Some Manitobans have a handful of new cable package options after a CRTC ruling came into effect on Tuesday, mandating cable providers offer "reasonably priced" entry-level services.
The CRTC introduced the new rules last year after they consulted the public and found consumers felt the only options for cable packages were too expensive and large.
Now, providers must provide a $25 "skinny basic" option that prioritizes Canadian content and offers local channels.
In Manitoba, MTS, Shaw and Bell have all introduced the packages for major centres like Brandon and Winnipeg.
Bell has stripped American broadcasters such as ABC, NBC and CBS out of their new "starter package," while MTS and Shaw chose to include them.
All three providers require a rental fee for an HD box or receiver box, pushing their prices above the $25 limit established by the CRTC.
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MTS is offering 24 channels in their $25 "starter pack," with a mandatory $3 a month set-top box rental fee.
Channels include Canadian broadcasters such as CBC, CTV and Global, as well as major American broadcasters like ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX.
Shaw is offering a 36-channel package similar to MTS's for a $25-per-month fee with the addition of a $5-per-month box rental.
Bell's is slightly different, offering 30 channels for $24.95 and a minimum $7 a month fee for their HD receiver. Bell has excluded major American broadcasters offered in MTS's and Shaw's starter packs.
Bell's pack includes stations like CPAC, The Weather Network and others.
Not everyone will have access to these new packages, though. A CRTC exemption does not require these more affordable options be provided in an area where there are 20,000 subscribers or less.
Pick and pay options
At the same time the CRTC mandated more affordable cable options for Canadians, they also mandated pick and pay options, but the deadline for cable distributors to provide complete pick and pay availability is December.
Right now, each provider has some channels available for pick and pay and some you can only purchase as part of bundled packages.
For example, Bell offers pick and pay channels between $4 and $7 each, but to get a channel like TSN, you'll have to shell out $25 for a sports pack.
At Shaw, some individual channels are available starting at $3 a piece, while a channel pack with TSN will run you $8.
Part of the CRTC's mandate was that the cable providers advertise this option, but last week, CBC revealed training documents from Bell said, "Do not promote the Starter TV package. There will be no advertising, and this package should only be discussed if the customer initiates the conversation."
The option for the starter pack could only be found on the Bell and Shaw websites by scrolling down below their other cable offerings.