It's been a bumpy first six months for Canada's new pay-television service, Super Channel, and the company is blaming cable and satellite distributors for its troubles.
At federal hearings examining rule changes for the broadcasting industry, executives with Super Channel said yesterday that they have struggled to get their channels picked up by several distributors.
Even though Super Channel was granted "must-carry" status by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in 2006, distributors have been able to shut out the service in some regions, its owners said.
Cable and satellite companies have said they lack sufficient capacity to carry some or all of the six channels offered in Super Channel's package. This has caused a revenue shortfall of roughly $12-million this year for the privately held, Edmonton-based service.
"Close to six months after launch, despite having a national licence which states 'must carry,' we are still not available to almost 50 per cent of potential customers across Canada," Chuck Allard, chairman of Super Channel's parent, Allarco Entertainment Inc., told the CRTC.
Mr. Allard said the regulator must enforce its rules for distributors, which are the gatekeepers to Canadian homes.
Super Channel was launched last fall with four standard-definition movie channels and two high-definition channels.
The Bell ExpressVu satellite service was the only major distributor that agreed to carry all of Super Channel's offerings from the outset. Other distributors said a shortage of channel capacity prevented them from picking up all six channels, but Allarco said some have simultaneously launched other high-definition channels.
Smaller distributors such as Telus, MTS and Vidéotron Ltée have so far balked at picking up the full service, while Rogers Communications Inc. offers only the four standard-definition channels.
Rogers said yesterday that it will offer the two HD channels once it introduces switch-digital technology that opens up more space.
It has also taken six months for Allarco to reach a carriage agreement with Shaw Communications, the dominant cable supplier in Western Canada and owner of the StarChoice Satellite service. Super Channel will be launched on Shaw and StarChoice in May.
Super Channel did not say how many subscribers it has amassed, but called the revenue shortfall disappointing.