say, the likes of Bell are willing to ante up for a specific show like Doctor Who.

Programming news

  • In other adjacently-British TV news: Last night's Oprah Winfrey interview special with the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, CBS Presents Oprah with Meghan and Harry (yes, that is its full title), should be available on-demand shortly on the Global TV website and apps, as well as on the StackTV package on Prime Video. (Corus announced this past week it had acquired Canadian broadcast rights from ViacomCBS, which acquired the global distribution rights from Winfrey's Harpo Productions.) As of this writing on Sunday night, it's not yet clear if on-demand streaming of the special will be unlocked to all or will require a TV provider (or StackTV) subscription.

    Update – March 8 (evening): The special is now streaming through next Sunday, March 14 on both the Global TV website/apps, with no sign-in required (and no extension to that March 14 expiry if you do sign in), and on Prime Video to StackTV subscribers. It took a bit longer to show up on-demand on StackTV, which seemed to line up with reports that Harpo Productions did not make SVOD rights available to CBS or its international partners (it's on the CBS app but not Paramount+ in the U.S.). But up to this point, Corus has been able to add the same Global shows to StackTV as the Global app itself has, on an ad-supported basis.
  • Following the earlier release of Framing Britney Spears, the remaining five documentaries (to date) from The New York Times Presents are now available on Crave, with two more still to come in the current season.
  • Crave has also added the recent HBO Max documentary There is No "I" in Threesome, which was not announced in its monthly listings.

Other notes

  • In the leadup to this month's release of Zack Snyder's Justice League, Crave has cut off free trials, at least for now, and is instead offering 50% off for three months on direct-subscription monthly plans for first-time subscribers. For example, Crave + Movies + HBO would cost $9.99 per month for those three months, instead of the usual monthly price of $19.98. Similar offers are frequently offered through TV providers, but are less frequent for over-the-top subscriptions.
    The offer expires March 31, which we're sure has nothing to do with that date being the end of BCE's fiscal first quarter, when they usually take a snapshot of the paid subscriber count to include in quarterly results.

Recent updates on WCIW

  • We added a post about I Care a Lot, in case there's any ambiguity about its Canadian whereabouts following Rosamund Pike's win at last weekend's Golden Globes. (It's on Prime Video in Canada, even though it's on Netflix in the U.S. and was widely described across North American media as a "Netflix film" following the Globes.)

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