Crave (streaming service)
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 Video. The base Crave service includes access to "off-air" (previously broadcast) HBO programming, current and off-air Showtime programming, and a library of various television series (including Bell Media original series and other acquisitions). A premium tier (corresponding to the linear pay television network of the same name), which adds access to recent theatrical films and first-run HBO series, is also offered.
Type of site
|Video on demand|
|Launched||December 11, 2014|
Crave's base 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.
When CraveTV launched in December 2014, it was offered exclusively as an addon to a traditional TV service subscription, mainly through sister company Bell TV; it allowed standalone subscriptions beginning in January 2016. On November 1, 2018, CraveTV combined operations with Bell Media's linear pay television service The Movie Network, with both services rebranding as "Crave". As a result, the former TMN service effectively became Crave's second tier, with subscribers to the former TMN automatically gaining access to the former CraveTV library, while the standalone direct-to-consumer service launched an add-on tier including TMN's film library, current HBO programming, and streams of the former TMN's linear channels (plus HBO Canada). Meanwhile, the basic VOD-only service was expanded to additional service providers.
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 TMNEdit
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, 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".
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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 24 July 2016.
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- "CraveTV boosts Bell's bottom line as Shomi pulls the plug". Toronto Star. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
- 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...