(Adds company comment)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Consumer advocacy groups want recently launched streaming services from some of Canada’s biggest telecom and cable companies made available to all, telling the industry’s regulator on Friday that making the purchase of one service dependent on purchase of another likely breaks the rules.
The services - a joint venture called Shomi from Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications, and BCE’s CraveTV - aim to limit the threat posed by online rivals such as Netflix.
But while Netflix is a cheap, stand-alone service, CraveTV is available only to existing pay-TV subscribers with BCE or distributors with which it has reached an agreement. Shomi is currently available only to its parent companies’ Internet or TV customers.
“The tied selling of streaming services, designed to favor legacy business models and to discriminate against customers who wish to only view programming through an internet service provider of their choice, is something PIAC-CAC believe cannot be supported in the current rules, nor by Canada’s broadcasting policy objectives”, said Geoffrey White, counsel to PIAC-CAC.
PIAC-CAC is the collective acronym of two consumer groups, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Consumers’ Associations of Canada, who filed the applications to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
BCE’s Bell Media said its CraveTV service has been made available to all Canadian distributors, “with five on board already and four more to launch next week,” spokesman Scott Henderson said in an email.
Shaw and Rogers separately sent similar responses to Reuters’ requests for comment - that they are testing the service with their own customers while evaluating other distribution models and talking to other broadcast distributors about carrying it.
The CRTC last week ruled that wireless companies could not choose to make some content available to mobile viewers without it counting against their monthly data limits, seen as a nod to the broad principle of net neutrality.
That ruling also involved BCE, whose Bell Mobility unit said it has 1.5 million subscribers to its mobile TV service.
The companies have not publicly disclosed how many people have signed up for their streaming services, which both launched late last year. (Editing by Gunna Dickson)