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Canada may impose a la carte on pay TV providers

Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:11pm
Brian Santo

The Canadian government plans to introduce legislation that will force the country’s multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) to offer television channels on an a la carte basis.

Canadian Industry Minister James Moore in a television appearance said, "We don't think it's right for Canadians to have to pay for bundled television channels that they don't watch. We want to unbundle television channels and allow Canadians to pick and pay the specific television channels that they want."

More than two years ago, Shaw Communications was one of the first major MVPDs in North America to offer a modified a la carte offering a modest amount of choice. Subscribers got a basic bundle of channels, which they could supplement with packages of additional channels based on interest (children’s programming, nature, history), with the ability to pick and choose from among several options in each category. Other Canadian MVPDs followed with various limited-choice plans.

That doesn’t go far enough. Moore, a member of Canada’s conservative government, said “"It's not a command economy, we're not going to put in place onerous regulations. We're a government of deregulation. But from time to time, we think that the best interest of consumers need to be enforced in the marketplace."

Sen. John McCain has offered similar proposals that would cover the U.S. market, but his bill did not gain enough traction to be considered.

It has sparked interest, however, and has inspired several analyses of what such a maneuver might mean for the television market. Some studies have concluded that in an a la carte system, subscribers would end up paying more for each channel they purchase. They might pay less for fewer channels, and reduce their pay-TV bills that way, but anyone wanting to duplicate the full channel line-up they get today would likely end up paying significantly more.

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