Canada Begins Phasing In Government-Mandated À La Carte Cable Today

It’s been almost two and a half years since we last checked in with our northern neighbors in Canada about how their nationwide implementation of à la carte cable is going. Today is when the real test of unbundled TV begins: cable companies will be required to offer basic plans for $25 as of today, and even more radical unbundling will happen by the end of 2016.

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Customers will be able to add themed packages like “sports” or “family” to their $25 base plans. The big change will take place by the end of this year, when customers are supposed to be allowed to fully customize their plans.

That doesn’t mean that they have to make the bundles all that appealing, though. The Associated Press reports that cable company Rogers is already offering access to the country’s two major sports networks separately for $18 each for people who have that $25 basic package.

Or sports fans could pay an extra five bucks, $66, for a pre-designed channel package that includes those sport networks, the basic channels, and 230 more channels on top of that.

“We will find out as this whole system rolls out, are you really going to pay less money?” a former telecom executive asked the AP. “Or are you going to pay a hell of a lot more for TSN [a sports channel comparable to ESPN] than you thought?”

When economists ran a simulation of consumer and cable company behavior back in 2011, they found that unbundling TV channels increased prices for everyone about 3% overall, and any savings from removing unwanted channels was offset by increased prices for those channels.

We’ll keep an eye on the Grand Canadian Cable experiment and keep you updated.

Will TV bills rise with channel choice? Canada to find out [AP]