The CRTC has approved the application by the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA) to add HDNet, a high definition (HD) non-Canadian satellite service, to the lists of satellite services eligible for distribution on a digital basis.
HDNet is a US programming service offering high definition (HD) programming 24 hours per day, seven days per week, using 1080i format. HDNet currently offers several original series, including music and news programs. HDNet acquires programming from several sources, including Paramount, Warner and Sony. Live HDNet sports productions include NHL games, major league soccer games, horse racing, auto racing, boxing, football and basketball games.
The original application was submitted by the CCTA and have the backing of several BDU’s including, Rogers, Cogeco Cable Inc., ExpressVu and Quebecor Media Inc.
The Director’s Guild of Canada (DGC), the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) and Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) filed comments opposing the addition of HDNet. According to these parties, the need for services such as HDNet is not apparent, as those programming services that are currently licensed or authorized, including Canadian conventional and specialty services, as well as U.S. conventional television networks, are increasingly providing HD content. The DGC and the CFTPA also stated that HDNet’s nature of service and the program genres that make up its schedule greatly overlap with those of numerous Canadian pay and specialty services, including Bravo!, CBC Newsworld, The Score and SportsNet.
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) also opposed the addition of HDNet to the digital lists on the grounds that the service would be directly competitive with Canadian specialty and pay services, including TSN, SportsNet, The Score, Prime TV, MuchMusic and The Movie Network (TMN). Further, the CAB stated that the approval of non-Canadian services such as HDNet could discourage partnerships between non-Canadian broadcasters and Canadian programming services, and could delay or prevent the launch of Canadian HD pay and specialty services. The CAB also submitted that approval of non-Canadian services such as HDNet would raise capacity issues with respect to the ability of BDUs to carry a preponderance of Canadian services.
Global Television Network Inc. (Global), CTV Inc. (CTV) and CHUM Limited (CHUM) also opposed the addition of HDNet to the digital lists. They expressed the view that HDNet was distinctive, not by its program content, but by the technical format of the service. They added that, if the only unique quality of a non-Canadian service is its HD format (a technical distinction as opposed to a cultural or competitive distinction), then services like HDNet will naturally increase the competition faced by Canadian pay and specialty services as the numbers of HD consumers grow.
In addition to its own reply, the CCTA provided reply comments from HDNet. According to the CCTA and HDNet, HDNet is neither totally nor partially competitive with any Canadian service because of its 24-hour true HD format. HDNet stated that it operates a general interest service in which no one genre of programming predominates. HDNet added that its nature of service, target audience, programming and genre of programming do not overlap with Canadian pay and specialty services.
The CCTA and HDNet suggested that the addition of HDNet to the digital lists, rather than delay or prevent the launch of Canadian HD specialty services, would serve as a catalyst for the Canadian broadcasting industry to hasten its transition to HD, and encourage consumers to purchase HD sets and HD set-top boxes.
In the end the commission approved the addition of HDNet to the eligible services list and consumers can expect the major DTH and cable providers to include HDNet in their list of programming services within the coming months.