Regulations and Volume Deals Holding Back Vertical Integration in Canada

Regulations and Volume Deals Holding Back Vertical Integration in Canada


Jack Thomas



The long-established status quo of the Canadian US TV Acquisition market may finally be challenged by US-owned SVOD services, which are finding ways to sidestep regulations in the market. While the recently passed C-11 bill may work to curb this activity, it will take time for the regulator, The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to devise how and what it will enforce. Show Tracker reveals that for now, Bell Media is the only local operator to be acquiring more US content than studios like Disney are for their SVOD services.

Source: 3Vision Show Tracker - First Season, First Window Premieres of 2022/23 Season US Shows in Canada as of April 2023

Bell Media has long maintained a strong lead in US acquisitions, but the gap between it and other services operating in Canada has decreased from a time just a few years ago where it would be expected for Bell Media services to premiere more US series than any other service owner combined. In addition to being a major telecom operator, Bell has a varied service portfolio including both Free and Pay TV channels as well as its SVOD Crave, hosting acquired Originals and catch-up for its Pay TV services.

Source: 3Vision Show Tracker - First Season, First Window Premieres of US Shows in Canada

Pay TV services continue to account for the majority of premieres of US series acquired by Bell Media, with a steady growth of series debuting exclusively on its SVOD platform Crave season-on-season, with the 2021/22 season seeing the biggest jump. The Free TV share of Bell Media premieres has fallen as a side effect of less commissions coming from network TV in the US, of which most are simulcast on Canadian Free TV channels as part of volume deals.

The CRTC has long denied market access to US networks in Canada. In part to prevent Canadians from simply tuning into reachable US signals, many historic volume deals have been set up to simulcast US series on Canadian-owned channels. These lucrative volume deals have extended to include Bell’s Crave SVOD, hosting series from Showtime, HBO, HBO Max and Starz.

Source: 3Vision Show Tracker - First Season, First Window Premieres of US shows debuting in 2021/22 season or later

However, these agreements are now set to be at risk. Already newer FX titles are now launching on Disney+ in Canada, rather than its traditional home on the Rogers-owned FX channel, which licences its branding from Disney alongside its shows. If Paramount were inclined they could end their Showtime deal with Bell in favour of vertically integrating these originals onto Paramount+ as the studio has in other markets. Corus’ Global TV airs all CBS-commissioned content from Paramount at the exact same time as it premieres in the US. A week after their linear debut these titles are made available on Paramount+ as well.

There are many areas of the industry that the recently passed C-11 bill is designed to cover. One aspect is the mandate of all SVOD services to provide some level of Canadian content, alongside increased investment into entities like the Canada Media Fund. The expansion of US studio-owned services in the country may be stalled if a larger investment is enforced in order for them to operate in the market down the line. Depending on the level of eventual enforcement by the CRTC, studios may either retreat from the market entirely, opting to sell into Canadian companies as before, or embrace the investment requirement and begin competing with the likes of Bell Both as a home for US series, but home-grown Canadian dramas and comedies too.

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