Net will be first general-interest pay channel in years

Regulator the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has given Edmonton-based Allarco Entertainment a license to operate a pay TV network in the country.

Unnamed net will be the first general-interest pay channel to start up in Canada in years.

The country’s pay TV landscape has been controlled by the Corus Entertainment-owned Movie Central in the west and Astral Media-owned the Movie Network in the east.

Astral and Corus argued with the CRTC last fall that there wasn’t room for another pay TV player. On Thursday, both released statements saying they accepted the decision.

Allarco is a new company, but it is majority owned by Charles Allard, one of Canada’s most seasoned broadcast entrepreneurs. The Allard family has been active in broadcasting in Canada since 1965.

Company’s pay network will include six channels, including one with 100% Canadian-content. They will air movies, series, concerts and other special events.

The Astral and Corus pay webs have deals with many of the Hollywood majors, but Allarco president Malcolm Knox told Daily Variety that there is a lot of available U.S. programming given the slew of Yank specialty cable nets.

“I think we will be able to pick up some studio movies,” Knox said.

“Look at the financial results for pay TV and specialty TV. Both Movie Central and the Movie Network had terrific years last year, and both companies had terrific subscriber growth. That shows the marketplace is growing. Also, our research shows there’s a strong appetite for new channels in the pay universe. There’s strong consumer interest, and the incumbents are making a ton of dough.”

Astral veepee Alain Bergeron said Canada does not need another pay TV service.

“We’ve maintained from the beginning that the Canadian consumer did not need a new channel,” said Bergeron. “We have the best content at the best price. We have agreements with just about every U.S. studio, and we just renewed our agreements with HBO and Showtime. So let’s let the consumer decide.”

Allarco’s plan is to have the network up and running by next year and to broadcast in high definition.

Allarco has committed to investing 100% of its profits in Canadian programming and to invest 32% of its revenues in domestic programming annually. It will also spend C$1 million ($898,000) each year on marketing Canuck programming and $1.8 million annually on script and concept development.

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