Canadians may have to pay for Internet TV

Internet use continues to suck away Canadian TV viewers and further erode a weak revenue base for the nation's broadcasters who are, much to the chagrin of cable operators in the Great White North, getting some help from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC, has ruled that broadcasters can extract "value for signal" carriage from cable operators--provided, of course, that the courts rule that it's legal. Cable and satellite providers argue that this cost won't affect them; they'll just pass it on to consumers.

And those consumers are increasingly showing an unwillingness to pay by passing up television altogether and going straight to the Internet for free content. Canadians spend more time in front of their computers than their TVs. Ironically, that, more than charging cable operators, could be the way broadcasters finally get some of their money back: charge customers for online viewing.

Jason Blackwell, an analyst with ABI Research suggests that model works for Apple which charges 99 cents for TV episodes that are free on other sites. "Broadcasters will start to look at that and says, 'If Apple can do that for 99 centers why can't I?' And maybe that will start to influence their business model," said Blackwell.

Meanwhile, Alliance Films has tabbed Rentrak to provide on-demand measurement services for Canadian video-on-demand. Rentrak has charted a 19 percent increase in on-demand content use in 2009 over 2008.

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