Price gouging, pandemics and principles - Denny Scott editorial
Earlier this week news broke that, in the middle of a pandemic when people are spending more time than ever at home, Netflix will be increasing the cost of its streaming service by at least one dollar per month in Canada.
I know what lots of folks are saying, especially those in a higher income bracket: It’s just a dollar, right? It can’t be that big of a deal? Well, those folks may be right from a personal standpoint, but if you look at it as a symptom of a bigger problem, rising costs of all telecommunication services, it might be a pretty big deal.
Over the past three years, the cost of the Netflix video-on-demand service will have gone up $4, while, in that same period, numerous competitors have entered the market.
From Disney+ to Amazon Prime and Crave, content generating organizations are popping up everywhere and, beyond that, individual channels and groups of channels are being offered outside of cable.
You would think, in such an atmosphere, that Netflix and its predecessors, the cable companies, would be scaling back pricing to try and court the cable cutters like yours truly away from newer content generators. I guess, however, since most cable companies also offer internet access, they’re getting a piece of the pie either way. That may be why the average Canadian saw their telecommunication bills, which include cable, TV, internet access and cellular phone service, increase annually with cable costing an average of $52.58 per household just a few years ago according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
If you compare it all, prices are going up consistently and Canada pays more for many of its telecommunication services than most other first-world countries. Why? Well we have near-monopolies with companies like Bell and Rogers calling the shots.
Don’t believe me? Canadians pay an average of $101 a month on cell phones, for example. The average American bill is right there with us at $80.25 US (or about $105 Canadian). In the United Kingdom, however, the average bill is between $60 and $80 Canadian a month. That’s a $240 to $480 difference annually.
Canadians deserve better, and we need to impress that upon our content generators and service providers.
To me, it’s going to take a lot of people changing their mind about what they really need on television at home and, as someone who had that discussion and made those changes, I can tell you it’s not difficult.
Shortly after my daughter was born, Ashleigh and I cut our cable package, keeping just internet. At the time, we had Netflix and we figured that would be enough. Eventually, however, we decided we wanted a little more.
We didn’t need the 100 channels of nothing on, but there is something to be said for being able to flip to a station and be surprised by what you find instead of needing to pick and choose every show or movie you watch.
Fortunately for us, we had signed up for Amazon Prime shortly after Mary Jane was born, which offered us streaming music and a slew of new television shows to watch (alongside some old favourites).
Since then, our monthly subscriptions have grown to include Disney+ (for Mary Jane mostly, and a little for me) and CBC Gem (wouldn’t be much of a journalist if I didn’t watch the news). We also added, recently, a service called STACKTV through Amazon Prime which offers just north of a dozen Canadian speciality channels. If you broke it all down, we’re paying about $30 a month for our televised entertainment and there is always something on regardless of who has the remote and what time of day it is. Of course, that doesn’t include what we pay for internet to access these services, but we’d be paying for that anyway.
I’m not trying to sell anyone on what we do. If you’re like some of my family members and really enjoy everything on HGTV, you could get by on just the STACKTV for $15 a month. If, however, you’re one of those people who likes flipping between an NHL game, an action movie and the news with just the flip of a button, well then I guess cable is the right thing for you. Regardless, be aware there are options. That’s the message we need to send.
We need these big companies to understand there are options out there if we want to get more out of entertainment dollars. It’s the only way we’ll ever see what we pay come in line with other countries.