Canadian Pay TV Services Still Growing, Despite Netflix

Oliver Upton

Showing HBO and Showtime series like "Game of Thrones" is helping sign new subscribers, with Astral Media to launch the HBO Go app in Canada this fall.

TORONTO - Canadian pay TV is doing so well by its primetime HBO and Showtime series like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and Nurse Jackie, that domestic broadcaster Astral Media will launch its HBO GO mobile app this fall.

The HBO GO app will allow cable and satellite subscribers to download onto smartphones and tablets HBO shows that also air on The Movie Network, Astral’s pay-TV service in eastern Canada.

On Thursday, rival Corus Entertainment, which also has the rights to the HBO GO app, reported higher subscriber revenues from its Movie Central pay-TV service in western Canada, which ended the latest financial quarter with 988,000 paid-up customers.

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Both Astral and Corus run the HBO Canada channel as part of a programming offensive to deal with new competition from Netflix Canada and other emerging U.S. digital platforms.

Despite that competitive threat, and a soft Canadian advertising market, Corus saw second quarter revenues to Feb. 29 rise 8 percent to $205.7 million, while profits were up slightly to $33.5 million for the three months to Feb. 29, against earnings of $32.8 million in 2011.

Astral Media, which has just been acquired by phone giant BCE Inc. for $3.3 billion, added around 1,000 subcribers to The Movie Network and Super Ecran during the latest quarter to get to 1.87 million customers.

Second quarter earnings at Astral for the three months Feb. 29 rose 10 percent to $38.2 million, on overall revenue virtually unchanged at $233.5 million.

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