Netflix and Bell’s CraveTV could face a powerful new competitor in Canada as soon as Thursday, when Amazon.com launches its Amazon Prime video streaming service, according to comments made at a CRTC hearing earlier this week.
In her opening statement to the telecom regulator on Tuesday, Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke said “a new global OTT competitor — Amazon Prime — is entering the Canadian market in two days.”
“OTT” refers to “over-the-top,” meaning media content delivered through the internet, rather than through a traditional media provider like cable TV.
In a tweet earlier this month, former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson also suggested that Amazon Prime video’s Canadian launch was imminent.
So. People of Ireland, Canada, Australia and pretty well everywhere else. You WILL be able to watch the Grand Tour. Amazon has gone global.
Amazon has not replied to a request for comment from CBC News.
Amazon Prime video
Like Netflix, Amazon’s Prime video service offers a library of “thousands” of TV shows and movies for online streaming.
Amazon has also followed Netflix’s lead in producing its own video content, most notably the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning comedy Transparent.
Unlike Netflix, however, Amazon Prime video is packaged with a $99 US annual membership to Amazon Prime, which offers free expedited shipping on certain items, as well as preferential access to Amazon’s music and book libraries.
Users can also pay for Prime video on its own by paying $8.99 US per month.
Amazon Prime had 63 million U.S. subscribers in the second quarter of 2016, according to a July report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
In October, Netflix said it had 86.74 million subscribers worldwide. A June report from Solutions Research Group said Netflix has about 5.2 million subscriptions in Canada.
Bell Media’s own CraveTV service now has more than one million Canadian subscribers, Turcke told the CRTC on Tuesday.
In September, Rogers and Shaw announced they were shutting down Shomi, their joint video streaming venture. Today is the last day Shomi will be available in Canada.
Bell’s fears about over-the-top competition
At Tuesday’s hearing on the renewal of TV broadcasting licenses, Turcke spoke about the challenge Bell Media faces from over-the-top competitors like Netflix and Amazon, describing them as “formidable competition.”
“So it’s not just our fellow Canadian broadcasters who will try to outbid us for first-run, original programming, but it’s Netflix and now Amazon, two entities that are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as us and that have astronomically more buying power than we do,” said Turcke, according to a copy of her presentation posted on the CRTC website.
In her presentation, Turcke described “a world where Netflix (or another global OTT player) acquires the majority of the top prime time network television shows.”
In such a world, said Turcke, the worst-case scenario for the Canadian broadcasting industry is one “where Canadians decide they don’t need any TV subscription at all because the best of prime-time television is dropped day and date on Netflix.”
“We must have as much flexibility as possible and have parity with other regulated entities,” said Turcke.