Few Canadians resist cable/DBS charms

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TORONTO -- Just one in 10 Canadians still use rabbit-ears or an antenna to watch TV, Canada's TV regulator reported Wednesday.

As Canada's TV regulator gets set to hold key digital TV policy hearings next week ahead of analog TV's eventual disappearance, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released a report indicating that nine in 10 domestic households rely on cable or direct-broadcast-satellite packages to receive TV signals.

A decade ago, one in five Canadians received off-air TV signals, compared with one in 10 today, the study says.

Depending on where Canadians live and how well they place their antenna, off-air TV viewers can catch a range of conventional TV signals, including those of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. or local affiliates of the CTV, Chum and Global Television private networks.

But the survey of off-air TV users in English- and French-speaking Canadian TV markets indicates that cable and DBS operators will have difficulty closing the gap further as CRTC looks to propel the country's digital TV revolution forward.

Canadians relying on off-air TV reception tend to either live in rural communities, cannot afford cable or DBS packages, or are simply light TV viewers with a host of leisure alternatives, the study indicated.

"They (off-air TV users) are more likely to have attended an art gallery or museum and have attended theatre, ballet or opera," the study said.

"Finally, they tend to be lighter Internet users. In other words, the OTA segment is made up of a group of high-brow Canadians not that interested in TV and another group of those with less disposable income to buy consumer items," the CRTC argued.

The regulator also cited a fall 2005 TV Quality Survey suggesting off-air TV users were "considerably less satisfied" with TV viewing.

A poll separately commissioned by the CRTC in September determined that 22.5% of English-speaking Canadians surveyed indicated that affordability explained their decision not to purchase cable or DBS packages, while 37.1% of French-speaking Canadans polled said they didn't watch enough TV to warrant subscribing to cable or DBS services.

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