Today is the day that the CRTC says that all Canadian TV providers have to provide a $25 basic or “Skinny” TV bundle. Why? Because the options that are currently offered to consumers are expensive and force consumers to take channels that they don’t want to get the channels that they do want.
Now if you are wondering what different TV providers are offering, The Globe And Mail has done a great of putting together a list of what’s on the table from Canada’s TV providers. But it seems that one provider has caught the attention of some for being a bit shady when it comes to these “Skinny” TV bundles. That provider is Bell. The CBC has found that Bell is apparently telling staff to not discuss the $25 bundle:
The Bell training document states: “Do not promote the Starter TV package. There will be no advertising, and this package should only be discussed if the customer initiates the conversation.”
It also shows that costs for the Fibe TV “Starter” pack can go much higher than the initial $24.95 monthly fee. The plan comes with about 20 mandatory Canadian channels. Customers can then add individual pick-and-pay channels priced at either $4 or $7.
As with other packages, people will also have to shell out extra monthly fees for the TV receiver or box rental and high definition programming. In addition, according to the document, to get Fibe TV, customers must subscribe to a Bell internet package.
On top of that, according to another apparent Bell training document posted online, the company will not offer any deals to “Starter” customers.
The document said there will be no bundle discounts, no hardware or PVR deals, and “no TV sweetener offers” with the package.
Fibe is Bell’s high-speed fibre optic network. It also offers separate plans for satellite TV.
The Bell document obtained by CBC News lays out the pricing for the Fibe “Starter” with some add-ons.
Combined with ultra-high-speed internet, a couple of $7 pick-and-pay channels and the TV box rental, according to Bell’s own calculations, a customer would pay a total of $130.35.
That’s more than five times the initial price of the basic package.
Lovely. CBC reached out to Bell and the CRTC for clarification and this happened:
CBC News reached out to the CRTC and asked if Bell could require customers to buy Bell internet when signing up for the “Starter” basic pack, as indicated in the company document.
Soon after, we heard from a Bell employee who told us that “Starter TV no longer has to be linked with internet. [Bell] just backed off.” However, subsequent contact with a Bell representative on Sunday confirmed that customers getting the Fibe starter pack must also purchase Bell internet service.
CBC News asked the company for a response to this story. “Sorry I wouldn’t comment on anonymous claims or documents you are finding,” Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said in an email.
She also wouldn’t confirm any details about the “Starter” pack. “We wouldn’t pre-announce pricing,” she said. “It’s a competitive business.”
Michelis added: “We will follow all CRTC rules, we always do.”
I have to admit that this sounds shady. One wonders if similar discussions have happened on the boardrooms of other TV providers. After all, for most of them, TV is a huge cash cow for them and being forced to take less money from consumers would not be terribly appealing. Thus, I wonder how much traction these “Skinny” TV bundles are truly going to get.