Skinny cable 'deliberately confusing' says Saskatchewan marketing professor

Marketing professor David Williams said since companies are being forced by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to create the packages they will not be consumer-friendly.

David Williams says companies are making the packages as unattractive as possible

Marketing professor David Williams says companies are trying to make 'skinny cable' as unattractive as possible. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The new low-cost 'skinny basic' cable packages unveiled across Saskatchewan are "deliberately confusing," according to a Saskatchewan marketing professor.

Associate professor of marketing at the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan David Williams said since companies are being forced by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to create the packages, they will not be consumer-friendly.

"They are going to make it as unattractive as possible so they can claim it wasn't a success and so they were right all along," Williams said.

Williams said companies aren't making the packages appealing.

"It's not going to be promoted. There'll be no special introductory offers, they'll upsell every other package, you'll be put on hold when you call, you'll get a deliberately okay level of service but not an a-la-carte level of service. It'll be hidden to you," he said.

Each cable company can choose what channels to offer in their version of 'skinny basic'.

Sasktel

By law, SaskTel must offer all local and regional stations including CBC, Radio-Canada, Global, CTV, the Saskatchewan Legislature, and its own on-demand Sasktel community shows. The company has taken an all-Canadian approach offering seven French-language channels.

The package is $25 a month before taxes and not including equipment. High definition programs are another $10 and for Rider fans a lite-sports package is another $14.99.

Shaw

With 33 channels, Shaw has the most, but unless you rent the high definition set-top box for $5 a month, a third of the channels won't work. They also have five big American networks.

The package is $25 a month before taxes and not including equipment. To watch the Riders in high definition it will cost another $8.

With Shaw you have to sign a contract for 24-months or else there is a $60 installation fee.

Access

Access could appear like the best deal at $19.99 a month for 26 channels not including taxes or equipment. Access has the five big American networks and throws in the Real Estate channel and Broadcast News-Canadian Press. Access recently included pick and pay channels — 50 so far — which cost $2.95 a month for each.

To watch the Riders with Access you can spend $9.95 a month to get five TSN channels, or $17.95 for all of the sports channels.

Williams said people will likely purchase the packages, but it's not what they want.

"What consumers would like, and it may not be possible, is just to pick up the channels they want and the content they want," he said.

He added once you start adding in bundles, internet, and other telecommunications, it can become even more confusing.

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