Canadian Streaming TV Apps: Report Cards!

Television watchers in Canada usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to watching shows, on-demand, online. If we aren’t being restricted because we don’t live on American soil, then we’re being restricted for not having a specific type of account.

To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, I spent a bit of time with four of the only streaming TV apps that work well for *any* Canadian who has an iOS device or a computer. In addition, I’ve tested out how each of the apps handles AirPlay and what happens to the quality of the video upon doing so; a useful metric for those of us who own an Apple TV.

NOTE: If you want to see the combined report cards, go directly to the Canadian TV Streaming App Report Card page!



I visualized the data into a “report card” of sorts to give you a side-by-side comparison of features and offerings. Here’s how to read the report cards:

Canadian Streaming TV App Report Card Reading Instructions

  1. App Info
    The name of the app and who it is published by. This is also an indicator of which of the major media companies in Canada happens to own this channel and app.
  2. Device Availability
    From left to right: iPhone, iPad, Web, and Airplay. Certain apps are only available on certain platforms. If it is not available, that given platform will be greyed out, such as AirPlay in this instance.
  3. Measurement Minimum
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the minimum number for the measurement. For both instances, it will be zero.
  4. Measurement Maximum
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the maximum number for the measurement. This is determined by the highest number I encounter while measuring.
  5. Measurement Average
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the average number measured across the board.
  6. Video Quality Indicator
    For a given device, I took a look at the video quality available for a user across multiple shows and made my judgment. This is rather subjective, but if it is passable quality (not full of artifacts and jaggies) then it is given a checkmark. An ‘X’ will only be given if it is not available in the first place, and/or it is of very poor quality.
    NOTE: Quality, for most of these apps, was great on iOS devices and so-so on the web at full screen.
  7. Advertisement Usage
    An indicator of when and where advertisements show up, in relation to watching a television episode. Some apps, such as the CTV app, will actually interrupt you as you are using the app and looking for a show to watch.

General Comments

While using these apps, it became increasingly apparent that “on-demand” was a term that could only be loosely used by these apps. There seems to be a general trend, with web content from large media companies, where they will only store a handful of the most recent episodes (if that) and the rest are nowhere to be found. In fact, CTV had the highest show count of the four apps, but had the lowest “average number of episodes available” count because they just had so many shows that had zero video content.

In addition, there can be some misleading content in these apps. For example, I don’t believe a collection of your season finale episodes count as a “show,” CBC. And 245 videos labeled “Season X, Episode Y,” but are actually just 2 minute clips, do not count as episodes, CTV. Not to mention, certain platforms do not show all content actually available; CBC had a handful of shows only available on their website but not on the CBC TV app.

With “on-demand” apps like this, it would be a great way to reduce piracy of your shows while receiving some advertising revenue. However, you are forcing consumers to either purchase DVDs (which I assume is the reason to not put full catalogues online) or to pirate shows. I would suggest a re-evaluation of how content is provided to consumers, because you are only making it more difficult for us.

Additional Notes

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I only spent time with these four apps. For the sake of full disclosure, you should know that there should have been a fourth: Rogers Anyplace TV. There were two reasons, on my part, to exclude a valid television streaming service: 1) you need a working Rogers account to access the site, which not all Canadians have. 2) even if you have a Rogers account, the tablet app is restricted from you if you are on a monthly plan.

Rogers Anyplace TV

That made no sense, so they were not included.

In addition, I do not hold any of the copyrights for the app icons used in the report card, they are owned by their respective media companies.

You can also find the data I collected here. It contains all of the shows that can be found in the apps themselves, along with episode numbers, and any notes I may have made along the way.

I am happy to answer any questions that might come up, as well as add analyses of any apps that I may have missed.

Thanks for reading!

NOTE: If you want to see the combined report cards, go directly to the Canadian TV Streaming App Report Card page!


Translation of the Letter Rogers Sent Me

Received a letter from Rogers today, announcing yet another price increase for internet and cable TV. They started off with marketing garbage about how awesome they’ve made my service (but actually mean nothing) and threw this in there:

However, over the past year, there has been an increase in the cost of providing you with our services as we continue to expand and upgrade our network and launch enhancements to serve you better. We have taken steps to minimize the impact that these increased costs will have on you. Remember, if you choose to subscribe to more than one service, you may be eligible for a discount.

