Canadian MSOs flout new a la carte rules


Canada’s attempt to disaggregate the cable bundle through regulation appears stuck in the ice. 

According to numerous published reports, the country’s top cable operators—Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Bell Canada—are indeed offering the $25-a-month skinny packages and a la carte channels mandated by ruling of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

But not only are these packages not receiving much promotion, operators have reportedly structured pricing so that there’s little or no advantage to consumers not to opt for a traditional pay-TV bundle. 

RELATED: Canadian regulators huddle up after messy mandated skinny bundle launch 

Operators are making individual channels available, as the mandate requires. But these are priced as high as $7 a month. Meanwhile, MSOs are offering $25 bundles, but they’re imposing equipment fees not found on more robust bundles, further offsetting any savings or incentives.

"If you want the basic + just sports, it'll cost you $61 + taxes + equipment fees," notes a commenter in DSL Reports’ Rogers forum. "Add on top of that the 3 or 4 channels on top that I am interested in, that bumps me up to $86 + tax + equipment fees. At those rates, what is the point?"

Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, one consumer said adding news channels CNN and CP24 a la carte would run $14 a month. For that price, there is little incentive to not just pay $15 a month to upgrade from the $25-a-month basic tier. 

According to the CRTC, only 1.6 percent of Canadian cable customers have signed up for the $25 monthly plan since June, well below the anticipated rate of around 5 percent. 

Also speaking to the CBC, the CRTC conceded that while it mandated the skinny bundles and a la carte channels, it has little ability to impact what rates operators charge for channels.