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Report On Business Cord cutting? Cable firms see boost in subscribers, revenues

Television providers saw increases to their subscribers base and profits in 2012.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Canadians may be considering cutting their cords, but Canada's broadcast regulator said Canada's television providers added subscribers and posted bigger revenues in 2012.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said 8.7 million Canadians subscribed to basic cable or better last year, an increase of 2 per cent. Profits remained unchanged from the year before, at $2.6-billion.

Satellite companies fared worse, losing 1.8 per cent of subscribers to 2.8 million, although many of the country's satellite companies have moved their customers to IPTV offerings which count as new cable subscribers.

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The combined revenues for these companies increased by 4.2 per cent to $14.1-billion from $13.5-billion in 2011.

Over all, the country's television providers added 117,450 new subscribers in 2012 to bring the total to 11.5 million from 11.4 million in 2011.

While there's been a lot of attention on the phenomenon of cord cutting – viewers cutting their subscriptions to rely on digital alternatives – that has yet to translate into meaningful losses at the country's television distributors.

However, a report last week from Convergence Consulting Group suggested that while the number of Canadians subscribing to television packages continues to grow, the pace of growth has slowed considerably. In a usual year the Canadian market adds about 250,000 new subscribers, but only added about 52,000 last year.

It attributed the slower growth to cord cutting, and said that services such as Netflix are starting to slowly erode the subscription base for traditional television providers. It said that erosion is likely to intensify in coming years, but the pace could be moderated by Internet usage caps and a relative lack of legal content online.

The CRTC's broadcast year ends in August, and its cable data includes IPTV television services offered by telephone companies.

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