I recently went online to buy one of my favorite television series “La Femme Nikita“, Season 5 (circa 2001). With it not being streamable on Netflix, I looked to Amazon and iTunes. Unfortunately due to “regional issues”, I was literally unable to buy a copy to download and watch.

Imagine my shock, sitting in front of my laptop with my credit card in hand.  Amazon, Future Shop and eBay were quite happy to take my money, but in exchange for a physical version on DVD to be shipped.  Is it me or is this business model just asking for people to illegally download content?

I, like all Canadians, love to be entertained. The average Canuck adult watches 30 hours of television a week, according to BBM Canada.  We have a growing fondness for Netflix specifically. Since 2012, over 15 per cent of us subscribed to Netflix, doubling down from 2011, according to CBC/Radio-Canada’s Media Technology Monitor.

Yet with the ridiculous amount of TV available streaming online in Canada in general, it begs the question of how people are managing to watch their favorites?  There’s obvious confusion around the who, what and when of online TV, with The Office streaming on Global TV, The Big Bang Theory streaming on CTV, and Dragon’s Den on CBC. It can get a little hard to keep track of it all.

As one of the $7.99 USD per month Netflix subscribers, I’m all too well aware of the skeleton version of the site I’m seeing compared to my US friends.  Since April 2013, Netflix Canada had 3,113 movies and television shows compared to Netflix USA’s 11,182.  Netflix has openly touted that “Canada will get comparable quality service to the U.S,” like in this Huffington Post article. Unfortunately we’re already rounding out quarter two of 2013 and those promises were for 2012.

Sure, there are plenty of options and means to watch programs; from cable, satellite to online streaming television networks. But, is all the effort of managing content on the consumers part really necessary?  The business model of providing media in one place and making people pay for it works, undeniably. Back in the day of video rental stores, that was the only show in town.

But the Internet has changed how we consume media. Yet there continues to be a gaping hole where the Blockbusters used to be.  And with it comes a new war between licencing rights and regions.

When content is created in one region, it belongs to the companies within that region. Unfortunately for Canadians, most content is not made in Canada and certainly not created by Canadian companies. Canada’s own television and media regulatory body admits the landscape in new media is changing quickly, with Netflix posting a significant impact, as shown in this 2011 CRTC report.

As a business, media licensing is not cheap. Netflix USA literally shells out millions for the rights to television shows and movies. One measly episode of Hemlock Grove costs around $4 million to hold exclusive rights, according to figures by CAA TV.  NBC Sports recently penned a deal to acquire the domestic rights to England’s Barclay Premier League, costing over $250 million for three seasons, according to Bleacherreport.com.  That’s some serious cash, but it’s something companies will continue to do because there’s an audience for it.

Netflix Canada may eventually play catch up to appease Canadian audiences.  But what’s to say someone else can’t beat them to it?

Certainly Bell Media and Rogers Communications are the front runners for coming up with an idea that could work in Canada. Of anyone, they have the capital, not to mention the technology like Rogers On Demand Online.  Bell’s service is already delivered via their website, although it doesn’t compare to the Netflix user experience.  But they also face an equally as big conundrum about end-user pricing.  I have a inkling that it’s difficult to convince your shareholders to jump ship on a tiered pricing stricture for a monthly user fee that’s already below your cheapest offering (Rogers Digital TV‘s $40 per month versus Netflix‘s $7.86).

So what does that leave us with? An unanswered demand and opportunity for Canadians.

Sure, traditional licencing deals aren’t a small feat for any company, let alone a small to medium Canadian company to fathom, however, who wants to be traditional anyways? Maybe it’s time we change the landscape of licencing and online media in Canada.

If anyone can master healthy ‘co-opetition’, it’s Canada. What say you local startups?

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  • abitbent

    The oligopoly in Canada will never let it happen. Rogers and Bell constantly lobby against any new startups with huge dollars and the CRTC in their back pocket.

    As long as there’s no competition in this county, Canadians will get what Rogers and Bell decide we get, and for what price.

    • Seeing as Canadians don’t mind paying the same price for 1/10 the amount of usa content netflix would be fools to pay to add more content, just like the Leafs, they sellout regardless of how many games they win. I wonder if this only happens in Canada?

      • dave777

        Just shows how desperate we are for an economical movie content service that chanels more than one movie a month. Canceling Movie Channel tomorrow and starting Netfix.

    • I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Startups these days have the opportunity to work within government funded programs like MaRS, Spark and ventureLAB. That means access to government and Fortune 500 contacts and funding.

      I believe that with the right idea, ability and connections within the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE), startups in Canada have a fighting chance.

      • Michael Scott

        Sure, they have the opportunity to work within government programs…….AS LONG AS they don’t rock the lobbyists boats, is what abitbent is saying…..and I agree with him 200%

        • Issac2020

          Even if you are right, what are you doing about it?

          “He who allows oppression, shares the crime.” Erasmus Darwin

      • dave777

        Following this industry I know of several preditory practices Canadian cartel media pull that if done in the US the antitrust people would hammer down on Rogers, Shaw, Bell and Telus racketeering.

  • Dezi

    one of the reasons piracy is so widespread, people want convenience, make it hard to buy and they look for easy alternatives …

    • Amen Dezi!

    • dave777

      Also add quality content the user wants. Not the content government or others decide for programming us.

  • Ted

    Not sure what the point of the article is. On the one hand you illustrate the lack of content available on Netflix Canada as compared to US. Then briefly discuss licensing fees using a sports example from US. Then compare to Cable as the only other option, stating that Netflix is so much cheaper than Cable.
    Unfortunately Canada is a small market so content moves slower into international markets, just a fact and will always exist. Licensing too is tied into size of market vs. cost, hence same issue and delays. The older the content the price drops and eventually comes to Canada. And as far as comparing Netflix to Cable, you forget to factor in the cost of internet so a little bit misleading to just say $7.86 as opposed to $40. Not quite the gap you present if any.
    There are other options like you mention piracy, but fail to look at unblocking services that give you a US DNS and access to the entire Netflix library for about $5 more a month.
    Technology is always developing and so is the entertainment industry. Unfortunately we rely on the US for a bulk of the content so as things continue to globalize it will eventually close the gap. Maybe not as fast as we would like in Canada, but will eventually.

  • brente

    Use Firefox and a media plugin and the us netflix is yours.Oh and the US tel feeds.

  • dave777

    And you can blame government CRTC cartel for this. Lining peoples pockets to rip us off. Protectionism costs us too much.