Late last week, Canada’s broadcast standards watchdog, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, overturned restrictions preventing Canadian cablecasters from owning specialty analog channels. CRTC regulations had previously forced many cablecasters to sell their interests in specialty channels, and prevented them from staking a claim in the rapidly expanding Canadian specialty market, in order to stave off market monopolization.
The decision was spurred by cablecaster complaints that the playing field was biased against them, citing as the prime example telecommunications giant Bell Canada’s ownership of satellite provider Bell ExpressVu, CTV, as well as a number of specialty channels. The CRTC ruled that what was fair for Bell was fair for cable broadcasters, opening the doors for what many Canuck industry experts believe will be rapid market consolidation.
Among the possible repercussions is the resolution to a feud between cable operator Rogers Media and the CTV Television network over ownership of Sportsnet, one of two national sports channels. Rogers had purchased a controlling stake in Sportsnet, but thanks to the ownership ban the deal had been in limbo, keeping both sports channels in CTV’s hands.