Watching This Week #112
Listings for May 29 to June 4, 2023; Corus channels appear set to leave Eastlink.
News from late April 2022, including "Angelyne" on Showcase, Telus' Stream+, and more thoughts on the future of the cable bundle in Canada.
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Welcome to the April 25, 2022, 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.
This week, we have details on more Peacock programming coming to Corus channels, a new streaming bundle from Telus, and more thoughts about the future of the cable bundle.
But first, a programming note: we hope to send out our May programming guide this coming weekend, which (unless there is major news) will take the place of the regular Monday newsletter. After that, our next newsletter will be on Monday, May 9.
This top-story section is mainly about behind-the-scenes industry news. If you just want to get to the latest about when/where shows will be, feel free scroll down to "Programming news" below.
If you've been paying attention to news about streaming media from other news outlets this past week, you've probably heard about two big stories: Netflix losing subscribers leading the streaming pioneer to contemplate an advertising-supported tier for the first time, and Warner Bros. Discovery shutting down CNN+ at the end of April, barely a month after it launched in the U.S. (and before any international expansion).
There's nothing we can really add on either story, except that we agree with the view that CNN+ is shutting down because the former Discovery Inc. executives now in charge of the merged WBD never wanted it to launch in the first place, regardless of how good or bad the early numbers were. (Oh, and that if the more evergreen programming intended for CNN+ ever surfaces in Canada now, the most likely home is Discovery+, with Crave of course being another longer-shot possibility.)
Instead, we're going to continue with some more thoughts coming out of last week's launch of Citytv+ by Rogers.
The progression of TV channels onto streaming services has happened a bit differently in Canada compared to the United States. Whereas the U.S. has multiple streaming-based "full cable" packages not tied to using a specific internet provider, including Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Philo, the closest thing that's been offered in Canada is VMedia's RiverTV, and the two biggest broadcasters that allow their programming to be offered on that service are Corus and the CBC (with no channels from Bell, Rogers, or Quebecor).
Yes, it's possible to subscribe to app-based "cable" services through the likes of Bell, Telus, TekSavvy, and others without the need for extra equipment, but in most cases they are still tied to using that same company for internet service.
But there's an option that Canadians have that Americans do not. In the U.S., the standard cable carriage contracts seem to have been written in a way to prevent ad-supported linear channels from being offered outside a traditional bundle – just look at the aforementioned CNN+, or for that matter ESPN+, neither of which contain(ed) access to their namesake cable channels.
Here in Canada, though, offerings like TSN Direct and Sportsnet Now include the corresponding linear sports channels. We don't know the reason with certainty, but it seems like the CRTC's 2015 decision mandating pick-and-pay options for TV channels on traditional providers may have greased the wheels, since it would have outlawed those kinds of bundling requirements.
As a result, with subsequent launches like StackTV and Citytv+, it's increasingly easy to foresee a future where the Canadian cable bundle could be almost fully, if not completely, replaceable by a-la-carte streaming services.
The biggest remaining holdout, at this point, is Bell Media's CTV. Although some programs are available to stream for free without a TV provider login, and others are available on sibling streaming service Crave, it's still impossible, for example, to live-stream events like the Oscars or watch shows from CTV specialty channels like Resident Alien without a cable subscription.
But they may not be a holdout for long. At a investor conference back in March (starting at about 1:32:00, you can use a dummy name/email to access), BCE CFO Glen LeBlanc mentioned in the context of Bell Mobility bundling options like Crave Mobile (emphasis ours):
As we look to the future, you know, maybe one day you could do CTV Comedy or CTV News or CTV live as a direct offering. And I'm not saying that that's where we're heading today but what I am pointing to is that we have a number of tools at our disposal to ensure that we are successful.
To be clear, "CTV Live" is not the name of any existing Bell Media product (and there's a possibility that LeBlanc misspoke and meant to say "CTV Life"), but it seems to point what Bell could easily do, especially if they're feeling under pressure from Corus and Rogers' offerings.
Bell already has the architecture in place to support direct subscriptions for Crave and TSN/RDS – why not extend that to a direct-subscription offering with the channels in the CTV app? It would, presumably, be ad-supported like StackTV and Citytv+, but it could potentially be bundled with Crave at a reduced price to account for the duplicated programs.
Obviously there are a few other shows and channels that would still be hard to access outside the cable bundle – we're thinking of shows like Jeopardy! that are available over-the-air via IndieNet (Yes TV, CHEK, NTV) but still have no on-demand streaming option – but the number becomes a lot smaller if the four main Canadian broadcasters are offering all (or almost all) of their channels over-the-top.
While writing the item about Telus Stream+ above, we double-checked the current status of I Hate Suzie and discovered that, while it is still unavailable on other Canadian streaming and digital retail platforms, it was released on DVD (Amazon.ca affiliate link) in North America last year by Sky Studios sibling Universal. You may also be able to borrow the DVD set from a local library (the Toronto system apparently has about 30 copies).
We've made an interim update to our existing page about I Hate Suzie to reflect all this.
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