TORONTO (Reuters) - Rogers Communications Inc, one of Canada’s biggest cable companies, said on Monday the entire industry must be willing to offer viewers more choice when selling television packages even if that means some channels ultimately fail.
The Toronto-based company, whose television service is centered in Ontario but also serves the Atlantic provinces, said it believes most Canadians want bulk packages but those that don’t have a hearty TV appetite shouldn’t have to upsize their order.
The comments come after Canada’s Conservative government pledged last month to push cable and satellite television providers to offer more flexibility. The move was part of a broader pro-consumer push aimed at regaining voter support ahead of a federal election in 2015.
The industry has warned that scrapping the current model of ‘all-you-can-eat’ fare risks pushing prices up for everyone.
In order to offer smaller packages, Rogers and other distributors must reach fresh deals with content owners that allow for flexibility, Rogers’ Chief Marketing Officer John Boynton said.
He warned that if channel owners charge too much, they risk driving more customers to online alternatives.
“The economics don’t work if everybody doesn’t move together,” Boynton said in an interview. “We have been pushing very hard to include packaging flexibility.”
If channels fail without the protection of being bundled with more popular channels, Boynton said they don’t deserve to survive.
Rogers is itself a content owner, running radio stations, Citytv and Sportsnet channels. It also owns the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and has a major stake in the company that owns Toronto’s professional hockey and basketball teams.
Boynton said Rogers’ polling and a market trial of the model known as ‘a la carte’ or ‘pick-and-pay’ programming showed it has a more niche audience than many in the industry suggest. But he said catering to these viewers would also help slow a decline in pay TV customers across the industry.
Canadian distributors already offer more flexible programming than in the United States, particularly in Quebec, where French-language producers have accepted the model more willingly than the large U.S. media companies with whom English-speaking Canada must deal.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson