This week, Disney announced that their much anticipated new streaming service, Disney Plus, will launch in November in the United States. It’s priced to entice even the most ardent Netflix supporter, with the entire suite of Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN all bundled at US$12.99.

Disney aims to be consumers’ top choice as viewers continue to migrate away from cable and satellite. Netflix has enjoyed a six year head start, but the price for their service has crept up from eight or nine dollars a month in Canada to $14. Besides Netflix, Canadians already can access Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access and Bell-owned Crave (offering HBO and Showtime); soon Disney will be joined by Warner Bros new streaming service HBO Max and then there’s Apple TV+.

Wheeling over to Disney Plus: FX’s edgy biker drama Sons of Anarchy. Not your uncle Walt’s Disney channel anymore

Beyond price, Disney will offer cradle to grave content. This is no Mickey Mouse operation. Besides keeping families in front of screens, Disney is home to today’s Marvel superhero blockbusters, The Star Wars franchise, ABC, much of the old Fox Studio empire, ESPN and more. Want adult fare? Disney Plus will have Sons of Anarchy. As Goofy might say, Gawrsh!

How this will all unravel in Canada is the question. Bell and Rogers have locked rights to hockey, football and baseball for years to keep TSN and Sportsnet in the game. Will Disney’s ESPN+ offering be wall-to-wall blackouts? What of HBO Max? Doesn’t Crave have Canadian rights to HBO content?

It will all come down to dollars and cents, for consumers as well as media moguls. Where can I get much of what I want, because nobody will have everything I want? Will people stop watching Friends and The Big Bang Theory, for example, as Warners claws back rights to those shows and uses them as exclusive content lures on their new HBO Max streaming service?

Chief Creative Officer of Turner Entertainment Kevin Reilly at TCA last February with a wall full of options heading to HBO Max. Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Finally, will some consumers resort to piracy? Maybe, but there are also legal ways around the media giants. I put an antenna purchased on Amazon on the roof of the cottage on the weekend, pointed it across Lake Huron and voila — three crisp, beautiful PBS options as well as ABC and NBC affiliates. Cost after the $55 antenna (including free shipping): zero a month.


Still, you can’t watch a Jimmy Stewart marathon on TCM that way… although there is that handy TCM app.

Heritage media has jumped on this story, of course. CBC Radio syndication had me on 12 different stations across Canada Thursday morning to put the Disney streaming initiative in perspective. The caution I brought up in Kamloops, Sudbury and other busy production centres in that, sure, it’s great that Hallmark and Disney and CBS Paramount are rounding up Canadian crews, but where will Canadian storytellers take their wares? CBC Gem, the public broadcaster’s digital streaming option, has made inroads at least; I just screened an advanced episode of CBC’s Tall Boyz II Men sketch series, coming next month to digital and linear, and it is to laff.

Besides the CBC Radio reports, I spoke with Global News Radio morning host Bill Kelly on Hamilton’s CHML Thursday about the impact of Disney Plus on the whole streaming scene. You can listen in here to the entire radio report.


  1. Alicia Ottenbreit Reply

    This next year will be the biggest one in years for tv. With Apple, Disney, NBC and Warner set to launch streaming services in the States, joining Netflix, CBS All Access, Amazon and Hulu, things will probably get just as interesting, if not more up in Canada. Here are the big questions in my mind when it comes to streaming in Canada:

    1) Crave TV – They are just finally gaining momentum. I’m a longtime tv nerd so I’ve known of Crave for a while but now in the past couple of months I’ve heard a lot of people in my real world (non-online-world) talking about it. A lot of people don’t like that it costs $9.99 extra (in addition to the $9.99 that it costs for the basic Crave) to get newer HBO content and movies. That’s $20 a month for something a lot of people view as a secondary service to Netflix and Netflix is $13.99 a month. It’s too high of a price point and it causes a lot of Canadians to go the android box route and not pay for the content at all. However, Crave TV may have an edge up on Netflix if they found a way to create a tv streaming package which includes TSN Direct, Bell Media’s streaming service for TSN (like Disney is doing down south by creating a package which includes ESPN). Right now, TSN’s streaming service is growing in popularity as its fairly difficult to find free quality streaming for sports and people do not want to subscribe to cable/satellite. TSN Direct is $19.99 a month, which is still pricey and people are willing to pay that for sports. If Bell Media really wants to compete and fend off upstart streamers from the south, they need to put together an attractive package. Why not include all 3–TSN Direct, Crave TV and Crave HBO/Movies –as 1 package at something like $20 a month IF a person subscribes to a whole year, paying an annual fee? This’ll get people trying out the service for a year, rather than just a month and gets them used to having Crave and place them firmly in households as mainstays like Netflix.

    2) CBC – I like CBC Gem minus one annoying thing: the app isn’t found on Roku but now it’s on Amazon Firestick I can use that and will no longer have to use Chromecast and my laptop to watch it on tv. CBC Gem is free with ads and its a good app and hopefully people will be drawn to it for its status as free. I haven’t used the app extensively yet but I wonder this : Will upcoming shows will be found on there with same-day streams such as Battle of the Blades and sports coverage such as Hockey Night in Canada?

    3) Corus Entertainment – What are they waiting for? Shomi, which was a joint Rogers/Shaw enterprise was a good effort and I still am surprised they didn’t try to stick it out. Where they could really shine as a streaming service is with their kids content. With Nelvana, YTV, Treehouse and Teletoon all Corus properties, Corus could really shine as an app for people with kids. To me, this where Netflix really wins me over. Between my 3 kids, they watch a lot of Netflix content. And Corus does have some good adult content too although Global has never really cranked out much original content. I’m been waiting ions for Vikings to appear on a streamer (it was previously on Shomi but back then I actually subscribed to satellite). Corus carries W Network too and if they could work out a deal to stream all of those Hallmark movies, I think women would really be drawn to it. Will Corus ever take the plunge and launch their own streaming service? Or will they try to partner up with one of the American streamers?

    4) Rogers – Sportsnet Now is a decent streaming service and there’s lots of hockey games on there. The price is $19.99 which includes 500 NHL games but blackouts do apply (for an additional $7.99 you can get away from the blackouts). Rogers lacks much scripted content. CityTV has very little in the ways of original content so it doesn’t make sense for them to launch their own streaming services for that content; they are better off just licensing it to other streamers. With cable/satellite receding, will Rogers attempt to transform their CityTV franchise into a streaming entity?

    5) Disney+ – What happens with Crave TV’s deal with Hulu which enables them to stream shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Veronica Mars? I highly doubt ESPN will be part of the package up here due to complicated sports’ leagues’ rights unless we get the watered down ESPN we get on cable up here now. How long exactly will we have to wait for Disney+ and will the Canadian version be similar to the American one or will it be like how Target stores in Canada were nowhere near as great as the Target Stores in the States.

    6) Warner’s HBO Max service – With news that Warner’s streaming service will be called HBO Max, what does this mean for Bell Media’s agreement with HBO for its content for their streaming service? Just how long has Bell Media licensed HBO content for?

    • Bill Brioux Reply

      You’ve summed it all up perfectly Alicia. I especially like your Crave suggestion about combining it with TSN as a suite of” plus” channels similar to the Disney offer. Consumers will want to land on something that offers a wide range for twenty bucks a month.

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