On March 1st 2016 the CRTC has mandated that Canadian Cable and Satellite companies must provide Canadian consumers with a “basic” TV package for $25.00 and package or single channel choices for rest of channels. The basic package must include channels on the CRTC’s mandatory distribution list including CBC, CTV and Global and aboriginal and minority English or French language channels. In addition a group of U.S. channels (could) be included, usually CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and non-commercial channel PBS. The rumour is that many of the channels in this package will be mostly Canadian public affairs channels.
For no other reason other than the fact that I am a current Rogers subscriber I will use them here as an example. Rogers current “Basic” package is $40.48/month for 225 Channels. Of these I watch about 15; the major U.S. Networks, PBS, the major Canadian Networks and a couple of others like CHCH and YES. In addition Rogers charges me an additional $2.99/month for Digital service, even though there are no analog service options, and another $7.49/month for an additional outlet.
While packages have not been announced the assumption is that the Canadian providers will skinny down this basic service to the letter of the law forcing most Canadians to add some packages or bundles that will get them back close to their original monthly cost.
What are the options?
All throughout the world there is a movement called “cord cutters” to reduce and ultimately eliminate the need, and therefor the payments, to cable and satellite companies for TV services. This has been spawned by two factors; one is that almost every household now has internet access, a service that at an average cost of $42.95 per household, and two, the fact that virtually every US TV network also offers online streaming or downloading of their shows to ones computer, media boxes or Smart TV’s. For example CBS All Access in the U.S. $5.99/month. While CBS is a legitimate network in Canada, through the aforementioned providers, there s no option for a Canadian to subscribe to this network, or the other U.S. networks streaming services in Canada. Live streaming of Canadian TV networks in Canada is possible but at best remains a challenge.
The U.S. is the clear-cut leaders in the amount of players and options available to cut the cord. ROKU (U.S. ROKU owners have access to more than 1,800 channels, in Canada there are only a dozen or so available), Amazon Fire TV (Not available in Canada), Apple TV (US content blocked limited Canadian content) HULU Plus,(Blocked) Sling TV (Blocked). Canada, surprise, lags well behind the US and UK.
One of the most popular services is Netflix. This is available in both the U.S. and Canada at $9.99 for Standard Subscription however the Canadian subscription has 2,619 less shows that the U.S. subscription as of January 6, 2016. To compete with Netflix Bell has recently launched CraveTV (available only to TV customers of Bell and a number of other telecom partners) and Rogers and Shaw have launched Shomi (available to anyone in Canada). Both priced at $8.99/mth with limited device support; TV if you have their box, Computer to TV with AppleTV or Chromecast, Xbox. No Apps for any of the popular streaming boxes.
OTA – Over The Air TV
Most U.S. and many Canadian TV networks broadcast their local signals over the air and can, depending on your location, be received via an indoor or outdoor HD antenna. Want to know what signals you can get at your home? Go to the following website and type in your address. http://www.tvfool.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29 . Those within 25 miles or so of a U.S. border are best served. If you can get a reasonable amount of channels you may then want to take a look at purchasing a TABLO box www.tablo.com. When coupled with a USB hard drive TABLO will let you record OTA broadcasts just like a cable PVR for viewing later over Wi-Fi so you can watch on multiple devices.
As you can clearly see if you lived in the U.S. you would have way more cord cutting options than being in Canada. Surprize! The challenge, make the Internet think that you are in the U.S., or anywhere else that you want to watch shows from. The solution is a VPN service. A VPN service changes your IP address on your router, computer, streaming box or Smart TV so it looks like it’s located in another country thereby unlocking the ability to watch programs from that country. Does it work? Well it sure annoys Bell Medias new president Mary Ann Turcke who says “Watching U.S. Netflix in Canada by using location-hiding services such as VPNs is stealing and needs to be more frowned upon”.
There are a couple of VPN options available; you can use your computer to connect to the internet through a free or paid VPN service and then watch shows on your computer or optionally on your TV if you have an Apple TV or Chromecast device. The second option is to install a VPN service directly on your router and have all computers, media players and Smart TV’s connect to the internet through this router. This is a more expensive option – $50.00 – $100.00 annual subscription, but opens up all devices. The one downside is that the router is “locked” with a VPN address so if you then want to watch shows in say the U.K. you would have to change the routers VPN address or use your computer VPN for these occasions.
Additional options are installing Plex or KODI on your computer or media boxes. By doing so you can open up the internet options by not only viewing TV shows but also opening access to movies and more. A popular emerging App that can be installed on multiple devices is Channel PEAR that permits you to preload Network and other streams, shows and movies on your computer and streaming devices.
So lets see what happens March 1st with the Canadian TV providers then you make some educated decisions.