Canada Cable Boss Doubts a la Carte


A la carte programming options in Canada are largely a result of the country’s cable regulatory regime, rather than a response to consumer demand for the right to buy channels individually, the head of Canada’s cable trade association said Tuesday.

Michael Hennessy, CEO of the Canadian Cable Television Association, also said a la carte services in Canada are lightly viewed niche channels that are available only to digital subscribers who first need to buy one or two analog basic tiers, as well as renting or buying a set-top box.

He told the Washington Metropolitan Cable Club U.S lawmakers interested in expanding a la carte options might want to think twice about embracing the Canadian model, which has not caused large numbers of the country’s 7.2 million cable customers to buy channels a la carte.

“From this observer’s vantage, it seems quite odd that the U.S. regulators would look at a la carte -- this none-too-successful aspect of the Canadian system -- as a way to improve your admirable system,” Hennessy said. “This policy focus seems quite off the mark in a world of seismic changes when it comes to delivering digital content.”

Hennessey’s audience included two members from Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) staff. McCain favors the a la carte sale of all cable networks, both analog and digital.

Personnel from the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau were also present. FCC staff must prepare an a la carte study for Congress by Nov. 18.

After the speech, Hennessy met with Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree. He was accompanied by Daniel Brenner, senior vice president of law and public policy at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.