Bell’s new streaming service, CraveTV, will cost $4/month when it debuts on December 11th.
Bell Media held a press conference in Toronto this morning to showcase the features — both set-top and mobile — of the new service, and to chat about some of the premium content users can expect.
There are two big differences between Crave and its Rogers/Shaw counterpart, Shomi. First, Crave is tethered to a television subscription, making it inaccessible to cord-cutters or cord-nevers, a small but growing percentage of Canadian media consumers. Second, CraveTV, as its name suggests, focuses on premium television content. While movies will make up a small subset of its catalogue, mostly from its HBO and TMN offering, back seasons of TV will be its focal point.
In addition to the entire HBO back catalogue, which includes for the first time The Wire in 16:9 HD (a controversial topic on its own), Bell has exclusive rights to stream Seinfeld, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Manhattan. It will also begin offering a selection of Amazon’s new television lineup, which the US company is making available to its Prime subscribers.
For many young Canadians without a television subscription, CraveTV will be a non-starter. At launch, Bell and TELUS television subscribers will be able to find Crave on their set-top boxes, the web, smart TV’s, and iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, expanding to Xbox consoles, Apple TV and Chromecast next year. While Bell is negotiating with Apple to add a dedicated CraveTV channel to its Apple TV catalogue, Bell will offset some of that inconvenience by allowing AirPlay Mirroring out of the box, something Shomi doesn’t allow from an iPhone or iPad. Bell says it is also negotiating with Rogers and Shaw to bring CraveTV to cable subscribers, but with Shomi getting so much marketing it may be a while until they can access it.
Bell is also leaving the canvas open for advertising and sponsorships, neither of which will be present at launch. The $4/month fee includes unlimited watching, though those accessing on mobile will have to contend with home internet or mobile bandwidth restrictions.
The real question of Crave’s efficacy is whether it was designed as a companion to television right from the beginning. A $4 monthly price tag is barely more than a latte — hence the same — and will fit in nicely next to other disguised television fees. The problem is Crave doesn’t cost $4: it is an add-on, much like TMN or timeshifting, for existing TV packages. If the CRTC regulates a “skinny basic” package — a basic cable/satellite subscription for a low fee — as it has suggested, CraveTV’s value may rise, along with its price. But at the moment, $4 is not a lot to spend when you’re already paying up to $100 every month for television.