Viewers Choice Canada, the joint-venture, pay-per-view content distributor owned by Bell Media and Rogers, is closing down in September, which might create opportunities for other providers to step in and fill a gap in providing access to PPV movies and events, especially for smaller pay-TV providers in Canada.
The shutdown, which has been reported earlier in Canadian media, including cartt.ca, comes as a result of changes in ownership at the 23-year-old PPV distributor.
Bell Media became the majority owner last year after buying Astral Media, which had owned a minority stake, with Rogers owning the rest. A Bell representative confirmed the service is closing down operations on Sept. 30.
"The two co-owners of VCC, Bell and Rogers, both have their own pay-per-view services and thus feel there is no need to keep the service operating as a standalone entity," the Bell statement said. "VCC will be working with its affiliate partners to ensure that a smooth transition to another provider of pay-per-view (including Bell, Rogers, and Shaw) will occur."
Carrt.ca reported that providers other than Bell Media and Rogers, which have their own PPV distribution businesses, "may have to scramble to find something to replace the pay-per-view service, which offers both movies and event programming such as boxing, UFC and WWE matches." Viewers Choice Canada affiliates include Videotron, Cogeco, Eastlink, Bell Aliant, Source Cable and select other smaller providers, carrt.ca said. Videotron, which operates in Quebec, and was said by carrt.ca to be looking into asking for permission to expand its French-language PPV service, Canal Indigo, to also include English programming.
One U.S. content distributor, Vubiquity, said it was aware of the situation and exploring the potential of providing PPV content to small cable and telco providers north of the U.S. border. In fact, it is already doing business in Canada. “Vubiquity’s platform is integrated with most Canadian operators and has provided a range of managed services in Canada for years," the company told Multichannel News in a statement. "And since we work with every event supplier, we are actively exploring ways to assist our Canadian partners in accessing these important PPV events.”
Viewers Choice Canada began in 1981 as an alternative to video-store movie rentals in Eastern Canada, and then expanded to a nationwide service, The Canadian Press reported. "For years it was also the exclusive Canadian provider of major sporting events like Wrestlemania from the WWE and helped build the reputation of mixed martial arts company the Ultimate Fighting Championship," the story added.