Technology & Science

Bell, Telus ask CRTC to dismiss complaint about CraveTV streaming service

Two of Canada's biggest telecommunications companies are asking Canada's broadcast regulator to toss out a 'frivolous' complaint from consumer advocacy groups alleging that Bell's CraveTV streaming service restricts Canadians' access to streamed TV shows.

Consumers' groups claim service restricts Canadians' access to streamed TV shows

Shomi and CraveTV – each with their unique catalogue of shows and movies - are available only to Canadians who subscribe to certain other telecommunication or TV services. (Diego Cervo/Shutterstock)

Two of Canada's biggest telecommunications companies are asking Canada's broadcast regulator to toss out a "frivolous" complaint about Bell's CraveTV streaming video service from consumer advocacy groups.

Both Bell Media and Telus Corp. filed procedural requests with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Friday saying the regulator would be reaching beyond its jurisdiction to rule on digital media.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre joined with the Consumers' Association of Canada last week to express concerns over how Bell sells CraveTV to consumers.

Documents were also filed outlining similar concerns with the Shomi video service, a partnership between Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) and Shaw (TSX:SJR.B).

In December, Bell Media (TSX:BCE) launched CraveTV to Bell TV subscribers and several other TV providers, including Telus (TSX:T), Bell Aliant and Eastlink.

Complaint over competition, consumer choice

The advocacy groups said three of the country's biggest telecommunications companies are operating online video services which "unduly prefer" their own customers, in part because they require subscribers to purchase TV or Internet from the telecom providers on top of the streaming video platform.

They argue that runs against rules put in place by the CRTC to promote competition and consumer choice.

Netflix, the most popular subscription-based streaming video platform in Canada, allows anyone to purchase its service.

Representatives for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre did not respond to a request for comment.

Bell said it believes the claim against it is "frivolous and vexatious and has no reasonable prospect of success."

Telus, which made its own filing, distanced the CraveTV service from its competitor Shomi.

The company said the consumer groups "fail to address how CraveTV is any different from the many conventional, specialty and pay services which also make their content available on-demand and on multiple platforms to authenticated subscribers of their linear services."

Telecommunications providers must file their official response on the issue to the CRTC by March 12, though Bell has asked for an extension if the complaint is not dismissed.

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