On Thursday, the CRTC released a new regulatory policy for TV providers. Here are answers to five frequently asked questions about the new rules and what they mean for consumers.
Q: Will my bill go down?
It depends on how many channels you need.
If you just want access to local news and the big prime-time shows that air on the major networks, then yes.
The CRTC has mandated that TV providers create a new entry-level or so-called “skinny basic” package that costs no more than $25 a month, before taxes and equipment rental fees. Today, most basic packages cost about $35 or more, although they typically include more channels than a skinny basic plan would offer.
Consumers will also have the option of adding one or more individual channels or theme packs to their skinny basic package, which could potentially create a cheaper monthly plan.
Q: What will be included in the skinny basic packages?
They must include all local and regional Canadian stations, provincial educational channels, community and legislative channels, and any others that the CRTC has regulated for mandatory distribution.
TV companies can — but are not required to — also include the main U.S. networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS.
Q: Can I subscribe to just HBO, or HGTV, or the Food Network?
Sorry, Game of Thrones fans, you cannot pay for just one channel. As a starting point, you must subscribe to a skinny basic plan or another package and then add channels a la carte.
Q: How much will adding channels cost?
It’s not clear yet, but some Canadian companies are already offering a la carte channel selection.
Telus customers in some parts of the country can add an individual non-premium channel to their package for $4 a month, or a theme pack of channels for $9. Getting access to HBO shows and movie channels costs $18 a month.
Eastlink offers some of its customers the ability to add a la carte channels for $2.95 a month, and the pricing gets cheaper if buying in bulk (pick 12 channels and they average out to $1.25 each or pick 20 and they’re $1 each). Theme packs are priced at $5 each and the HBO-tier is also $18 a month.
But the basic TV plans currently offered by Telus and Eastlink cost more than the $25 starting point mandated by the CRTC, so it’s unclear if those prices could change.
Q: When do the new rules take effect?
By next March, TV providers must start offering a skinny basic plan and the option of buying channels either a la carte OR “in small, reasonably priced packages.”
By December 2016, TV providers must offer a la carte pricing AND theme packages to add to a skinny basic plan.