Canadians Hate the Bell-Astral Merger, but Does it Really Matter That Much in Today’s World?

The Canadian mass media war of 2012 continues as 20,000 Canadians have now made their voice heard against the multi-billion dollar merger at SayNotoBell.ca

But considering that video traffic is expected to represent 90% of all Internet traffic in a year, does this merger really matter in the long-term scope of things?

Canadians have as explained recently that 81% of the value of all Canadian television distribution is controlled by companies that also provide cable, satellite, and fibe services when there is YouTube? Canadians also spend more time on the Internet than any other country in the world.

Some Canadian YouTube hits like Epic Meal Time have had more of an audience than networks could ever dream of for a particular sitcom. With 442 million worldwide lifetime views on YouTube, Epic Meal Time is still pulling in at least one to three million views per new episode in the past quarter.

Still, 1,700 interventions have been filed with the CRTC regarding the merger. Online video traffic is only continuing to grow though, so one argument is that it may be wise to allow traditional media companies to become bigger in order to offset eventual declining cable, satellite, and fibe subscriptions. That’s much like how Canadians are unplugging the landline in favour of mobile phones.

Further, one can make the argument that companies like Bell need to continue to make a lot of money in order to afford premium programming such as the Olympics, although Bell lost millions for broadcasting them. Although that’s sort of a moot point considering the national public broadcaster in the CBC has re-taken the Olympic rights for the next two Olympiads, despite cutbacks earlier this year.

Organizations continue to join in opposition, and they have good reasons. Montreal-based Option consommateurs, a non-profit organization dedicated to the defence and promotion of consumers’ rights is the latest. They have also launched a petition of their own against the merger. They added in their press release Tuesday that Bell, with the acquisition of MLSE and potentially Astral would then control 80% of French-language specialty TV programming. However, one could argue that all of YouTube’s content in the French language produced out of French-speaking parts of Canada is specialty video programming as well.

Executive Director Robert Cazelais asks: “With so few players in the market, what options will consumers have if they are not satisfied with their consumer provider?”

Robert’s right to suggest that consumers are certainly unsatisfied with their market providers, but consumers have had more choice than ever before with YouTube. One example is that extreme Internet throttling continues in Canada courtesy of Bell and Rogers. Those two media giants are also the most guilty of vertical integration, which is a practice that most Canadians oppose and is unseen anywhere in the G8 like it is in Canada.

If one really wanted to protest against vertical integration, a better solution would be for independent producers to continue producing unique quality video content. Then they would post it online to rival sitcoms and the news. Some Canadian content produced like Epic Meal Time has been proven to become just as popular as the top television shows.

That goes to show that some previously thought to be premium content may be losing its status as “premium” after all. AMC’s Mad Men is a great example of a show that only broadcasted to a few million a week despite its incredible popularity in popular culture. In the last few years, the show, among many television shows, saw YouTube productions capture both more North American and worldwide viewing share.