CRTC mulls cable rule overhaul that may allow custom packages

Canada moves a step closer to pick-and-pay cable television packages for consumers, with the broadcast regulator revealing its thoughts on how best to open up the industry to more customization.
The CRTC is currently mulling many options that would open up the cable television industry to more customization for consumers. (iStock)

Canada has moved a step closer to pick-and-pay cable television packages for consumers, with the broadcast regulator revealing its thoughts on how best to open up the industry to more customization.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission unveiled the latest report in its ongoing series entitled Let's Talk TV, in which it lays out a variety of options to change the rules for how television channels are sold to consumers.

Among them would be to compel cable companies to offer a small, all-Canadian basic service full of local, community and educational programming. That package would be full of channels that are so-called "mandatory carriage." But it could be complemented by an upgrade the CRTC calls "discretionary programming services on a stand-alone basis" — commonly known as the pick-and-pay model, where consumers buy individual channels.

A further part of the plan, in the CRTC's words, would "allow subscribers to build their own custom packages of discretionary programming services (build-your-own-package)."

Custom packages

"Under the proposed approach, distributors would also be allowed to continue to offer discretionary programming services in pre-assembled packages for those Canadians who are satisfied with their current offering," the CRTC said. "Those who are not satisfied with the status quo would be offered alternatives, including the choice of smaller packages or customization on a pick-and-pay basis."

No firm timeline for the proposal has been offered, as the CRTC is currently calling on the general public and industry players to comment on the different options.

The regulator is going through this process because the government asked them to look into the viability of breaking up the current cable TV model of package subscriptions that don't allow for as much customization as is theoretically possible.

"The CRTC report sets out a roadmap to greater channel choice, which is consistent with our commitment to provide Canadian families with the flexibility and choice they want," Heritage Minister Shelley Glover said in a statement. "I want to thank the CRTC for the work they have done in this area and look forward to the next steps they will take to implement their proposed approach."

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