Monday, February 15, 2010

Canadian Video Providers Test Partial "A La Carte" Buying of Video Channels

In an important test of market demand, Canadian cable and telco multi-channel video providers are beginning to test market demand for more-flexible ways of selling cable channels. It isn't a full-blown switch to à la carte television, but will provide an important test of how well consumers like the ability to buy service in ways that might offer more targeted buying of channels they actually watch.

Bell Canada now is offering a more-granular approach to buying multi-channel TV service. The service is being introduced in Bell Canada's Quebec service territory.

The company says it will allow television customers to subscribe to individual channels, rather than the standard bundles that have been the mainstay of the multi-channel video business.

Customers must first take a basic $25 package that includes standard channels such as Global, CTV, CityTV and CBC, and can then choose 15 channels for $15, 20 for $19 or 30 for $22. Bell is also offering individual channels for $2 each.

"TV just got better for subscribers in Quebec, who now have the ultimate control and flexibility to get the channels they want," says Kevin Crull, Bell's president of residential services.

Vidéotron already offers similar options, with basic service and 15 extra channels starting at $37 a month.

Quebec has been one of the most competitive regions for telecommunications, with some of the lowest prices in the country, says the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Bell Canada apparently is not offering à la carte channels in Ontario, its other main television territory.

Rogers, Bell's chief TV rival in Ontario, does offer individual channels on top of basic service at a typical cost of $2.79 each. Basic television services in Ontario from both Bell and Rogers start at around $35 and $30, respectively.

So far, no U.S. provider has taken this route, but consumer demand will be watched closely for any signs the practice might be useful in the U.S. market as a way of providing service differentiation.

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