BCE Inc. is increasing the price its television subscribers pay for online video streaming service CraveTV, from $4 to $6 a month as of Feb. 1.
The company quietly announced the change for customers of Bell Canada and Bell Aliant, including it in a list on its websites detailing price increases to a number of services such as television, Internet and home telephone.
"Price adjustments support our continued investments in network, product and service enhancements," reads a note accompanying the list.
When Bell Media first announced the launch of its Netflix Inc. competitor CraveTV in December, 2014, it said at $4 per month, the all-you-can-watch service would cost "about as much as a latte." (While still in development, the company dubbed the initiative "Project Latte".)
After the price hike, CraveTV will still be less expensive than other content-streaming services available in Canada. Shomi – which is a joint venture of Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. and has been available to anyone who wanted to subscribe since August – costs $8.99 per month. The industry leader Netflix charges new users a range of monthly prices, from $7.99 for standard definition to $11.99, for ultra high-definition.
However, since launching a year ago, CraveTV has been available only to Bell's television customers or subscribers to TV service with certain distributors, such as Telus Corp.'s OptikTV, Eastlink and SaskTel.
After regulatory changes that encourage broader distribution, Bell said in July it will offer the service to anyone with an Internet connection beginning in January, 2016.
During a quarterly earnings call in August, BCE chief executive officer George Cope said CraveTV had 730,000 customers and that taking it "over the top" – making it available to people regardless of whether they have a television subscription or who provides their TV service – would expand its reach from 3.5 million to 11 million households.
Bell has not announced what it will charge for CraveTV as a standalone service. BCE spokesman Mark Langton said the $6 rate will apply to Bell television customers and other TV providers who currently distribute the service will make their own announcements if they plan to change the price as well.
Bell's broader overhaul of television, Internet and home phone prices comes as the maturing telecommunications industry is increasingly relying on rate hikes to maintain revenue growth amid network upgrades.
The television segment in particular is under pressure as cable and satellite operators report declining customer numbers and subscriber growth is slowing even for IPTV (Internet protocol television) offerings from telephone companies such as Telus and Bell.
Sweeping changes to television packaging are also about to take hold, with the first phase of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's "pick and pay" ruling set to come into force starting in March. By that time, distributors have to offer a "skinny" basic service priced at $25, with additional channels sold either à-la-carte – with a fee for each network – or in small, "reasonably priced" packages.
By December, 2016, every channel must be available both as a standalone choice and in a small bundle.