Saturday, October 25, 2008

HBO Canada - Oct. 25, 2008



Channel flipping

Pay TV subscribers have always
longed to have HBO in Canada.
Now, they weill finally be able to get it.
Well, sort of.

By Eric Kohanik

There was a time when only a handful of pay/cable channels populated the TV landscape. 

Now, there are so many that, whenever another one launches, it’s usually greeted with a ho-hum shrug by those who cover television.

Except for this week. That’s because HBO is finally arriving in Canada. 

Well, sort of. 

Canadian pay TV subscribers have always longed for HBO. That longing is what has fuelled much of Canada’s pay TV industry.

Over the years, it also helped nurture an entire industry of black-market and grey-market satellite dishes across the country. 

Starting Oct. 30, though, Canadians willbe able to get HBO legally. 

Well, sort of.

See, it’s not really HBO. It’s a Canadian adaptation – a couple of existing channels masquerading as the famed American icon.

Pay TV in Canada started a quarter of a century ago, following a formula similar to HBO in the U.S. There were three national English pay TV channels in Canada then: First Choice, Superchannel and C-Channel.

The first two were competing movie channels; the third was a “culture” channel that had programs with a high-class appeal. 

C-Channel didn’t last long. And the two remaining services found their only hope for survival would be to split the Canadian TV market right along the Manitoba-Ontario border, with First Choice taking the east and Superchannel saddling up in the west. 

Still, HBO was nowhere to be seen in Canada. At least, not legally. The two Canadian pay channels eventually took on new names: First Choice became The Movie Network (or TMN), while Superchannel rebranded itself as Movie Central.

Canada’s pay-TV scene recently got a newplayer – a national network called, wait for it, Super Channel. But, hey, that’s a wholeother story we’ll save for some other time. 

Multiplex and video-on-demand technology have broadened the reach of both TMN and Movie Central over the years. Both of them even cut deals long ago for the rights to show most HBO programming in Canada. 

But Canadian TV fans continued to long for HBO itself – to the point where the CRTC had actually considered opening Canada’s protectionist doors to let the American channel in. 

In a crafty countermeasure, though, the parent companies of TMN and Movie Central took pages from Canwest Global’s deal for E! and CTV’s partnership with MTV. They teamed up to snag rights to the HBO brand and are now rechristening two of their existing multiplex channels (MMOR in the east and MC4 in the west) as HBO Canada.

So, technically, Canadian viewers will have HBO available to them this week – even though it’s really a Canadian version that will have to air homegrown programs as well.

But at least Canadian TV viewers can now finally stop longing for America’s beloved HBO.

Well, sort of.

No comments: