On Friday, Bell bid $1.3-billion for CTV. If (or when) the telecom regulator and the Competition Bureau stamp their approval, as they are expected to, Bell will own CTV.
What does that mean for you? Four main things, but feel free to add more in the comments section or state that, in fact, none of these things will affect you.
First, if you recall the fiery fee-for-carriage (or value for signal) debate over the past year, you'll know that broadcasters like CTV and distribution companies like Bell don't always get along. That's to put it lightly. But now that is, essentially, a moot debate. Remember all those times CTV threatened to black out Desperate Housewives (you were trembling, I know you were)? Well, that's probably not going to happen now. Probably? Let me rephrase that: It won't.
Second, distributors like Bell (and Rogers and Quebecor and Shaw) have been buying up content producers for some time now. Heck, this isn't even the first time Bell bought CTV; the first was back in 2000, when it paid more for it in an era when convergence wasn't really technologically possible. They're doing this because content helps them differentiate their products, from their TV segments to their Internet service to their wireless smart phones. Well, at least they hope it does. Bell buying CTV means, likely, that if you are a Bell customer you can now expect to get a whole lot of CTV content more cheaply than you could if you were on a Rogers device (where you may get CITY-TV or Michael Eisner-created Vuguru content) or Quebecor (where you'll get French TVA Group content). You may even get exclusive TSN content on your iPhone or something. Who knows.
Third, many of us already get CTV programming online, for free. We either stream it off CTV's website and put up with ads, or we download it from someone who ripped it and threw it on YouTube or some Torrent site. Distributors don't like that because they don't get any real money from it. With CTV (to be) owned by Bell, and CanWest (to be) owned by Shaw, expect a lot more of that content to be locked up and available only to their own customers. On a slightly related note, this is why Bay Street analysts usually hate content-conduit convergence: The central conundrum of convergence is that as you make your distribution business more attractive with exclusivity, you make the content producer side of the business weaker because its content is not being distributed as widely, and advertising revenues are diminished.
Fourth, there may also be some reluctance to share CTV content as online innovators from south of the border emerge in Canada, like Netflix and Hulu. Since most of the other major broadcaster networks are owned by distributors, this is the same for CanWest and TVA and CITY-TV. Though, of course, a lot of this stuff is simply licensed American content, in which case you may still be able to get it.
Although, who am I kidding, if you're savvy enough you'll probably always be able to get free content. Long live the Internet!
(Fifth, as a sort of permanent disclosure, BCE's 15 per cent minority stake in The Globe and Mail, of which I am a dutiful employee, remains unchanged as a result of this deal.)