Why Ottawa’s cable unbundling bid threatens more carriage disputes

Ahead of the government's throne speech late Wednesday, there were predictions of higher prices for consumers and more carriage disputes should pick-and-pay pricing be federally mandated.
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Could Ottawa’s bid to unbundle cable packages and force more attractive pick-and-pay pricing for consumers lead to more carriage disputes?

Rogers Media has hit a road block getting rival Bell to carry its FX Canada channel, which launched in October 2011 and is available through all other major Canadian carriers.

“We would very much like to deliver FX Canada’s world-class programming to Bell customers.  Bell is the only major BDU not carrying FX Canada,” Andrea Goldstein, senior director of communications at Rogers Media told Playback.

Bell spokesman Jason Laszlo declined comment on the stalled carriage talks, indicating the media group doesn’t talk about “channels we’re not offering to customers.”

As the federal government in its throne speech moves to introduce pick-and-pay channel pricing, carriers are expected to charge more for individual channels, or raise rates overall, to offset losses from lost subscriber and advertiser revenue from channels that consumers decline.

“Cable monopolies have become expert at fleecing consumers and, left to their own devices are almost certain to take this opportunity to raise their rates yet again.  Any government serious about consumer protection would regulate cable prices,” Friends of Canadian Broadcasting spokesperson Ian Morrison said Wednesday in a statement ahead of the throne speech.

A spokesman for Shaw Communications said the media group would not comment on Ottawa’s unbundling bid Wednesday.

Rogers Communications said it may have comment after the throne speech.

Elsewhere, Telus Corp. has taken U.S.-based AMC Entertainment to court in New York State for threatening to withhold the finale of the fourth season of The Walking Dead from its Canadian subscribers as both parties negotiate a new carriage agreement.

“When Telus did not immediately capitulate to AMC’s strong-arm tactics, AMC went a step further, threatening to unilaterally communicate to Telus’ subscribers that the service would soon be terminated,” Telus said an Oct. 11 lawsuit entitled is Telus Communications Company vs American Movie Classics IV Holding Corp and Hibernia Media Llc.

“If Telus does not agree to new contract terms by today, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, AMC claims that beginning this Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 during the season premiere of its most popular show, ‘The Walking Dead,’ AMC will broadcast a scrolling message, or ‘crawl,’ at the bottom of the television content feed seen by Telus’ subscribers, announcing an imminent service cancellation,” Telus added in its suit.