If you’re wondering why it has taken this TV Addict slightly longer than expected to post our review of CraveTV, Bell Media’s Netflix competitor that launched earlier this month, look no further than the service itself.
Billed as “a video streaming service offering full seasons and series of the most loved and celebrated shows ever,” CraveTV is — simply put — a TV Addict’s dream. No really. Any grammar, spelling and/or syntax errors from here on in should be solely attributed to the fact that even as we type this, we’re half-watching INSIDE AMY SCHUMER in a little window at the top left of our desktop! That’s how good CraveTV is, we cannot stop watching it. It’s a problem, a big one. But before we get into why, let’s start off with the glowingly positive shall we.
CraveTV isn’t messing around when it comes to selection. From genre-defining series that we’re embarrassed to admit we still haven’t found the time to watch (See: HBO classics such as THE SOPRANOS, THE WIRE and DEADWOOD) and half-hour sketch shows we’ve only seen bits and pieces of on YouTube (See: KEY AND PEELE, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER and KROLL SHOW) to exclusives that we’ve already started binge-watching (Hello WGN’s MANHATTAN) and classics that we can’t get enough of (See: MONTY PYTHON, SEINFELD, and FRASIER), CraveTV isn’t messing around when it comes to feeding our seemingly insatiable appetite for all things television. Suffice it to say, if you are eligible to subscribe to CraveTV — particularly at the launch price of $4 per month — it’s an absolute no brainer. No really. There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t stop what you’re doing right now, call your local cable provider and spend this holiday season holed up in your living room watching the glory that is STAR TREK’s most underrated and under-appreciated gem DEEP SPACE NINE!
Oh wait there is a reason… which brings me to that dark side of the service that I teased earlier in this post.
First and foremost. As a long time Rogers customer, myself — not to mention millions of others across Canada — are shut out from this service due to the unholy war between Bell Media and Rogers that does little but infuriate customers on both sides (See: Rogers equally childish treatment of NHL fans who aren’t paying a pretty penny to Rogers each and every month). But even more troubling than Bell Media’s exclusionary policies* is that CraveTV’s new business model effectively sidesteps any regulatory issues put in place by the astoundingly ineffective CRTC in terms of their recent purchase of Astral Media. Which is to say. non-Bell subscribers to HBO Canada should all but assume that any new and exciting content will no longer be built around the traditional over-the-air model that many of us have been subscribing to for all these years but rather reserved for CraveTV’s catalogue. Case in point, Bell Media’s recent announcement** that will see a remastered, 16×9, full-frame, high definition version of THE WIRE be exclusively released to CraveTV subscribers this January rather than where it belongs on HBO Canada.
And finally, any review of CraveTV wouldn’t be complete without the mention of their advertising strategy. You know those posters and billboards that have been plastered across the city? Well, they’re sort of missing a giant asterisk when it comes to that $4 per month price tag. Just to be clear: CraveTV is only $4 per month if you already subscribe to Bell or one of their partner’s cable packages. Packages, which after a quick scan online appear to range between $39.99 and $111.95 per month. (Current cable partners include: TELUS Optik TV, Bell Fibe TV, and Bell Aliant FibreOP TV subscribers)
All that being said, if you are one of the shrinking number of Canadians who, like us, fork over one hundred plus dollars a month to prop up an antiquated cable model, CraveTV is completely worth it. One can only hope that (a) Bell Media sees the error of their ways and opens up this package to all of Canada as soon as possible. Or at the very least, (b), allows me to a finish binge-watching the fantastic first season of MANHATTAN before they pull my media credentials in response to this review!
* Correction from Scott Henderson, Vice-President Communications Bell Media: We have no exclusionary policy. We have been very clear from the beginning that CraveTV is “available to every TV provider in Canada” (see release) and Kevin Crull has been clear he wants to get it into as many hands as possible. We have had meetings with all distributors, including Rogers, and we hope they come on board soon. Already Telus, Eastlink and other small cable providers have signed up and made the product available to their providers.
The TV Addict’s Response: While it’s all well and good that Bell Media doesn’t have an official exclusionary policy, I’ll believe it when I see it. Case in point, I’ve been waiting over a year, possibly two for CTV to meet with Rogers and allow me access to streaming content on CTV.ca and CTV’s mobile apps. (Photo Below)
** Correction from Scott Henderson, Vice-President Communications Bell Media: We also announced in this fall a deal for the entire HBO back catalogue for CraveTV (see release). This is separate than current HBO programming. All back catalogue programming will be available on CraveTV, including the Sopranos, Sex and the City and, as you note, The Wire. HBO Canada features current programming – so The Wire won’t air on HBO Canada. But to be clear, this is the same situation as in the U.S. – To our understanding The Wire will not be broadcast on HBO there.
The TV Addict’s Response: According to an official HBO (US) Press Release, the new high-definition re-mastering of THE WIRE will be available to all HBO subscribers across the US on HBO GO, as well over the air. From the release, “Now, new and old fans of the series can watch the show like never before thanks to a brand new High-Definition upgrade of all 60 episodes, which will debut in December on HBO Signature® and HBO GO®”