The Future of TV Isn’t Anytime Soon

There’s a rumour going around that HBO will be launching its new HBO Now with Apple as a partner, via the Apple TV. This is exactly what cord-cutters have been waiting for: access to premium content without a cable or satellite subscription. And it’s exactly what the cable companies have been dreading. But it’s not all roses for cord cutters, and it won’t be for a while.

I want to cut cable, but I watch HBO shows and live sports, and I often like to watch things when they’re on – like the Oscars, certain TV shows, and local news. Netflix, Crave, Showmi and all the other on-demand services don’t solve those problems. They’re great for legacy content, and original shows (especially Netflix), but they’re not enough for a lot of folks.

Sports and Why Watching the NFL in Canada is Garbage

There are still sports that are unavailable without cable – NFL Sunday Ticket is not available on Apple TV. And you cannot access it without a cable subscription, even though that is possible in the USA. With Eastlink, Sunday Ticket isn’t even available on its own – it is only available in a $33.95/month package that also includes NHL Centre Ice, NBA League Pass, and MLB Extra Innings. And of course that also requires you to be a cable customer, and it doesn’t allow you to watch anywhere except on a TV in your house that has a receiver. Caveat: Eastlink does now offer streaming to your tablet, but you have to be in your house on your WiFi network and it costs $6/month extra.

NFL GamePass is advertised thusly:

Users outside the USA can watch NFL games online, streaming in HD quality. Watch both live and post game recaps.

That sounds awesome! It’s exactly what I wanted. And it’s available on iOS devices. But wait… let’s read the FAQ. Oh my god. The blackouts in Canada are hilariously terrible:

All Sunday Night Football (including the NFL Kickoff game, which is played on the first Thursday of the regular season), Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football and live playoff games are not available in NFL Game Pass for live streaming, but these games will be available in the NFL Game Pass archives shortly following their broadcast (typically within 2 – 3 hours).

The live stream of NFL Network is not available within NFL Game Pass in Canada.

So… uh… no Sunday night games. No Thursday night games. No Monday night games. And no live playoffs. That leaves… Sunday afternoon games? Wow. Embarrassingly terrible, NFL.

NHL GameCentre Live is now controlled by Rogers, though non-Rogers customers are able to subscribe. Blackouts are still an issue, and they’re different across the country. In Nova Scotia it seems the only team affected this year is the Ottawa Senators.

And this is the problem in Canada – these services are modified for our country. We don’t have Centre Ice, we have GameCentre. We have Sunday Ticket, but it’s only available with cable. And with certain providers (ahem, Eastlink), it’s only available bundled with other sports services. We have GamePass, but it’s garbage. Live sports is a mess unless you pony up for a cable subscription, and even then there are many games that are only aired on the sports speciality stations.

HBO and Bell’s Bullshit

HBO Go is great, except that it is only bundled with TV service and Canada’s TMN. It also doesn’t have certain shows – those are either unavailable in Canada or only available on competing services like Crave. I pay for HBO/TMN through Eastlink. I have access to the HBO Go and TMN Go apps. But I cannot watch certain shows, like The Wire. But The Wire is on Crave. Crave costs extra – it’s a separate service. And here’s the best part: Bell owns both. You read that correctly. Crave is Bell’s own creation, and they own TMN and the rights to HBO and HBO Go in Canada. HOW IS THIS LEGAL?

It gets better: if you’re a Bell internet customer (because remember they are not only a content provider and content creator, they’re an internet and television service provider), you get Crave TV for free if you subscribe to TMN+HBO. But if you aren’t, if you’re like me and you have Eastlink for TV, you don’t get it for free. They’ll call it a “value add” for being a Bell subscriber – which would be fine if they weren’t also the gatekeepers of HBO content in Canada, splitting the content between their services!

To recap: I pay $19/month for TMN+HBO and the Go apps/sites. I would have to pay $4/month extra to enjoy other parts of the HBO catalogue. Bullshit.

Do you think in the USA HBO Go (or the new HBO Now) will only have certain HBO shows and the others will be held ransom behind the pay walls of a competing service owned by a third party? No. So why is HBO allowing this to happen in Canada? I guess money talks, but they’re pissing a lot of people off with their policies and Game of Thrones has been the most illegally downloaded show in the world three years in a row.

HBO and Bell are both treating their customers like garbage here, and I cannot believe the CRTC allows it.

The Future

It’s easy to envision a future where cable companies are a thing of the past, or at least a lesser player. A future where we can watch any content we want, wherever we want. Where I can buy HBO, NFL Sunday Ticket, AMC, Disney Jr., CBC, and Global all separately and not be stuck with a bunch of channels I don’t want. Where all of those channels automatically come with an on demand library of every episode of every show. A future where live events like the Oscars can be purchased separately, or streamed for free with ads (Why isn’t this a thing yet? If CTV is free over the air, why can’t we watch shows on our tablets for free without a subscription?).

Until then, we are stuck with purposely crippled services offered by monopolies who also control our access to the internet and TV. I thought HBO would be different, but so far they’re not.

Author: Matt

My name is Matt. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am an educator, a photographer, and a lover of all things technology. Check out the About page for more information.

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