CRTC: Broadcast still king in Canada

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TORONTO -- Despite rumors of the imminent demise of Canadian broadcasting in the multiplatform age, Canada's broadcast regulator on Thursday said that digital technologies have barely laid a glove on domestic radio and TV broadcasters to this point.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, in a 181-page report, said that Canadians are getting their digital video and audio content at their convenience, either through video-on-demand, Internet streaming or downloads.

But the regulator insisted that traditional Canadian broadcasters still rule the roost, with the shift in media consumption thus far having little impact on the Canadian broadcasting system.

"This observation is based on the fact that Canadians still consume the vast majority of programming through regulated Canadian broadcasting undertakings," according to the CRTC, which regulates traditional radio and TV stations but has yet to get its regulatory mitts on the Internet or mobile TV.

At the same time, the report, titled the Future Environment Facing the Canadian Broadcasting System, said that young Canadians in particular are embracing content from unregulated electronic platforms, and that new audio-visual technologies will impact on Canadian broadcasters and other content carriers over time.

The study comes ahead of license renewal hearings for major Canadian broadcasters beginning next year.

The CRTC conceded that greater consumer choice via emerging digital platforms was fragmenting markets for traditional broadcasters and forcing a recasting of their business models and rights management.

But the regulator insisted traditional broadcasters continue to fare well in the Canadian marketplace.

The CRTC report said that advertising revenue on the Internet was climbing -- from CAN$110 million in 2000 to CAN$519 million in 2005, the last year surveyed.

But the regulator indicated TV airtime sales rose proportionally during the same period, from CAN$2.45 billion in 2000 to CAN$3.01 billion in 2005.
The report also indicated that Canadians are currently watching more TV, not less, with the average Canadian watching 25.1 hours of TV weekly in 2004-05 compared with 23.7 hours in 2001-2002.

The regulator insisted that the main competition for Canadian free, over-the-air TV stations for now is coming not from the Internet, but domestic cable channels.

The report said Canadian English-language conventional TV stations held a 27% market share in 2004-2005, down from 28.1% in 2002-2003, while U.S. conventional TV stations, many U.S. network affiliates along the U.S.-Canadian border, saw their own share of total Canadian viewing fall to 7.7% in 2005, from 9.4% in 2003.

 By contrast, Canadian English-language pay TV and cable channels grabbed a 29.1% share in 2004-2005, up from 25.7% in 2002-2003. During the same period, U.S. pay TV and cable channels carried on Canadian cable and satellite TV schedules saw their share of Canadian viewing drop to 8.7% in 2004-05, against 10.5% in 2002-2003.
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