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CCR Short Takes

News | 02/13/2004 5:00 am EST

Access cable customer base drops slightly in 2003
Saskatchewan’s Access Communications Co-operative Limited saw its cable customer base drop only slightly in 2003 to 78,000 from 80,000, despite operating in Canada’s most competitive television distribution market, according to the cable cooperative’s recently released 2003 annual report. Access competes against four different TV providers in most communities it serves — satellite TV operators Bell ExpressVu LP and Star Choice Television Network Inc., wireless cableco Image Wireless Communications Inc., and telco SaskTel. Access also noted in its annual report that it plans to launch high-definition television services, currently available only in Regina, in other communities in early 2004. The cable co-operative also disclosed that more than 11,000 customers have signed up for its AccessCombo cable and Internet bundles since they launched in January 2003 and that it has been testing Voice over Internet Protocol technology. Access celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It was incorporated in July 1974 under the Co-operative Association Act of Saskatchewan.

Vidéotron adds net digital, basic subscribers in fourth quarter

Quebec cableco Vidéotron ltée grew its digital cable household base in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2003 to 240,000 from 213,000 in the third quarter. The increase of 27,000 digital households was the "strongest quarterly performance since the launch of the digital service," the company notes in a February 4 media release. The cableco now has an installed base of 257,000 digital set-top boxes, compared to 228,000 at the end of the third quarter. The number of subscribers to basic cable also grew in the fourth quarter, rising 10,000 to 1.433 million customers.

Behind the scenes production part of ‘Decoys’ push

CHUM Ltd. will premiere a half-hour production, Decoys: Behind the Scenes, on its specialty channel Space: The Imagination Station on February 26 as part of its TV promotional campaign to boost box office receipts of a feature film (CCR, June 30/03). The teen sci-fi horror flick Decoys is slated for theatrical release across Canada on February 27.

Knowledge Network wins administrative licence renewal

The CRTC has granted an administrative licence renewal to British Columbia’s educational channel The Knowledge Network until Feb. 28, 2005 (Broadcasting Decision 2004-72). The province is in the process of examining seven proposals from private partners to jointly manage the network (CCR, Oct. 3/03). Karen McDonald, communications director at the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, the department that oversees the channel, would not reveal any details about the proposals. Partnership B.C., another provincial department, has been charged with examining the proposals. McDonald says only that once a partner is chosen, then the appropriate paperwork would be filed with the CRTC and made public. McDonald says the channel is seeking private partners because its objective of distance learning is being increasingly fulfilled through the Internet and not TV broadcasting. Among the applicants forwarding proposals are CHUM Ltd.-owned Learning and Skills Television of Alberta, a group that includes TV Ontario, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Jim Pattison Broadcasting and others, and VisionTV in association with Craig Media’s A-Channel.

Rogers to rent PVRs to customers

Rogers Cable Inc. announced February 11 that it would allow its customers to rent a personal video recorder (PVR) for $19.95 a month. The PVR up for rent is the Scientific-Atlanta Explorer 8000 digital terminal that allows users to pause and rewind live TV, record up to 50 hours of programming and watch their favourite show while recording up to two other programs at the same time. As well, Rogers gained 43,200 digital cable households in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2003. The penetration of digital households as a percentage of basic subscribers was 23.6%, up from a penetration level of 17.7% at Dec. 31, 2002.

A-Channel management, workers reach tentative deal

Craig Media has reached a tentative agreement with its workers at A-Channel Edmonton who have been on strike since September 18 (CCR, Jan. 15/04). The union will vote on the deal, which includes a pay grid, on February 14. If union members ratify the agreement, then the employees will be back on the job on March 1.

Customer continues to refuse to pay Telesat contribution levy

An undisclosed customer continues to refuse to pay its share of a contribution levy imposed by the CRTC that Telesat Canada has passed on to its customers. The amount in dispute has reached $3.7 million, according to Telesat’s fourth quarter and 2003 year-end financial results released on February 4. The amount had been $2.6 million, according to Telesat financial results released in August 2002 (CCR, Aug. 15/02). Telesat continues to state that it "is pursuing various avenues in order to enforce payment."

Shaw, Rogers inch toward adding telephony options

Canada’s two largest cablecos are making moves to deploy Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Shaw Communications Inc. has filed an application with the CRTC to become a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), which will allow it to interconnect with incumbent telephone companies and long- distance providers on an equal basis. "We intend to be a provider of reliable, primary line telephony service using VoIP technologies. Becoming a CLEC is an important step in the development of our VoIP strategy," said Shaw CEO Jim Shaw in a February 4 media release. Rogers Communications Inc. announced February 12 that the cableco was targeting mid-2005 for the launch of an advanced broadband IP multimedia network that would include telephony. A numbered Rogers subsidiary has applied for CLEC status.

CAB opposes intro of MSNBC and Bloomberg TV to Canada

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) tells the CRTC that it should not allow foreign specialty TV services MSNBC and Bloomberg Television to be carried in Canada based on two fundamental concerns. The CAB notes that the services would be competitive with existing Canadian services, which is against CRTC policy. Bloomberg TV would be competitive with RoBTV and MSNBC with CTV Newsnet, the CAB says. Moreover, the CAB notes that "approval of these applications would create a precedent that could be exploited in the future to circumvent the commission’s policies regarding the addition of non-Canadian services to the lists of eligible satellite services. The Canadian Cable Television Association supports the move (CCR Update, Feb. 5/04).

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