Netflix starts to see competition for its throne in Canada
Around this time last year, you might have seen the massive marketing campaign for Crave by Bell Media, covering all of Toronto’s Union Station with posters and promising HBO exclusives for Canada, such as early viewings of the eighth season of Game of Thrones.
Streaming has become the frontier of entertainment. It’s especially apparent when you walk around Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre and find no shortage of students watching Netflix shows in-between classes, perusing Twitch streams or browsing YouTube. Streaming has become a part of our daily lives and contemporary culture. With the release of Disney+, it’s now clearer than ever how deep streaming has taken root.
Media streaming has been largely dominated by Netflix over the past decade, but that’s beginning to change in Canada. In June 2019, Bell’s press release said that Crave had reached more than 2.7 million users across Canada, while Netflix was estimated to have around six million subscribers in Canada. In a previous press release, Bell said that Crave had become profitable in 2018, signalling its rise in Canadian relevance and its ability to compete for Canadian viewers against American behemoths like Netflix.
Services like Disney+ and HBO Max show how digital media has gone all-in on streaming. While Disney+ is available in Canada, HBO Max, which is set to be released in May 2020, won’t be. That’s because HBO recently inked a deal with Crave, allowing Bell to exclusively distribute HBO programming in Canada, making Crave one of the only legal destinations where Canadians can catch the next season of Westworld and beyond.
Bell isn’t the only one dipping its toes into streaming. The CBC recently dropped its agreement with Netflix to produce shows together for Canadian audiences, citing a need to “maximize Canadian creators’ health and well-being in the (Canadian) market.”
“Thinking about the long-term health of our industry, and of Canadian culture, we want to make sure that while digital companies prosper, we are also supporting the growth of our own domestic cultural industry,” says Kerry Kelly, CBC’s senior manager of public affairs, in an email to the Ryersonian. “Having said that, the CBC is not closing the door on working with Netflix.”
So how important is it that Canadians use services like CBC Gem and Crave over those like Netflix? “Anyone who watches Netflix or uses iTunes knows that today we live in a global market,” says CBC’s online vision statement. “If Canadian culture is going to be strong, it needs to be part of the global market from which Canadians now consume more content.”
Crave, a subscription-based service, is offered at a base price of $9.99 a month, similar to Netflix Canada. Tacking on an additional $9.99 per month gives access to movies and HBO content, including ongoing seasons. Crave remains the only platform in Canada where you can access HBO programs legally, since HBO’s streaming platforms are not available in Canada.
CBC Gem offers CBC programming and television programs free of charge, with advertisements. Unpaid members can access CBC TV live streams, while CBC Gem’s premium members can watch programming ad-free, as well as CBC News’ 24-7 livestream, for $4.99 a month.