The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports.
Bell ExpressVu announces 40 new channels in digital lineup
Bell ExpressVu LP will add more than 40 channels to its lineup on Sept. 7, bringing the total number of channels it offers to 275. The new channels include the must-carry Category 1 digital channels licensed last year by the CRTC, and Category 2 channels covering such topics as hockey, basketball, travel, lifestyle and leisure, movies and new kids' programs. Bell ExpressVu has confirmed 22 Category 2 channels, including Fox Sports World, ESPN Classic Sports, Fox Extreme Sports, NHL Hockey Channel, Raptors NBA TV, TV Land Canada, BBC Canada, Animal Planet, Deja View, bpm: TV, National Geographic Canada, and SexTV. The satellite distributor has developed 15 'themed' packages to include the new channels, with such titles as More Sports, More Variety, Learning, Lifestyle, Kids and Destinations. Prices for the packages range from $4.95 to $7.95. Bell ExpressVu is also offering customers the opportunity to build customized packages by choosing the channels that most interest them. The channels will be offered free over a seven-week trial period.
Lisa de Wilde will step down Sept. 14 from her position as president and CEO of Astral Television Networks Inc, after eight years at the helm of the pay and pay-per-view broadcaster. She says that with Astral's networks on a solid growth path and pay television and subscriber levels at record highs, it was time to pursue other ambitions.
There have been two bills introduced in the Senate recently that seek to bring the CRTC's powers under the Broadcasting Act more into line with the powers it enjoys under the Telecommunications Act. This makes good sense in an era of convergence.
Pelmorex Communications Inc plans to reapply to the CRTC for a nationwide emergency weather warning system, after having its initial bid turned down earlier this year. The company, which operates The Weather Network and MétéoMédia, is currently in discussions with the cable industry and broadcasters to resolve the commission's concerns with its previous proposal for an All Channel Alert (ACA) – Decision 2001-123.
Access Communications Co-operative Ltd says replacing U.S. superstations with a local Canadian signal is a financial hardship and it wants the CRTC to exempt its cable systems from the current rules. The Saskatchewan-based cable co-operative has applied for an exemption from the simultaneous substitution requirements for its Class 2 systems in Estevan, Weyburn and Yorkton and its Class 1 system in Regina – PN 2001-94.
Shaw Communications Inc is using a familiar argument in attempting to have regulatory firewalls between its cable and satellite businesses removed. In an application to the CRTC gazetted Aug. 17, the cable giant says it should be allowed to take advantage of corporate "synergies" – like its competitor BCE Inc, which controls satellite distributor Bell ExpressVu LP, broadcaster CTV Inc and telephone company Bell Canada.
The CRTC appears ready to let Canada's two satellite TV companies compete on level footing with cablecos in what many believe to be the holy grail of the broadcast distribution business – selling bulk service to apartment buildings. Wholesale marketing to landlords is big business throughout North America, and one that has been dominated by cable operators.
The early success of the new digital specialty TV channels that will launch next week lies in the hands of two companies that together control 75 per cent of existing digital TV subscribers in Canada, according to figures in a new Decima Publishing market research report to be released next week. With three- quarters of the digital subscribers in the country, sales and marketing efforts by Shaw Communications Inc, including its direct-to-home satellite TV unit Star Choice Communications Inc, and Bell ExpressVu LP could make or break the new channels in their first few years of operation.