The Montreal-based cable giant, owned by Quebecor Inc., plans to launch Illico Club Unlimited, a Netflix-like service that will offer hundreds of movies and television shows a month to its subscribers for just under $10. While several of Canada’s cable and satellite companies allow subscribers to access content online, this service will be available to anyone with an Internet connection and will allow the Quebec company to compete for viewers outside its traditional markets for the first time – starting with Ontario, when it launches this weekend.
“We bought Canadian rights so we could go across Canada if there is demand,” said Manon Brouillette, consumer market president at Vidéotron, adding that up to 10 per cent of the service’s content could be in English. “Netflix was not a big threat at first but we’ve seen their percentage quietly growing and we decided we must do something or else the market would be open only to them.”
While the vast majority of Netflix content is offered in English only, the U.S.-based company signed a deal with Radio-Canada last year to offer more French-language content and said Thursday “it has made every effort to acquire Canadian titles that reflect the rich cultural, geographic and liguistic diversity of this country.”
While Canada has not seen the same level of cord-cutting as the United States as viewers look for less-expensive ways to access content, cable and satellite companies are anxious to develop their own products that enhance their offerings. About 10 per cent of adult Canadians subscribe to Netflix, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissioner reported in September, and the number is expected to increase.
So far, however, that hasn’t caused them to give up on traditional television packages. Those without the service watch roughly 16 hours of regular and Internet TV each week, while those with Netflix watch about 21 hours a week, including TV, Internet TV and more than five hours of Netflix programming.
One thing keeping Canadians tied to their cable and satellite companies are the data caps on their Internet connections – some viewers have found that their Internet bills increase prohibitively when they cancel their traditional television services and try to download all of their favourite shows and movies.
Vidéotron hopes to address this by introducing a flat-rate price for unlimited downloads – $10 a month for any customer with at least three services with the company (cable, cellphone and Internet) and $30 a month for those with fewer services. Any of its digital customers – there are about 1.4 million digital subscribers out of 1.8 million – who use one of their set-top boxes won’t be charged for data when using the service.