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Canadian Cable providers promise cheap a la carte cable in 2016

Over the holidays, one topic of conversation kept coming up — how much is your cable bill? One friend complained he spent over $200 a month, while another said she’d abandoned cable entirely and switched over to Apple TV, only to find she missed watching her usual evening news. Hopefully Canadians no longer have to choose between breaking the bank and watching the shows they love.

Your cable bill cutting into your grocery bill? You can relax a bit — starting March 1, 2016, Canadian TV providers will be required to offer us a basic package of channels for $25 a month. And if we want more, we’ll get the option of ordering our cable “a la carte.”

So there’s the good news first. But as it turns out, the new model will inevitably prioritize some channels over others. Here’s a look at who might lose out under the new model:

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Not good news for sports fans

Sports fans will have to pay the most when choosing channels a la carte. “Clearly the most expensive (channels) will always be sports,” Gary Pelletier, president of the Canadian chapter of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, tells The Canadian Press. “At the end of the day, for sports watchers, their cable bill will probably stay the same or increase, maybe… In the case of someone who doesn’t watch any sports at all, their bill will probably decrease.”

Smaller and more niche channels may suffer

Smaller channels like W Movies and Cosmo could suffer too — they may face a “subscriber melt,” Corus Entertainment president Doug Murphy tells The Canadian Press.

Networks like Bell Media say they’re focusing on promoting established favourites, like TSN, Discovery, E! and Space. “We’ve taken a top-to-bottom review of our portfolio of channels and our first priority was to really make sure that the key brands… are all in their best fighting shape,” Tracey Pearce, senior vice president of specialty and pay channels explains to The Canadian Press.

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American channels will have to win over viewers

Several U.S. cable channels aren’t keen on the new pick ‘n’ pay model, as it means they’ll actually have to fight for subscribers rather than getting them by default. Mario Mota, an analyst for Ottawa’s Boon Dog Professional Services tells The Hollywood Reporter that the unbundling of Canadian TV could cause less popular U.S. channels on Canadian TV to suffer from a lack of subscribers, but warns the unbundling will hurt Canadian channels most: “Pick and pay in Canada will not likely break a U.S. channel, but it could (break) some Canadian channels,” explains Mota.

Survival of the fittest

Under the pick n’ pay model, Canadian channels will have to fight for their mere existence.

Rogers Media’s vice president of programming and content, Hayden Mindell, tells The Canadian Press that his survival plan entails focusing on providing the best content he can:  “I’m just focused on getting the best shows I can get and trusting that people will — as they have for decades now — continue to go after those shows they really want.”

But you know what? Despite the risks, most Canadians would do almost anything to cut down their cable bills. And considering the fact that so many of us are switching over to streaming TV on the Internet, Canadians clearly need to try a new model. Let’s just hope we don’t lose too much in the process.

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