I’ve gone ahead and translated it into Real Talk™:

In the past year, the greed of our executives and shareholders has increased while our services have stagnated. We like to pretend that we’re doing you a favour by only increasing it by a little bit, but in reality, we don’t give a damn. However, if you decide to throw more money at us, we’d be happy to shave off another dollar! We’ll get it back at the next price increase anyway.

Thanks Rogers, for being the corporate parasite of Canada.

Quit Hijacking My Typos, Rogers.

My fingers are fat and stubby, and they can be a little stupid at times. I’m okay with that. I have learned to love them.

However, while surfing at home, my fat fingers occasionally will enter an incorrect or incomplete typo and take me to an error page. It usually looks like this:

Upon seeing this page, an electronic signal is sent, via your Rogers connection, to the brain of one of their executives. He wakes up from his slumber (their executives are in perpetual slumber, due to being so encumbered from all the money they pilfer) and emits an audible “Yippee!”

Our cute and cuddly little executive then falls back asleep, dreaming of his next pillage and plunder scheme. (“Hey, let’s make a bank!”)

If you don’t want to disturb that executive’s peaceful slumber, feel free to jump onto alternative DNS providers such as OpenDNS and Google. (Thanks Jason, Justin, and Moeed!)

Happy surfing!

Case Study: When You Should Have Kept Your Mouth Shut

As a company, you should give your two cents on hotly debated issues that matter to your customers. You should do this to establish your potion on the matter and give your customers peace of mind or a better idea of what they are dealing with.

What you should NOT do, however, is pretend that everything is just fine and your service is all fine and dandy.

Enter: Rogers RedBoard.

This entire post, is essentially how the Rogers social media team felt it was appropriate to respond to the entire UBB hubbub that went on (and is still going on) a couple of weeks ago.

In summary:
Heavy Rogers customers should pay for their usage, so the light users don’t subsidize them. Rogers makes substantial investments, and here’s all of our plans. Also, UBB doesn’t affect you.

Hah, what a hoot.

In the comments, users were quick to point out that Rogers customers have long been affected by UBB, having had bandwidth caps for years. Not to mention, there were many terrific arguments against bandwidth caps in general.

Like a good social media team, Rogers would of course respond to the posts. Of course, like Rogers, they don’t give a damn about what you just said and they’re going to parrot the same company rhetoric that they’ve been fed, and you aren’t going to get any sort of useful discussion out of this at all.

Good luck with that. Also, fix your commenting system, it’s garbage.

Next time Rogers, shut your mouth. When you open it and insult all of your customers like this, you are doing yourself no service and are making sure that your social media team fails in every aspect. They are paid to raise the company banner, so what did you expect was going to happen to this post?

We certainly weren’t going to welcome you with open arms.

Here are some of the highlights of the sad state of affairs in their comments:

View some of the other comments I screencapped in this album.

Save The Internet

It’s time to act.

We need to make sure that those who have the power to change this situation can all hear our thoughts and opinions on the matter. We need to make sure that they act in our best interests and hopefully eliminate

Here is a great article on how to contact everyone really important.

Other than that, I will also be contacting the following people:

Rob Ford
Mayor of Toronto
City Hall – Suite C40
100 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
[email protected]

My Local Councillor
List of Councillors + Contact Info

Let them all know your exact thoughts on the entire Usage Based Billing nonsense. Please remain civil and professional, we want to get our points across.

Here are some important points to cover:

  • How important internet service is to you
  • How important affordable internet service is to the future of Canada
  • How important competition is in every industry
  • How much you pay every month for internet service and how much you will pay after UBB is implemented

(Taken from Digital Home’s article.)

ACT! For the sake of the internet.

Customers as Adversaries

This week, I tweeted about Rogers taking away the credit I had in my wireless account for the System Access Fee. A credit (For $6.95) that I was told I could have until the end of my contract.

The Rogers social media team responded to me, and I received a subsequent call from Delwin, of the Office of the President. I explained my situation to him, and he said that there was nothing in their notes, and that there was no code for the System Access Fee credit in the system anymore. Of course not.

I told him not to bother with anything else, I was going to let my contract expire and be done with this terrible company for good for my mobile phone. I explained to Delwin that it’s rather outrageous that they were willing to sacrifice $50 a month from a long time customer for the sake of $6.95 a month. He didn’t bother fighting, he knew it was a lost cause.

