Bell and HBO announced a deal today that will see Bell Media become the sole licensee of HBO content in Canada. Dubbed a “comprehensive, long-term agreement,” Canada’s largest provider of television service, according to its most recent earnings report, will distribute HBO’s back catalogue, in-market programs, and all future content, through an expanded, nationwide pay TV service.
The announcement arrives as Corus Entertainment says it will shut down its Movie Central, Encore Avenue and HBO Canada brands in western Canada, ceding to Bell Media the right to sign deals with all television providers in the region. As Astral Media did with The Movie Network in central and eastern Canada before it was purchased by Bell, Corus Entertainment provided significant funds for Canadian content through its Movie Central brand, enticing customers to subscribe to its premium channels with the promise of HBO’s unparalleled library of shows, documentaries and movies.
Bell Media’s parent company, BCE, today announced that it plans to expand The Movie Network (TMN) into a “national pay TV service and become the sole operator of HBO Canada.” The two companies also announced a deal to co-create “premium, made-in-Canada content for the world stage.”
A major tenet of the announcement could impact which shows are available on Bell’s hybrid over-the-top service, CraveTV, which expands to all Canadians with an internet connection in January. Under the deal, Bell is allowed to distribute “first-run programming” to its CraveTV service, opening the possibility that shows like Game of Thrones, Girls and others will be streamable to Canadians without a subscription to The Movie Network, which is currently only available through a cable or satellite package.
CraveTV is currently available to a select number of television subscribers across Canada for $4 per month, and it is unclear whether Bell plans to raise the cost of the service when it expands to all internet users in January. Bell already held licensing rights to HBO’s back catalogue, using shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under and others as hero content for CraveTV.