CraveTV Is Doing OK, Bell CEO Promises

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WINNIPEG — The president and CEO of Bell Canada is expressing confidence in his company's streaming video service even as a competitor in the Netflix-dominated field prepares to shut down.

"There's no change in the status of CraveTV," George Cope said in an interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press.

cravetv
A screenshot of CraveTV.ca.

"It's meeting our expectations, continues to grow and Canadians continue to subscribe to that service, so we're going to keep competing in that marketplace."

Cope's comments came one day after Shomi, launched two years ago by Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Shaw (TSX:SJR.B), announced it is calling it quits at the end of November due to lower-than-hoped-for subscriber numbers.

"There's no change in the status of CraveTV."

Both Shomi and CraveTV have had to play catch-up with Netflix, which launched in Canada in 2010 and had the benefit of an established name in the United States. CraveTV came onstream in 2014 and was originally available only to subscribers of cable services such as Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSE:T).

It became available to all Canadians last January.

Cope would not comment on specific subscriber numbers. Solutions Research Group, a Toronto-based consumer-research firm, estimated earlier this year that five million Canadian households — about 46 per cent of all homes — subscribed to Netflix.

What Shomi's end means for CraveTV

That's roughly seven times more than Shomi and CraveTV combined, said the report, which added that CraveTV was trailing Shomi.

Cope said the demise of Shomi means CraveTV will compete "more directly" with Netflix.

While each service offers its own unique content, such as Netflix's highly popular "House of Cards" series, CraveTV's main selling point is its exclusive rights in Canada to older HBO shows such as "The Wire'' and "The Sopranos."

"I suspect that as long as CraveTV has HBO, then they'll actually be OK," said Etan Vlessing, Canadian bureau chief for Hollywood Reporter.

Zach Fleisher, a 24-year-old Winnipegger, subscribed to both Netflix and HBO for several months. A big HBO fan, he abandoned Netflix in the summer.

"I suspect that as long as CraveTV has HBO, then they'll actually be OK."

"I just found that with the one service, there was enough content on there to keep myself occupied for the amount of time I spend watching TV," Fleisher said.

Others, however, don't choose only one service.

"I use Netflix, Crave and Shomi. The three combined costs way less than cable and basically gives me any show I want," said Spencer Blake of Toronto via social media.

With files from Victoria Ahearn in Toronto

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