Canadian Broadcasters Call for Protection From U.S. Digital Giants

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TV networks and cablers called on the CRTC to act on Netflix Canada, even as the regulator insists they are not disadvantaged by the U.S. video streaming giant's presence here.

TORONTO – Canadian broadcasters on Wednesday urged the country’s TV watchdog to do more to protect them from the Hollywood juggernaut.

“We’ve lived in the shadow of the giant and will continue to do so for our entire existence. I think we need a CRTC that is functional, that is offering the proper protections, and that is offering the certainty that we need in this country to survive if we’re going to stay in the broadcasting space,” Rick Brace, president of specialty channels and TV production for Bell Media, told a Banff World Media Festival preview panel in Toronto.

Brace added Netflix Canada especially was adding to cost pressures for domestic broadcasters by paying “exorbitant rates” for content, and rival U.S. digital giants like Google and Facebook will eventually do the same.

The solution, he ventured, might be Canadian broadcasters banding together to launch a Hulu clone.

“Our costs will skyrocket. So do you partner with the folks at the podium and try it do it like Hulu?” Brace questioned.

Dave Purdy, senior VP of content for Rogers Communications, urged the CRTC to do more to deal with the current challenge Canadian media companies face from Netflix Canada, which is expected to shortly become profitable, despite local content expenditures.

“If the CRTC is going to remain relevant, it can’t keep looking at the current trend lines or the recent trend lines. They actually have to get ahead of the curve and start looking at what things are going to affect the business shortly,” he told the Banff fest panel.

The CRTC earlier this month decided for a second time not to regulate Netflix Canada, or to compel the U.S. video streaming giant and other foreign digital platforms to subsidize homegrown Canadian TV series, as broadcasters have urged.

The regulator will instead continue to stand on the sidelines and allow the market to sort itself out.

The moves come as the regulator indicates there is little evidence Canadians are cutting the cord in big numbers, or that domestic broadcasters and cable operators have been disadvantaged, as U.S. digital platforms like Netflix Canada operate here.

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