A pair of rulings from Canada's telecommunications regulator paves the way for "a la carte" TV services that would allow consumers to purchase only the channels they want, instead of buying specialty bundles from their cable or satellite operators.
The news will likely be welcome to many consumers who complain they are forced to pay for TV channels they don't want in order to gain access to a few they do want.
But under the new rules set out by the CRTC, viewers can expect to pay more per channel if they buy them individually, the Globe and Mail reported Friday.
Bell Media president Kevin Crull told the paper that many customers who now pay around 30 cents per channel for 250 channels may see their per-channel costs go up to as much as $1.50.
Cable and satellite providers won't be required to provide a-la-carte TV services. Telus, which was involved in a separate dispute with Bell over pricing and packaging, said in a statement to Huffington Post Canada that its ability to sell theme packs at set prices was affirmed by the CRTC ruling.
One of the main sticking points ironed out by the CRTC had to do with sports channels. Though they tend to be popular, channels like TSN and SportsNet are generally part of bundled TV packages, and research suggests that if a-la-carte TV were to happen, these channels would see a large drop in subscriptions.
It was likely for this reason that Bell had been insisting that cable providers pick up its TSN network as part of basic cable packages -- a move that Telus, which offers TV services in western Canada, resisted. The CRTC ruled Friday that Telus could keep TSN as part of a premium package.
"Bell was asking for nothing less than an effective monopoly on distribution of its 28 speciality TV channels and using its position as both the creator and provider of these stations to try and give itself significant advantages," Telus spokeswoman Amelie Cliche said in an email. "Today's decision ensures that emerging competition is protected from the exercise of market power and ensures Canadian consumers can not be forced to subscribe to a service from a specific company in order to continue to have access to their favorite content."
In a separate but related dispute, Bell had come to an agreement earlier this year with a consortium of cable providers, including Cogeco, EastLink and MTS Allstream, to give the cable companies flexibility as to how they sold Bell-owned specialty channels. But they couldn't agree on a price, and Bell took the dispute to the CRTC.
The CRTC's decision on that dispute opens the door to content providers charging varying amounts to cable companies, depending on whether the channels are part of a bundle or sold individually.
"Today marks a significant victory for consumer choice and packaging flexibility in Canada," Bell Media's Crull said in a statement. "With this decision, Canada will maintain its position as a world leader in providing consumers with both a wide array of programming choices as well as packaging flexibility, all at affordable rates."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated from its original version, to include comments from Telus. It has been edited to clarify that Telus was not part of the cable consortium at odds with Bell, and was involved in a separate dispute over the pricing of sports channel TSN, which was also resolved on Friday by the CRTC.
Canada's 7 Media Giants
Postmedia - $1.1 Billion
Postmedia was born in 2010, when the bankrupt Canwest media chain was broken up. A consortium led by then-National Post CEO Paul Godfrey bought Canwest's newspaper assets, including the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald, as well as both English-language dailies in Vancouver.<br> <br> Pictured: Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Torstar - $1.48 Billion
Torstar's flagship property is the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. It also owns the Metroland chain of weeklies and the internationally popular Harlequin, publisher of pulp romances.<br> <br> Pictured: The Toronto Star building in downtown Toronto.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Shaw - $4.74 Billion
Western Canadian cable TV giant Shaw entered the media big leagues with the 2010 purchase of Canwest's broadcasting assets, including the Global TV network. The company was founded by Jim Shaw and is still controlled by his family.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Brad Shaw<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em><br> <br> <em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slide stated that Shaw had purchased Canwest's newspaper assets. It only purchased the broadcasting assets. The company had backed out of an earlier attempt to buy three CTV stations.</em>
Quebecor - $9.8 Billion
Founded by Pierre Peladeau and run by his son, Pierre-Karl Peladeau, Quebecor owns the Sun Media and Osprey newspaper chains, as well as cable provider Videotron, Quebec TV network TVA, and a number of publishing houses.<br> <br> Pictured: Pierre-Karl Peladeau<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Rogers - $12.1 Billion
Founded by Ted Rogers, Rogers Communications is a major player in cable TV and wireless services. The company controls Rogers Media, which operates 70 publications, 54 radio stations and a number of TV properties including CityTV and the Shopping Channel.<br> <br> Pictured: CEO Nadir Mohamed<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Woodbridge (Thomson Reuters) - $13.8B
Woodbridge is the holding company owned by the billionaire Thomson family. It controls 55 per cent of Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest news services organizations. Woodbridge's revenue is not reported, but Thomson Reuters reported revenue of $13.8 billion in 2011.<br> <br> Pictured: The late Kenneth Thomson, company chairman, in Toronto in 2003.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>
Bell Canada (BCE) - $18.1 Billion
BCE is one of Canada's largest corporations, and owns telephone, Internet and TV infrastructure. Its subsidary Bell Media purchased the CHUM group of radio stations in 2006, and Astral Media in 2012. The company also controls CTV, making it a dominant media player in Canada.<br> <br> <em>*Number denotes latest available revenue figure, for parent company</em>