Bell and Telus quickly reject consumer group complaint on Crave TV to CRTC.
Bell and Telus have wasted no time in responding to consumer group complaints about Crave TV, the recently launched streaming service that’s available only to TV subscribers of the two firms and a few others.
The two companies on Friday filed requests with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to throw out a complaint lodged just a few days earlier by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Consumers’ Association of Canada.
According to the Canadian Press, Bell and Telus say the complaint – which is asking the regulator to make Crave TV available to all Canadians – is “frivolous and vexatious.”
The consumer groups “fail to address how Crave TV is any different from the many conventional, specialty and pay services which also make their content available on-demand and on multiple platforms to authenticated subscribers of their linear services.”
It’s not clear why Telus has thrown in with this argument, given that Crave TV is owned solely by Bell. Maritimes cable provider Eastlink also carries Crave TV, but its name isn’t on the rebuttal.
That notwithstanding, it’s also curious that Rogers and Shaw haven’t yet officially responded to a similar complaint made by the consumer groups at the same time about their joint streaming venture Shomi.
It’s entirely possible and perhaps even likely they will follow Bell and Telus’s lead and request their complaint get tossed too. But what if the cable companies are thinking something different?
Rogers and Shaw have been clear in labelling Shomi a “beta” service, a status executives say it will shed within its first year. Everyone involved has also repeatedly said they would like to make the service available to as many Canadians as possible.
The Shomi website also allows non-Rogers and Shaw customers to sign up to be notified when the service becomes available to them.
Shomi executives could not be reached over the long weekend. Marni Shulman, head of content and programming, has previously noted there are several big-name streaming services in the United States, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
Netflix is already entrenched in Canada and it could be just a matter of time before the other two head north. Canadian companies therefore have a limited window within which to establish their brands. Selling to just their own limited batch of customers may not be the way to do that.
“Watching trends out of the U.S., we know consumers subscribe to more than one service,” Shulman says. “But I don’t think there will be room in Canada for too many more larger services like Shomi or Netflix.”
In light of all this, there are reasons to believe Rogers and Shaw may not follow the confrontational path of Bell and Telus. The cable companies may very well respond to the consumer groups’ complaint by voluntarily throwing the doors open on Shomi, perhaps sooner than they planned.
In that event, Netflix would finally have a full, Canadian-owned competitor. That would be good for content creators and consumers alike.
The speed with which Bell lodged its reverse complaint with the CRTC is a good indication that the company has no interest in making Crave TV available to non-television subscribers.
But if Rogers and Shaw head in the opposite direction, the Vegas odds are pretty good on that changing quickly.