Bell's CraveTV streaming service to launch next week for $4 a month

TORONTO – Bell Media’s streaming competitor to Netflix and Shomi will launch to “TV lovers” next week at about half the price.

But it requires a TV subscription with Bell, Bell Aliant, Eastlink or Telus Optik TV and isn’t available to cord cutters.

CraveTV will become available on Dec. 11 for $4 a month with access to more than 300 titles including “The Big Bang Theory,” “Corner Gas,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Entourage,” “Homeland,” “Orphan Black,” “Seinfeld,” “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.”

The content will be available through the TV providers’ set-top boxes, at and on Apple and Android mobile devices.

Bell Media president Kevin Crull said the company isn’t contractually blocked from making CraveTV available to so-called cord cutters or cord nevers, who don’t pay for a TV subscription.

He didn’t rule out offering the streaming service to those consumers down the road but said the company wanted to focus on the 90 per cent of Canadians who do have TV subscriptions.

“The 10 per cent that aren’t TV subscribers, in a general sense, they’re not TV lovers,” Crull said in an interview.

“We’ve worked hard to keep all of our options for the future open. I will tell you this industry is fast moving. But right now we think this is the smart way to make the product available.”

Bell Media plans to double the size of the CraveTV catalogue within 12 months and promises to stagger out new content every Friday.

Rogers and Shaw recently launched the streaming product Shomi for $9 a month to some of their customers, although it does not require a TV subscription.

Netflix currently charges $8 a month but plans to eventually raise its price for new customers by $1 monthly.

Crull said CraveTV wasn’t deliberately set at half the price of Netflix but Bell Media, which is owned by parent company BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), did want it to stand out alongside competitors.

“We set out to design a differentiated product … we really wanted our pricing to be differentiated and our distribution to be differentiated,” he said.

“I think that Canadians are going to find CraveTV is a fantastic value and $4 is the right price point for this content.”

He also predicted CraveTV would be “profoundly impactful” for Bell Media and would become an evolving platform of content in the years ahead.

“There’s no question that (Internet-based) interfaces — whether it’s apps or smart TVs or gaming consoles — are only going to grow. I think on-demand viewing is only going to grow. And I think … there may be offshoots of CraveTV that will grow in the future,” he said.

“It is a foundation for a lot of fun things coming down the road.”

Crull said he expects that other TV providers, including Rogers and Shaw, will soon offer CraveTV.

“We’ve designed a product and a service and a business model that are very friendly and very supportive of our distribution partners, so I think that’s one reason they’re going to want to carry this product,” Crull said.

“And there’s going to be a lot of demand from their customers. We’re going to promote the heck out of this, we’re going to activate what we call the Bell Media megaphone.”

In a statement, Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) said it is considering whether to make CraveTV available to its customers.

“We are evaluating the offer, but do not comment further on ongoing negotiations. Rogers is committed to delivering the best video and entertainment offering in North America.”