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Netflix should face same rules as Canadian broadcasters: Astral Add to ...



Specialty media company Astral Media says foreign Internet competitors like Netflix should be subject to the same rules as Canadian broadcast providers.

In a speech Monday, Astral chief executive Ian Greenberg called it “unfair competition.”

Astral and most other Canadian broadcasters, have pressed the federal broadcast regulator for stiffer rules on Netflix operations in Canada so all movie providers face a level playing field – no matter whether they broadcast over the airwaves, on cable or via the Internet.

“The reality that currently exists with foreign Internet broadcasting competitors who reap the benefits and revenues of doing business in this country, yet are not subject to the same rules of engagement as Canadian companies,” Mr. Greenberg said in prepared remarks distributed before a business luncheon speech Monday.

The CRTC and the government need to ensure there is a level playing field for all, he said.

Astral has long-term deals in place with most U.S. movie studios, giving it exclusive content to help counter competition from Internet movie provider Netflix.

Astral also has lengthy deals with U.S. cable channels HBO and Showtime for exclusive programming to broadcast on its pay TV services such as The Movie Network.

Netflix is competing for licensing rights with TV networks and pay TV services for content. It had 23.6 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada at the end of March, double the amount from the same period two years ago.

Astral is part of a 40-member group from the telecommunications, broadcasting, cable and satellite and production sectors, along with unions, that has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to initiate public consultations on the matter.

In its recent financial results, Astral has said its third-quarter net income increased as advertising grew in both its television and billboard operations.

The company’s profits rose slightly to $49.3-million, or 87 cents per diluted share, from $48.5-million, or 85 cents per share a year ago. Revenue lifted to $268-million from $253.6-million.

Astral said its television advertising revenue grew 11 per cent in the quarter.

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