Can pick and pay cable rules lure cord cutters back to TV?

Pick and pay not the panacea many customers had hoped for.

The final phase of Canadian television providers’ basic cable-package rules took effect Thursday, forcing companies like Bell and Rogers into offering customers the ability to pick and pay for the channels they want.

More than 11 million Canadians still subscribe to cable television, while it’s estimated that 200,000 people will opt to cut the cord by the end of 2016.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) pushed cable companies into selling “skinny” cable packages in March of 2016, which consisted of basic selection of channels for $24.99 per month, plus a monthly rental fee for a HD cable box. Customers could always add theme packs to their basic subscription at additional cost.

Anyone who hoped the rollout of pick and pay rules would serve as a cost-effective method of enhancing their cable package was likely disappointed Thursday.

The cost to add a single channel via a Rogers cable subscription ranges anywhere from as little as $2 per month to upwards of $20 per month for some specialty options. The problem with going pick and pay is that there’s little incentive to opt out of theme packs, which offer several channels at nearly the same monthly cost as a single station in some cases.

Rogers’ Sportsnet Plus & TSN Plus package, for example, costs $25 and offers 31 channels. Meanwhile, the cost of adding Sportsnet’s regional Ontario network is $15 per month and TSN 1 goes for $18 monthly. Likewise, Bell charges $25 per month for a similar sports theme pack while

While sports theme packs are heavily bogged down by standard definition versions of most channels, and some regional networks are forced to blackout a lot of NHL coverage, it’s easy to see where the company is offering more value. They want customers to go big.

It’s not a problem exclusive to sports fans, either. CBC detailed a similar problem with news channels, as outlined in a story about a cable customer who previously paid $15 a month for a theme pack that included CNN and CP24. The cost to add just those two networks to a basic cable package under pick and pay rules works out to $14. A whole dollar in savings!

The CRTC is set to keep a close eye on cable companies to ensure they’re working through loopholes in the system, but it doesn’t appear that pick and pay rules are about to lure any cord cutters back to cable TV.