All across the world of services, industries are being transformed by catering specifically to what their users want. The “Uber for X” model, driven by the ubiquity of geolocation, aims to provide only the services that users need, at the minimum cost, with the maximum flexibility. The latest major Canadian industry to be shaken up by “a la carte” service models is the cable television provider. Long dominated by monolithic interests with the freedom to effectively dictate pricing, plan availability, and contract terms, this market has faced the same kinds of pressures that taxi firms have faced from the rise of ride-sharing.
Users simply don’t want to pay for entrenchment into contracts full of content they don’t care about, and they have access to easy, flexible, inexpensive alternatives (like Netflix and other streaming services) that undercut the big players. This trend has revolutionized other industries (music being the primary example) offering consumers a swath of subscription-based models at a range of price points. As the CRTC moves to mandate the availability and affordability of “a la carte” cable packages, it’s worth asking: should you switch?
It’s rare for a regulatory body to outright enforce the availability of more affordable packages and incentivization of customer choice. Under a March 1 deadline set by the CRTC, all Canadian TV providers must offer a “skinny basic” package of channels — priced $25 or less — and either a la carte channel selection or small bundles of channels. By December, these companies must offer all three options. However, more consumers are taking the leap and cutting their cords entirely – at a rate seven times faster in 2015 than in the preceding year.
Some consumers are calling the skinny cable idea simply a new coat of paint on the same old nickel and dime, however: Shaw tacks on $5 for equipment rental and Telus charges $15 for PVR or $5 for a digital receiver (and a $100 installation fee) — charges that are excluded from other packages. Independent research by Canadian consumers on online forums has shown that if your household watches more than 3 or 4 channels which fall outside the CRTC’s basics, then unfortunately, skinny TV probably isn’t going to save you much in the long run.
In truth, the skinny cable era appears to be a war of attrition between the CRTC and the corporate interests of major cable providers – it appears as though the trickle down effect of this change to the everyday consumer looking to save some money on their monthly bills is not likely to be a major one. In a CanCon TV landscape that looks increasingly bereft of compelling content when compared to the high profile and popular shows available through digital services, the biggest entertainment bang for one’s buck still seems to be generated online.
Are you following the cord-cutting trend, or switching to a svelte package from one of the big players? Are you saving money, or is skinny cable a smokescreen? Let us know!