Cutting The Cable

Image: Liz Sullivan

Image: Liz Sullivan

A CRTC report released this past May suggests the numbers of cable subscriptions can’t keep up with fast emerging households, and how fast those households are opting out of TV plans. According to the findings, cable subscriptions grew by 126 000, but more than 134 000 households cancelled their TV subscriptions, and more than 170 000 households popped up in 2013.

Right now, TV is arguably in its golden age, so its doubtful public interest is keeping these numbers down. Instead, streaming services such as Netflix have exploded into popularity and become a favourable choice for Canadians everywhere, specifically millennials.

Television providers in Canada have noticed what their customers want, and started modifying their products to match the demand. Telus’s Optik TV is their answer to the demand for instant streaming, with bundles starting at $20/month. Optik TV also has apps for watching on the go, and for accessing PVR recordings away from the TV. Liz Sauvé with Telus says Optik TV subscribers are up 14% from the previous quarter, to 880 000.

Also available for Optik TV subscribers is the new CraveTV, a Bell Media streaming service. Crave’s selling point is that it’s only $4/month, half the cost of Netflix. However, it’s only accessible for subscribers with Bell or Telus bundles, so $4/month is an extra cost on top of the cost of the TV bundle.

Similarly, Rogers and Shaw are in the beta testing phase of their new product, Shomi. Like Crave, Shomi is only available for customers of the provider.

TV providers are taking the proper cues from their customers and trying to create services to keep up with the fast-paced ask-and-ye-shall-receive rhetoric of streaming services. But those newcomers have a one up on TV providers: their ability to be flexible and operate without commitments. Streaming services are simple because it works in-device without any extra hardware, and you can stop or start subscribing anytime you want. It can be taken anywhere, and accessing it outside of your home on a TV is as easy as signing into your account.

Netflix has dominated over TV bundles the same way cell phones rendered the landline phone obsolete; they are an option that does not only one job, but also several others. Netflix only needs an Internet connection to run, and can be accessed across multiple platforms. To many, $8/month for hundreds of TV shows and movies that can be watched anytime is a sound deal.

With that said, it may be a long time before we see cable disappear company… but it does not look like the future of broadcasting is swaying that way.