This week’s podcast: fat lies and skinny basic

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THEO MOUDAKIS / TORONTO STAR

This whole “skinny basic” cable kerfuffle is radio gold to my pal Scott Thompson at AM900 CHML. He could hardly wait to dive into it on this week’s radio chat.

Scott asks if the cable/satellite providers aren’t missing an opportunity by keeping this offer–a skinny basic tier of programming for 25 bucks–as far under the radar as possible. The package, after all, was forced on them by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission.

The answer is no. These guys do not want to sell you this thing, so they aren’t going to tell you about this thing. They’ve got you hooked for $80 or $100 a month or more now–why on earth would they want you to pay a small fraction of that?

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It’s easier to find this guy than info on “Skinny Basic”

So they’ve made the skinny basic model as lame as possible and worked in extra charges for high-definition boxes and other stuff just to put anybody off who might have scrolled down far enough to find out about the offer. See and scroll for yourselves at Rogers, Bell and Shaw.

Rogers and Bell call their skinny basic packages “Starter,” Shaw is even more dismissive: “Limited.”

I can’t blame them. If Ford was told to start selling two thousand dollar cars,and they were forced to tell people about them, it would be in an ink not seen by the naked eye.

Subscribe to any of the skinny deals and the experience would be roughly the equivalent of what TV was like before cable, in the old 13 channel dial universe. You get CBC, CTV, City and Global and them all again in HD, plus AMI, Weather, APTN and PBS. Shaw and Rogers give you the Big 4 US networks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Bell does not. (Executives there for years have stated they’d love to build a Trump wall and keep them the hell out of Canada, eliminating the need to simulcast.) Bell swaps in CTV Two, OMNI and Vision. Yes TV, TVA and TVO in Ontario are also in the mix for most.

So if you need a nite light or something to leave on to trick burglars into thinking you’re home, this is the deal for you. OR–if this works combined with Netflix, Shomi and/or Crave, booyah. Me, I’d cut the cord, pay the one time cost of a good digital antenna, and enjoy basically the same channel selection as “skinny”–for $0 a month.

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A free ad for Vmedia. Enjoy.

Consumers can also check out Internet upstart Vmedia. They have the guts–or marketing savvy–to actually call their skinny package Skinny. It’s no skinnier than what Bell, Rogers and Shaw are offering, and it is only $17.95 a month.

I tell Scott that the skinny basic deal should have been launched at the same time as a full pick ‘n’ pay menu. Selling the bun now and the burger later is pointless. As the CRTC determined, what consumers want is the ability to just buy the channels they watch and not be forced to get TSN, say, or TCM without having to shell out for an expensive sports or movie bundle. As it stands, the other shoe won’t drop until December.

The providers are counting on enticing shows on specialty and pay tiers–plus inertia–to keep most of their customers plugged into pricey packages that seem to keep going up every few months. By offering this disappointing “skinny” alternative, however, companies risk losing folks looking for any excuse to ditch their cable bill.

CHML_AM_Logo.svgThere is also more blather about The Oscars plus the return of the great FX series The Americans. (Yikes–better keep that package that includes FX!). Listen to the whole 17 minute yakfest here.

cjoblogoEarlier this week, I also spoke with Geoff Currier from Winnipeg’s AM680 CJOB about Chris Rock’s impact at The Oscars. Plenty of talk about race and region. You can listen to that conversation here.

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