Ottawa -- A band of Canadian cable operators struck a deal
recently that could help them to make an end run around the company that holds a monopoly
on satellite transmissions.
Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (Cancom) is
currently the only Canadian company licensed to transmit the signals of U.S.-based
broadcast networks Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS.
But an organization that represents small operators, the
Canadian Cable Systems Alliance, signed a signal-distribution deal with Star Choice, the
direct-to-home platform owned by MSO Shaw Communications Inc. Under the deal, CCSA members
will be able to downlink a combination of 24 Canadian and U.S. TV signals at costs
significantly lower than those offered by Cancom.
That's according to CCSA president Barbara Stanley,
who did not disclose actual rates. However, according to industry newsletter Canadian
Communications Reports, CCSA members will pay Star Choice a monthly per-subscriber fee
of 15 Canadian cents ($US0.11) per channel if they take 11 signals or more. Extra
discounts will be offered to those signing long-term contracts.
In contrast, the best monthly rate offered by Cancom is 25
Canadian cents ($US0.18) per channel, per subscriber, said David Saxe, a CCSA member and
president of Kawartha Lakes Cablevision.
The deal is still tentative, pending Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approval of Star Choice's
application to provide competitive satellite-signal distribution. And a green light is by
no means assured: A similar attempt by CCSA members to overthrow Cancom's monopoly in
1996 was turned down by the CRTC.