Canada Vs. Cable: Government May Force TV Providers To Offer À La Carte Channels

on October 14 2013 9:27 AM

The industry minister of Canada, James Moore, said Sunday the Canadian government may soon require cable and satellite TV providers to unbundle their channels, which would mean customers could potentially choose to only buy the channels they want a la carte.

“We don’t think it’s right for Canadians to have to pay for bundled television channels that they don’t watch,” Moore said on CTV’s “Question Period."

The Canadian government might be acting because of the declining number of cable and satellite TV subscribers in the country. In mid-August, Hollywood Reporter said TV carriers in Canada lost an estimated 19,624 TV subscribers combined in the second quarter of 2013, after losing 5,394 subscribers in the first quarter of 2013, and about 8,175 customers lost by all TV providers in the fourth quarter of 2012.

No laws have been implemented yet, but a number of Canadian cable and satellite TV providers are already beginning to offer unbundled channels. Quebec-based Videotron (TSX:QBR.B) is offering several packages that allow consumers to pick the channels they want to watch, and Bell (TSX:BCE), one of the largest cable and satellite providers in Canada, is offering a similar a la carte service, but only in Quebec.

Moore said there should be no reason why all TV providers can’t give consumers the option to select the channels they want to watch. “We should have a pick-and-pay model when it comes to television channels,” he said.

Besides cable TV, Moore said the Conservative government in Canada is considering several other consumer-friendly moves for the better of Canadian consumers, including forcing phone carriers and telecommunication companies to curb their wireless roaming rates, as well as introducing regulations that prevent airline overbooking.

“We know that there’s going to be a new regime put in place in the first week of December to cap international roaming fees, but we also want to move on domestic roaming fees as well,” Moore said. “These are things ... on which our government is going to take action.”

With any luck, some of the political and consumer fervor against cable TV companies in Canada will rub off on the U.S. cable industry. According to an Aug. 21 report conducted by the Waban, Mass.-based research firm Temkin Group, cable and satellite TV companies account for six of the seven worst-rated companies in the United States when it comes to customer satisfaction.

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