Watch the fine print with Bell’s Alt TV service
TORONTO — Viewers who hope Bell’s new streaming TV platform will offer an experience that rivals conventional television should temper their expectations, says one analyst.
Even though the company’s new Alt TV, unveiled Monday, is billed as a replacement for traditional cable packages, there are several key differences that could leave subscribers feeling shortchanged, says Brahm Eiley, president of Convergence Research Group, an organization that watches Canada’s telecom industry.
“It’s not the same,” Eiley says. “You’re not really getting much of a cutting-edge viewing experience.”
Alt TV is the latest attempt to stem the tide of Canadians who are abandoning their expensive cable packages for low-cost alternatives like Netflix, CraveTV and Amazon Prime Video. The service lets viewers stream live programs through devices like Apple TV, on their computers and through smartphones or tablets.
It starts at $14.95 per month for a package of 30 channels, which includes Canadian networks CBC, CTV, Global and City, and the big U.S. networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
More expensive packages are also available and individual channels can be subscribed to à la carte.
But there are requirements in the fine print.
Subscribers must already be signed up for Bell’s Fibe Internet service.
They also can’t watch Alt TV on more than two screens at a time, and Eiley suspects viewers won’t be happy to learn the service doesn’t support recording live TV, or pausing and rewinding shows.
Alt TV is launching first in Ontario and Quebec with plans to expand to Atlantic Canada and Manitoba.
Bell’s product is similar to PikTV, a live streaming service recently launched by Telus Corp. that carries its own additional fees. Users must buy a $100 set-top box to watch at home, and it is only available in B.C. and Alberta.
Cable companies have been struggling to slow the outflow of customers who are scaling back their packages or getting rid of them completely — a phenomenon know as “cord-cutting.”
In 2016, about 220,000 fewer customers subscribed to cable in Canada, according to data compiled by Convergence Research Group. The outflow is expected to pick up speed this year with a projected decline of 250,000 subscribers.