Crave (streaming service)
Type of site
|Video on demand|
|Launched||December 11, 2014|
Crave (formerly known as CraveTV) is a Canadian subscription video on demand service owned by Bell Media. The service competes directly with other subscription-based over-the-top streaming services who do business in Canada, primarily the American-based services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Crave is the primary on-demand outlet for Bell's exclusive Canadian rights to most programming from American television services HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, and Starz; it also offers various theatrical films and other television series including Bell Media original series and foreign acquisitions. However, current seasons of HBO and Starz programs, and most films, are only available through add-on subscriptions corresponding to the Crave/HBO Canada and Starz linear pay television networks.
Crave is available both as a over-the-top subscription service directly from Bell Media or through intermediaries such the Apple App Store, or as a video-on-demand package through participating Canadian television service providers. Since November 2018, the VOD service has been operated jointly with the Crave pay TV network (formerly The Movie Network), but for regulatory purposes it is handled as a separate operation.
The Crave video-on-demand service is registered with the CRTC as a licence-exempt "hybrid" VOD service, allowing its programming to be offered on-demand through cable/IPTV service providers, without an accompanying linear channel, provided that it is also available via the Internet on a direct-to-consumer basis. Regardless of subscription method, programming is available for streaming through Crave's website, mobile apps, video game consoles, smart TVs and other devices; when subscribed to through a TV provider, some or all programming may be also available through that provider's set-top boxes.
Bell's Crave and Starz linear TV channels are offered under separate licences, however upon its relaunch in November 2018, the direct-to-consumer Crave service launched add-on tiers which includes access to the programming and linear streams of both services. At the same time, subscribers to the former TMN linear service began to receive access to the former CraveTV VOD library at no additional charge, when signed into the Crave streaming platform via TV Everywhere. According to Bell, there is no difference in the programming available to direct-to-consumer subscribers to Crave with the "Movies + HBO" addon compared to those subscribed to the Crave pay TV service via a traditional TV service provider.
At the time of launch Bell did not indicate any plans to make CraveTV available on a standalone over-the-top basis, instead stating that CraveTV would "enhance the value of the subscription television ecosystem" and would be "available to every TV provider in Canada". Former Bell Media president Kevin Crull explained that television content on any streaming service "[would not] exist if you didn't have the traditional TV system. So you really can't sustainably have one without the other." Further, he stated that the service would not "cannibalize" Bell's investment in traditional linear television services. Tying the service to a television service also counters the trend of "cord cutting", in which one drops cable or satellite television in favor of exclusively obtaining television programming over-the-air and through SVOD services.
On launch, the service was only available to subscribers of television service providers owned by Bell Canada (including Bell Satellite TV, Bell Fibe TV, Fibe TV, and Northwestel cable TV), along with Eastlink and Telus. In February 2015, Access Communications, Cable Cable, and Nexicom were added, giving the service wider availability in Saskatchewan and Northern Canada.
On July 13, 2015, Bell announced that CraveTV would transition to an over-the-top service available to all users, regardless of provider, in January 2016. That month, the service when sold through TV providers increased in price from $4 to $6 per-month. On January 14, 2016, CraveTV was launched as an over-the-top service, costing $7.99 per-month. The price was raised again to $9.99 in May 2018.
Merger with TMN
In October 2018, a Rogers Cable service bulletin stated that beginning in November, The Movie Network subscribers would begin to receive CraveTV as part of their service.
On November 1, 2018, Bell announced that CraveTV had merged with The Movie Network, with both services renamed Crave (and the combined services promoted as "The All-New Crave"). Under the service's new structure, TMN linear subscribers additionally receive access to CraveTV's library as part of their service, and Crave's OTT service added a $19.98 "Crave + Movies + HBO" tier that adds access to TMN's film library and programming, including first-run HBO programming. The existing CraveTV service without films or current HBO programming remains available, at its existing $9.99 direct-to-consumer price. Distribution of the basic Crave service through service providers (in some cases at a lower price) also continues, now including additional providers such as Rogers Cable. Bell Media head Randy Lennox cited increasing competition with Netflix as a basis for the decision.
As CraveTV, the service was oriented primarily towards television series, carrying over 10,000 hours of programming on-launch; Bell expected the library to double within a year of the service's launch. Among the programs that are exclusive to CraveTV are programs broadcast by other Bell properties, such as The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, series produced by Comedy Central such as South Park, and Seinfeld.
