Canadians spend 22% of TV time in pay, specialty services

TORONTO — Pay and specialty TV continue to take a bite out of auds for Canadian and U.S. terrestrial television, according to the latest report on viewing habits from several Canuck government agencies.

Canadians spent 22% of their TV time on Canadian pay and specialty services and another 10% on U.S. pay and specialty services in fall 2001, a huge leap from a decade ago when the share was just 6% and 3% respectively. Meanwhile, the share for Canuck and U.S. terrestrial television continues to fall, from 65% ten years ago to 50% for Canadian stations in 2001 and from 19% to 11% for U.S. stations.

Increased satellite TV take-up powers the growth. In the five years leading up to 2001, the penetration rate leapt from 3% to 15%, a jump that has come at the expense of the cable industry, which saw its penetration decline from 77% to 71%.

The numbers indicate that viewers spent just 1.5% of their tube time watching the dozens of new diginets launched in fall 2001. The report noted that auds are small because digital continues to be broadcast simultaneously with analog and new equipment is often required to receive digital TV.

Thanks to the tendency of French-Canadians to watch Canadian-made television, viewership has increased slightly over the decade, with indigenous TV taking up 39% of viewing time, up from 36%. French Canadians spend 68.5% of their time on home-grown TV, while English Canadians viewing is just 28.6% made in Canada.

English-speaking Canadians spend 4% of TV time watching home grown drama and comedy, and another 36% watching foreign, mostly U.S., fare. This backs the vociferous complaints of unions and producers in Canada who complain that there is a crisis in homemade drama.

The report was commissioned by Stats Canada with Canadian Heritage and the broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

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