Live TV Streaming Reaches Canada as Netflix Alternative

Courtesy of Ursula Coyote/The CW
RiverTV shows include CW's 'Roswell, New Mexico'

The country's first virtual MVPD, RiverTV, is looking to break a virtual pay TV monopoly by legacy cable and teleco giants.

On Thursday, upstart Canadian cable TV and internet provider VMedia unveiled the country's first live TV streaming service, RiverTV, which bundles over 30 local and U.S. channels and costs $16.99 a month.

VMedia co-founder George Burger told The Hollywood Reporter that Canada's failed cable unbundling via the launch of a skinny TV bundle and a-la-carte shopping for channels has done little to stem the shift of young Canadians to digital over-the-top streamers like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

"Millennials don’t have an aversion to live TV, but they do have a major preference for consuming video OTT. Many have experienced video only OTT for most of their lives, so the idea of signing up for a service, getting a costly set-top box, going through an install process, not have all the filtering, interactive and time-shifting features, paying the high prices conventional services charge, and in Canada being forced to link your TV service to your internet provider all add up to a big turnoff," Burger argued.

RiverTV, as Canada's first virtual MVPD, aims to offer a discount package of live TV streaming channels that includes seven U.S. live and VOD streaming channels like Cheddar, Law & Crime, Newsmax and Real Vision.

"RiverTV breaks down that barrier by making live TV access as simple and as feature-filled, not to mention affordable, as Netflix. Arguably even more so when you remember that our 30+ channel package generates thousands of hours of original content a week — far outstripping Netflix in that regard," Burger added.

Unlike streaming services like Netflix and Amazon that package movies, TV and other original content, a virtual MVPD as an OTT service offers viewers live and VOD content from broadcast and cable networks. And they offer fewer channels at a cheaper monthly rate than traditional fat cable packages.

But unlike the U.S. market, where the rise of live TV players like YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV and AT&T Now coincided with an upsurge in cord-cutting, Canada has until RiverTV not seen a virtual MVPD emerge to compete in the domestic market. 

The CRTC, Canada's TV watchdog, attempted to discourage cord-cutters and cord-nevers in 2016 when it compelled legacy cable and telco giants to offer a limited bundle of key channels for $25 a month, mainly aimed at young consumers. Then in 2017, the regulator introduced individual pick-and-pay channels, only to see no skinny purveyor untethered to a costly internet package from a cable or telco giant emerge and Netflix only increase its dominance of the Canadian pay TV market in recent years.

Disruption to the Canadian pay TV market has only grown with the arrival of Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock and HBO Max. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other U.S. streaming rivals are also increasingly making Canada their base for ambitious original film and TV productions.

RiverTV will be streamed and delivered over any Canadian internet offering, and can be viewed via Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Edition smart TV, Apple TV, iOS mobile and tablets, and Android TV devices. Apps for Android mobile and a web-based service are in the works.