01/24/2013 01:43 EST

'Starlight' And 'Maximum TV': All-Canadian Movie Channel And Netflix Competitor Apply For Basic Cable


An all-Canadian movie channel, an on-demand video service and a Punjabi language network are among the proposed channels seeking to be a required part of basic cable in Canada.

The CRTC this week released a list of applicants for a “mandatory carriage” licence on cable and satellite TV. If granted the licence, these channels would join the nine networks that are currently mandated by the CRTC to be broadcast to all cable and satellite subscribers.

While most of the media attention has focused on Sun News Network’s bid to be a part of basic cable, there are, in all, 22 channels seeking a mandatory carriage licence or a renewal of one.

Among them is Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel, which would broadcast only Canadian films, and would use revenue it collects from cable and satellite viewers to fund the production of Canadian movies. These movies, in turn, would have their debuts on the channel.

The channel has the backing of Canada’s filmmaking elite, with noted filmmakers like David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand and Atom Egoyan taking stakes in the company, and Eastern Promises producer Robert Lantos taking one of the largest stakes in the company.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, Starlight CEO Norm Bolen is related to a Huffington Post Canada editor, who was not involved in the reporting of this story.)

But if the licence is approved, it would be the most expensive channel Canadian cable and satellite viewers would be required to buy, adding $0.45 per month per subscriber to TV bills. That compares to $0.23 for The Weather Network and $0.10 for the legislative channel CPAC.

With that fee, the channel would earn $40 million a year, half of which it would use to make an estimated eight to 12 movies per year, according to the Fagstein media blog.

On the Starlight website, the channel’s backers argue its all-Canadian mandate would be a big boon to Canadian culture.

They note that major Canadian networks have either never had or have abandoned Canadian film programs. And they argue pay-TV channels like SuperChannel and HBO Canada are now meeting their CanCon requirements with TV series rather than movies.

They also note that “European countries require their national broadcasters to support domestic films. In Europe, the broadcasting system is seen as an important mechanism for supporting the financing and exhibition of local feature films.”



Another application for mandatory carriage comes from Maximum Television Canada, which would be an on-demand video service that would stream in English, French and other languages.

If approved, this service would be a direct competitor to both the popular Netflix video streaming service and to cable companies’ own on-demand services, such as Rogers On Demand and Shaw Direct On Demand.

The company behind it, On Purpose TV, argues its licencing as a mandatory part of cable would increase competition in the broadcast market. But with its potential to disrupt cable and satellite providers’ earnings, expect this application to face strong opposition from established media companies.



Among the more unique applications is one from Canadian Punjabi Network, which proposes a Punjabi-language service broadcasting across the country.

Though the channel is a third-language specialty network, it argues it should get mandatory carriage because it will feature a large amount of original, Canadian-produced content -- as much as 80 per cent during prime time.

The channel is requesting mandatory carriage only in those markets with more than 5,000 Punjabi speakers -- 11 Canadian markets in all, according to Fagstein blog.


Of the remaining applicants seeking mandatory carriage, there is an application for an “interactive” news and current affairs channel called FUSION; another for EqualiTV, which describes itself as “devoted to programs dealing with disability issues”; and Natural Resources Television Channel, which broadcasts programs about mining and oil and gas extraction.

The multifaith channel Vision TV is also applying to be a part of basic cable.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on April 23, in Gatineau, Quebec on the applications.