Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





Fox Group Dispatch

Respectfully disagree

Today’s CRTC decision on Bell’s NFL/NHL mobile exclusives crystallizes the issues.

The CRTC found that it is anti-competitive for Bell to have exclusive agreements for carrying prime time NFL games, the Pro Bowl game, all playoff games (including the Super Bowl), NFL Network programming, NHL games and video highlights.

Canadians shouldn’t be forced to subscribe to a wireless service from a specific company to access their favourite content. Healthy and fair competition between service providers will promote greater choice for Canadians.

I respectfully disagree.

I certainly understand why other carriers would want to try to secure access to premium NFL/NHL content, but I disagree that this necessarily promotes greater choice for Canadians. Exclusives create greater choice, not all carriers carrying the same content. How competitive a marketplace is it if you can get the same content from all the service providers?

On the other hand, the more popular the exclusive content is on one carrier, the more the other carriers will have to compete on other features, services, content or price. Wouldn’t that make for a better consumer marketplace?

In a “real” competitive marketplace, consumers have to make tough choices, balancing price, features and service from one product or supplier against the different characteristics from another supplier. The risk of intervention is the appearance of protecting competitors, not competition.

5 comments to Respectfully disagree

  • Kevin

    The world of exclusive content deals would require me as a consumer to purchase service from multiple providers to suit my needs. This is bad for consumers. If every provider carries the same content, then these providers will need to compete with good services and affordable pricing. That is good for me as a consumer. I can now have my needs met for much lower prices and get better value for my money. Clearly this is the type of competition that should be promoted.

    In your content exclusive environment I only have two choices: Subscribe to Bell for my NHL/NFL content, or don’t watch.

    Alternatively I could choose Bell, Rogers, Cogeco, etc. or don’t watch. Clearly as a consumer I have greater choices when content exclusive deals are prohibited.

    Relying on content exclusivity instead of good consumer relations keep your customers not the direction companies should be taking, and it’s the wrong direction for Canadians.

  • Brian

    Amen Kevin

    If all carriers have access, with reasonable terms and conditions, to the same content, then they will have to compete on the basis of price, product (other than content), packaging, quality of service, customer service/relations and other factors. This would be true competition.

    Content exclusivity doesn’t increase customer choice; it restricts it and constrains it to one factor – content. Rather than making a choice based on which carrier is providing the consumer with better pricing, better product, better customer service, etc. – all the benefits competition is supposed to bring to the consumer – I now am restricted in my choice to the carrier that is providing the content I most desire and that carrier may not be providing the best service, product, pricing, etc.

  • Timo Vainionpaa

    Mark,
    i think the commission got it right this time… exclusive content deals are anti-competitive and abuse of position ( but what else is new for these entities)… if I am using one of these suppliers as my “on ramp” to the web, then once I am on the Internet I should have free and unfettered access to all the content on the net… if the content provider charges for that service than all parties can pay it on equal terms, regardless of how they access it.

    For example, I cancelled my cable last May and refuse to use a telco or cableco for internet access. I can get all the WTA and ATP tennis online… free if I desire or pay a yearly subscription and get it streamed in HD that I can feed to my plasma screen… why would i pay a gatekeeper like Bell, Rogers, Shaw or Cogeco or be forced to use their on ramp to the net if one of them licenced this content exclusively ? I can deal directly with the content provider… such an exclusive deal is certainly not a spur to competition in the wireless or Internet access markets.. rather it would be a continuation of protection for the oligopoly against true competition

  • Timo – This isn’t about internet content (that isn’t limited) and it also isn’t about broadcast content on an over the air TV channel. In this case, the content provider – that you say you want to deal with – decided on its own that the best business model for its content is exclusive, just as the NFL decided for the US market with Verizon.

    With that clarification, does your conclusion still hold?

  • Eric Mac

    Mark, you have a strange definition of “competition”, and you echo telecom industry double-speak that less choice means greater benefits for the consumer, when exactly the opposite is true.

    The CRTC is going in the right direction on this. Bell’s behaviour is typically duopolistic and focused on maximizing margins through price control. Competition is too limited to safeguard consumers in the mobile space and we therefore require regulator intervention.