For full disclosure’s sake, my account is worth at least $80 a month, and I have received quite a few credits on my account already. Why? I fought tooth and nail for them because it’s not like Rogers would ever say a damn thing to me should prices for better plans be created.

I am sure many people share the number of credits I have, along with the stories of how they have had to fight for every single dollar in the account.

Thank you Rogers, and the other telecoms, for making sure you treat all of your customers as adversaries. You are profiting extraordinarily well from all the frustrations of consumers in this inexplicably monopolistic telecom industry in Canada, and the CRTC ensures that your profits for years to come will be safe.

Up yours, and then some.

Technologically stagnant

Considering that Rogers has more than 6 million postpaid wireless subscribers (Source) where a good number of them still pay their System Access Fees, why are we still paying an arm and a leg for complacency? Let’s crunch the numbers:

$6.95 – System Access Fee
6,451,000 – Approximate number of postpaid subscribers, as of December 31, 2008

ASSUMPTION: 80% pay their System Access Fee (Because many people, like myself, have had it waived. VERY conservatively low number, as I believe almost no one really waived it, but this is to be safe.)

$6.95 x (6,451,000 * 80%) = $35,867,560 per MONTH

Can someone please tell me why, with an extra $35 million per month in what is essentially profit, is Rogers not vastly improving our service by leaps and bounds? If someone wants to correct me as to what that System Access Fee goes towards, then please leave a comment!

UPDATE: Just found this article from the Toronto Star, here’s an important little snippet:

The investigation also revealed that many customer service agents employed by the various cellphone companies were incorrectly telling subscribers the fee was a mandatory government charge collected on behalf of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Such a charge, while it was required two decades ago when the cellphone industry was just getting started, no longer exists. The fee, however, is still being collected.

Well then!

Mobile Data – An Arm and a Leg?

I’m a customer of Rogers Wireless and I have always been deprived of a mobile data plan, and there’s a good reason for it! I found this article while Googling for data plans in Canada. Sure, it was written in April 9th, 2007, so things have had to change since then right?

Well, here’s what Rogers is currently offering in terms of data plans, with a breakdown of cost per megabyte:

$15     2MB        $7.50/MB
$25     500MB    $0.05/MB
$30     1GB        $0.03/MB
$60     3GB        $0.02/MB

Seems pretty reasonable right? Well, 6.9 million iPhones were sold in Q42008 globally, and the iPhone is a rather data-intensive device. It’s advertised to play streaming videos with ease, play games, and keep you connected.

But streaming videos can be one of the greatest consumers of bandwidth – just ask YouTube. So I decided to test it out – just how much data would YouTube consume? To do this test, I measured the amount of data used in one minute (1:00) of a YouTube video. Here are the raw results:

Start       End        Difference
418.40    424.00    5.60
428.00    433.80    5.80
440.20    446.20    6.00
447.10    453.20    6.10
454.20    460.20    6.00
461.40    469.60    8.20
469.60    479.10    9.50
480.70    484.50    3.80
485.50    491.50    6.00
493.30    499.30    6.00

The most left hand column represents the total amount of bandwidth transferred to my computer (Apple Macbook), which started at 418.40, so I merely recorded the difference. The middle column represents the total amount of bandwidth transferred to my computer after a minute of a YouTube video playing. The last column is the difference of the first two columns, giving you the amount of data used up within one minute.

I eliminated the two outliers and came up with an average of 6.21MB/min. Sounds like a big number, eh? Well, here’s what that means for you:

  • On a 500MB/month data plan ($25) – you will run out of bandwidth after approximately 80 minutes of just watching YouTube videos. Even sooner if you use your data elsewhere. ($0.31/min)
  • On a 1GB/month data plan ($30) – you will run out of bandwidth after approximately 160 minutes of just watching YouTube videos. ($0.19/min)
  • On a 3GB/month data plan ($60) – you will run out of bandwidth after approximately 483 minutes of just watching YouTube videos. ($0.12/min)

Doesn’t this seem expensive for you? We’re in an age where data should be at our fingertips, without restrictions, 24 hours a day, 7 days aweek. Yet here in Canada, Rogers has the ability to place bandwidth caps on the Internet, remove features that compete with their services from mobile phones, and create very expensive data plans.

Are we going to continue paying an arm and a leg in order to receive a mediocre service? Digg this.