Bell’s CraveTV grows to 1M subscribers ahead of Shomi’s shutdown on Nov. 30

TORONTO – Weeks before TV streaming service Shomi is set to shut down, BCE Inc. said Thursday its CraveTV streaming service recently hit one million subscribers.

The Montreal-based company said it reached the milestone by the end of September, nearly two years after it launched CraveTV in December 2014.

At the time, the streaming service was only available to subscribers of certain TV providers. This January, Bell Media expanded availability to all Canadians with an Internet connection.

Bell Media hasn’t provided total subscriber numbers since August 2015, when it said the service had roughly 730,000 customers.

In a conference call Thursday with investors, BCE president and CEO George Cope suggested that the demise of Shomi, a video-on-demand service Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Shaw (TSX:SJR.B) launched in November 2014, can boost CraveTV’s performance.

Shomi, which recently said it was nearing a customer base of 900,000, will pull the plug on Nov. 30.

“We think the Canadian development recently probably positions that product a little stronger in the marketplace,” Cope said.

Still, CraveTV has a long way to go to match the reach of Netflix. Solutions Research Group, a Toronto consumer research firm, says the U.S.-based streaming company has about five million Canadian households subscribing.

BCE (TSX:BCE) also announced Thursday that Fibe TV now is available on Apple TV.

BCE said CraveTV’s performance helped drive its media division revenue up 3.5 per cent in the third quarter ending Sept. 30. Bell Media revenues grew to $716 million from $692 million, also thanks to subscriber growth from The Movie Network, which Bell made nationally available earlier this year, and TV Everywhere.

BCE’s revenue and profit were up from the same time last year as Bell Canada added subscribers to specialty TV, digital TV, Internet and wireless services — offsetting lower revenue from advertising and conventional phone service.

The telecommunications giant had $5.41 billion of operating revenue, up 1.2 per cent from $5.35 billion in the third quarter of 2015.

Net earnings for common shareholders totalled $752 million, up 1.8 per cent from $739 million a year earlier, although net income per share was flat at 87 cents because of an increase in the number of BCE shares since last year.

BCE’s adjusted earnings declined by nearly one per cent, to $784 million from $790 million, and adjusted earnings per share declined to 91 cents per share from 93 cents per share.

Bell’s wireless services contributed $1.85 billion of revenue, up 4.3 per cent from $1.77 billion, while revenue from its wireline services such as conventional phones, digital television and Internet was little-changed at $2.75 billion.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said BCE had $5.34 billion in operating revenue in the third quarter of last year. A previous version also incorrectly identified the TV service available on Apple TV.