Mark Goldberg

A new streaming TV option

River TV, Canada’s first live and on-demand streaming TV service, officially launched today, giving home-bound Canadians another option for video content. The service has spent the past 6 months in trials.

The service runs on an app on a variety of platforms: Roku streaming players, Amazon Fire, Android TV (including NVIDIA SHIELD and Google Play-enabled TVs), and Apple TV. For mobile, there is currently an iOS version with Android promised soon.

The content library is growing with a combination of live-TV and thousands of hours of on-demand content. The channel line-up currently includes: Global, Showcase, W Network, CHCH, History, H2, Adult Swim, Slice, Teletoon, Treehouse, YTV, MovieTime, Lifetime, Crime & Investigation, National Geographic, Smithsonian Channel, Silver Screen, plus US streaming channels that RiverTV says are only available in Canada on its service, such as Cheddar, Newsy, Law & Crime, Newsmax, Real Vision, REVOLT and DrinkTV.

You may be asking where are the channels from Bell Media and Rogers Media, like CTV or City-TV?

As a virtual broadcast distribution service, RiverTV’s service falls under the new media exemption, relieving it of most regulatory obligations. But as a corollary, there is also no obligation for content providers to make their channels available. As a result, RiverTV needs to negotiate access and reach a mutually agreeable business arrangement with content providers. Today, RiverTV aggregates specialty channels from Canadian programming groups including Corus, Blue Ant Media, Channel Zero and Wildbrain (formerly DHX), as well as a variety of US channels.

On the other hand, RiverTV is just $16.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial), with no contracts and the ability to cancel or restart your subscription at any time.

RiverTV is the latest entry by VMedia, a company with a nine-year history of disrupting Canada’s TV marketplace. Recall a 2016 post mentioning VMedia’s attempt to make QVC available to Canadians. The process to reconsider the CRTC’s original determination has been sitting at the Commission for more than 2 years since the file closed. The Federal Court of Appeal had found the CRTC’s April 2016 denial to be unreasonable.

The rules that govern access to content by over-the-top services were clarified by a court ruling in 2016 by another VMedia case.

It will be interesting to see if RiverTV can continue to increase the selection of on-demand content and additional live channels.

With so many people spending so much time at home, will RiverTV find a receptive segment in the market? Will this prove to be an especially opportune time to launch?

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