Crave's base tier carries a catalogue of HBO "off-air" programming (i.e. series no longer in production), such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, and various older HBO-produced television films, documentaries, and stand-up comedy specials. At the time of launch, current HBO programming remained exclusive to HBO Canada, a multiplex channel of The Movie Network; it is now included in Crave's premium tier.
In February 2016, Bell Media announced that it had acquired exclusive rights to the current incarnation of Doctor Who, with CraveTV adding series 9 later that year, series 1 through 8 by the end of the year, and completed series added to the service following the conclusion of their first-run airings on Space. In July 2016, Bell Media announced that it had acquired rights to current and past Star Trek television series for CraveTV and its cable networks (such as Space), including the then-upcoming Star Trek: Discovery (which is streamed on CBS All Access in the United States).
On October 24, 2016, Bell announced that new and returning Showtime programming would become available on CraveTV day-and-date with their U.S. premiere, beginning with the third-season premiere of The Affair. Previously, they were only added after their seasons concluded on The Movie Network.
In June 2017, Bell reached a deal to sell Comedy Gold to Wow Unlimited Media. As part of the sale, Wow agreed to provide content for Bell Media's OTT ventures. In September 2018, CraveTV launched the "Wow! Preschool Playdate" and "Wow! World Kids" collections.
In February 2015, the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) against both CraveTV and the competing service Shomi, arguing that their exclusivity primarily to those who are subscribers of their respective owners' television services was a form of tied selling that "[discriminates] against customers who wish to only view programming through an Internet service provider of their choice".
On March 12, 2015, the CRTC announced new proposed regulations for video on demand services, creating a new category for "hybrid online video-on-demand" services between unregulated digital services and licensed video on demand services offered by television providers. Licensed VOD services are not allowed to offer "exclusive" content and are also subject to genre protection and Canadian content rules. Hybrid services would not be bound to the aforementioned rules, including the ability to offer "exclusive" content, and can be made accessible through a provider's set-top box, but they must be also offered over-the-top on a standalone basis without a television subscription.
The CRTC did not explicitly state whether CraveTV or Shomi would be classified as a "hybrid" VOD service under its proposed regulations, which would have required them to offer their service on a standalone basis; a Bell spokesperson argued that CraveTV would not be subject to the requirements because it is a licensed VOD provider, and its content was not "exclusive" because Bell has offered the service for other providers. Nonetheless, Bell eventually registered CraveTV with the CRTC as a hybrid VOD service, and began to offer it on a standalone basis.
In February 2019, parent company BCE said that following the consolidation with TMN, Crave had reached 2.3 million subscribers across all versions/levels of the service, and had become "profitable".
- "Radio, TV and Cable Broadcasting Services that do and do not need a licence". Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Retrieved November 12, 2018. (search "Crave" under "Name of service")
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (August 6, 2015). "Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-355 and Broadcasting Order CRTC 2015-356". Retrieved January 12, 2019.
- "Bell Media's Cravetv launches with low-cost subscription". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
- "Crave Help & FAQs". Retrieved May 19, 2019.
[Q:] Is the direct-to-consumer Crave product different from what I would get through my television provider? [A:] No, the only difference (aside from the billing company) is that subscribing through a television provider provides viewers with the option to access the service via their television provider’s set-top box (where supported) with on demand and linear channels in addition to the Crave app and website. The content offering is the same regardless of the provider or the platform.
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- '19-2' star Jared Keeso to helm original scripted comedy for CraveTV. CTV News, March 5, 2015.
- "New Star Trek series to premiere on CTV, then air on Space and Z". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
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- "SHOWTIME Programming To Now Premiere on CraveTV, Beginning November 20 with THE AFFAIR". October 24, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
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- "Consumer groups challenge 'tied selling' of CraveTV, Shomi services" (The Globe and Mail). Retrieved February 6, 2015.
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- "Web streaming service Shomi to shut down as of Nov. 30". CBC News. September 26, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
- "CraveTV 'continues to grow' as web streaming service Shomi to shut down, Bell says". CBC News. September 27, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
- "CraveTV boosts Bell's bottom line as Shomi pulls the plug". Toronto Star. November 3, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
- Cope, George (February 7, 2019). "BCE Inc. Q4 2018 Results & 2019 Financial Guidance Call (Transcript)" (PDF). Retrieved February 18, 2019.
...Crave, with 2.3 million now linear and direct customers on that service... The consolidated Crave is profitable, because we have obviously combined it with our—we have now combined it with our linear business and OTT business...