TV subscribers cutting chord at accelerating rate, report says

TV subscribers cutting chord at accelerating rate, report says

Chris Wakelin says Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos should be the employee of the year at Rogers Communications Inc.

Wakelin said the recent success of the Blue Jays, who are vying with the New York Yankees for a division title, is the only thing keeping him a cable TV subscriber.

“If the Blue Jays weren’t doing as well as they were and I didn’t want to watch them every night, I’d probably cut the cord,” he said.

Rogers co-owns the Blue Jays, and it offers many of their games on its cable-only Sportsnet channels.

Wakelin gets his baseball fix through a cable package that he says costs him around $100 a month in a bundle with his cellphone and Internet services.

“I don’t really watch live television anymore,” he said. “To me, it’s just not worth $1,200 a year.”

Wakelin isn’t the only one fed up with his TV bills.

According to a report from Ottawa research firm Boon Dog Professional Services Inc., Canadians are cutting the cord at an accelerating rate.

Canadian TV providers lost 113,000 subscribers in the first half of their fiscal years, compared with a loss of 19,200 in the same period in 2014.

Mario Mota, author of the report, said the numbers were still small relative to the 11.8 million TV subscribers across the country.

But he added that the trend is expected to continue as more consumers become aware of the options available to them through so-called over-the-top services, such as Netflix.

“It’s still small in the grand scheme of things, but there seems to be more and more momentum,” he said.

Rogers, Shaw and BCE has fought back against the cord cutters, rolling out their own Internet-based on-demand streaming services that are also available to TV customers.

But Wakelin said accessing shomi, a partnership between Rogers and Shaw, is needlessly difficult on his cable box and far more finicky than using Netflix on his Sony Playstation.

He said cutting the cord is becoming easier as consumer technology companies like Sony bring out new products and online video alternatives continually update their wares.

“There’s so many different options now that are far superior to what the cable companies are offering,” he said. “Using buttons to slowly navigate through ancient menus is a lot more difficult than using my iPhone.”

Apple itself has gotten into the TV game, adding voice control and an app store to its latest Apple TV set-top box that launched on Wednesday.

A long-rumoured streaming service similar to the company’s music offering was nowhere to be found, yet Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company would open up its platform to streaming apps and new sources, such as Disney and Yahoo, adding thousands of hours of content to the device.

Broadcasting analyst Gerry Wall said the Apple TV launch shows that cord-cutters now have many different ways to get a whole new crop of TV shows, movies and videos, including originals from places like Yahoo and Netflix.

“The development of quality content has really exploded. It’s incredible what we’ve seen in the past five years,” he said.

In March, the CRTC changed the rules so that TV providers will have to give their customers more flexibility in choosing the channels they want rather than the bundles offered now.

The so-called pick-and-pay system will come into effect in March 2016.

Wall said that giving customers more choice might help stem the tide of subscriber losses in the short term but won’t change the fundamental shifts in the market brought about by on-demand services like Netflix.

“The new channel packages won’t work for everybody, and there’s lots of other ways to deliver,” he said.