Why the CRTC's $25 'skinny basic' package may not work

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:15 PM ET

So Canadians will have “affordable access” to a bunch of network and educational and government TV channels they have shown less and less interest in watching anyway.

What a breakthrough! (That was sarcasm, in case you missed it.)

That was my first reaction when news came from the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) on Thursday that by the end of 2016, cable and satellite providers will be forced to offer a “skinny basic” package costing no more than $25 per month.

“Skinny basic” for $25 a month? Doesn't that sound like something a weight-loss company would offer?

Anyway, beyond that, cable and satellite providers will be required to offer some form of “pick and pay” component, which theoretically will allow viewers to pay only for the channels they want.

And that won't be such a smorgasbord of choice as it is now, as these new rules surely will mean the disappearance of some channels. Some we will miss. Others, well, boo-hoo (again, sarcasm).

I understand what the CRTC is trying to do. After many years of being accused of not really listening to consumers, it now appears the CRTC is listening ONLY to consumers, and the pissed-off ones at that. "Bundling" has become a four-letter word.

It's as if the CRTC is saying, “Our primary goal is not necessarily to keep Bell and Rogers and Shaw in business, but rather, to get consumers to quit bitching at us.”

But these rulings – coming on top of the CRTC decisions last week about changes to Canadian content rules – have a definite feel of opening the barn door a crack when all the cows already have sneaked out the window.

On a personal level, here's the truth: Of the people I know right now who don't have cable or satellite TV packages, absolutely none of them – none – are going to be enticed by a $25 "skinny basic" package.

You know what they're used to paying? Zero dollars a month. Or at most, eight bucks a month for Netflix.

They don't consume TV the way I do. I want to talk to someone about the episode of Better Call Saul that aired this week. But they're still in the third season of Breaking Bad, and quite happily so, you know what I mean?

Far more likely is that some people who currently have cable or satellite packages will see this as an opportunity to “downsize.” You know, like the couple whose kids have grown up and moved out, and the parents decide they don't need the bungalow with the big yard any more. Too hard to mow the lawn and pay the bills.

So that will just be a straight monetary loss to the providers, which could result in lost jobs and/or an attempt to make up that downfall in other ways.

Certainly, the cost for premium content could go up as a result of all this. Those channels already are super expensive. And they're in packages now. I can't imagine the cost per channel goes down at all if you can “pick and pay." Quite the opposite.

Premium channels will be available either individually, or in small “reasonably priced” packages. In the full understanding, of course, that “reasonably priced” means different things to different people.

But if you want “skinny basic,” you'll get all local and regional stations, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), education and community channels and provincial legislature networks. Woo-hoo.

Distributors can add national over-the-air stations like CTV, City and Global, or U.S. networks ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS, as long as the price doesn't go above $25.

Why do I get the feeling that everyone over, say, 25 years old is in a tizzy over this, and anyone under 25 isn't even interested enough to yawn about it.

The Canadian TV landscape is changing, yes. This will have a massive impact on the business of TV. But the kids and the cord-cutters already have moved on.

I wasn't exactly a math genius in high school, but I'm pretty sure $25 a month is still $25 more than zero dollars a month.

Twitter: @billharris_tv