BCE’s bid to purchase Astral is in full swing, coming up to a CRTC decision on the matter in the next few months. If approved, BCE Inc., owner of Bell Mobility and Bell Media, wants to use its new vertically-integrated media ownership to launch a Canadian-owned Netflix competitor. Using Astral assets such as The Movie Network and HBO Canada, the BCE would attempt to win away some of the 10% of Canadian homes who subscribe to Netflix’s $7.99 all-you-can-eat offering.
The service would be available, like Netflix, on multiple platforms and devices, but could be hobbled by being WiFi-only and forcing customers to authenticate beforehand, to ensure they are Bell subscribers. This puts the service more like Rogers TV Anywhere product rather than Netflix. Cope wants BCE., and indirectly Canada, to be a competitive player in the emerging global content provider market. Bell is in a unique position to offer content to Canadians that Netflix, Google, Apple and Amazon may have trouble accessing due to licensing restrictions. Companies like Rogers and Telus, however, have argued that Bell made its content too expensive to license, and Telus appealed to the CRTC to change its content exclusivity rules, which came into affect earlier this year.
As long as the service is priced correctly, and is carrier/provider-agnostic, the Netflix competitor could be the first real homegrown choice Canadians have. If it does indeed require subscribers to be Bell customers, then the “value” is significantly diminished. We’d imagine there would be an extra monthly fee for those who are not Bell customers, or that the service would be rolled into existing subscriber packages much as Mobile TV is today.
Source: Globe & Mail