OTTAWA – The head of Canada’s broadcast regulator blasted Rogers and Shaw for shutting down its video streaming service, Shomi — a platform he sees as the future of content.
It was a “shock” to hear the companies were throwing in the towel on the platform so soon after it launched, said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais in prepared remarks for a speech in Ottawa on Wednesday at the annual conference of the Canadian chapter of the International Institute of Communications.
“I have to wonder if they are too used to receiving rents from subscribers every month in a protected ecosystem, rather than rolling up their sleeves in order to build a business without regulatory intervention and protection,” he said in his prepared remarks.
Blais said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has been watching the development of streaming services, like Shomi and CraveTV, with some interest since they entered the market.
He called such services “the future of content” in his prepared remarks.
Rogers and Shaw launched Shomi in November 2014. The streaming service had neared 900,000 customers before the decision to eliminate it at the end of this month was announced in late September.
Meanwhile, Bell Media, which launched its platform CraveTV in December 2014, said earlier this month that the service hit one million subscribers.
Rogers declined to comment on the remarks made by Blais, while Shaw did not respond to a request for comment.
But the two companies were not the only targets of the CRTC chair’s critique.
During the speech, Blais also called out some large telecommunications companies for grumbling about the CRTC’s decision that they must provide their competitors wholesale access to their networks.
Blais invited the incumbents to look abroad to places like Australia and the United Kingdom where, he said, consumer pressure and government policy has either resulted in or is contemplating creating structural separation, which requires broadband providers to separate their wholesale and retail operations.
“If the winds of change blow too hard and they refuse to bend in the wind, the tree may break at the trunk rather than lose a few leaves,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.
Blais also slammed creators for being too narrow-minded in scope and missing out on selling Canada’s cultural products to the world.
“They must shift their resources to productions that tell fabulous stories to the world about Canada, rather than to programs that just tell Canadian stories to Canadians,” his remarks read. “They’re thinking provincial when they should be thinking international.”
Blais also took aim at the news media, which he said isn’t always helping the situation by focusing too much on criticizing the CRTC’s shift from protection to promotion. Protection was focus for the regulator a decade ago, he said, before broadband changed the game.
His speech comes as the end of his five-year term wraps up on June 17 next year.
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