Bell Media’s streaming service CraveTV is promoting U.S. hit show Billions in an attempt to attract viewers to its streaming service just weeks after it opened CraveTV up to the general public, limited as it had been previously to Bell’s subscriber base.
The drama, starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, is now the #1 viewed asset on CraveTV and the top-rated Showtime series premiere on The Movie Network, a premium cable and satellite TV offering owned by Bell Media and available to viewers from Ontario east.
“Billions hits the zeitgeist bullseye: the Super-Rich are our new Super Villains,” writes Toronto Metro critic Johanna Schneller.
Showtime has already announced that Billions has been picked up for a second season, even though only the first two episodes are available for viewing, with a third episode entitled “YumTime” scheduled to be available for streaming from January 31 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
“YumTime” promises to be about the activist takeover of a mom-and-pop bakery business by Bobby “the Axe” Axelrod, a hedge fund manager from a blue-collar background played by Lewis.
CraveTV is Bell’s answer to over-the-top streaming services like Netflix, which is unregulated by the CRTC, and Shomi from Rogers.
The CRTC is in the second phase of its “Let’s Talk TV” series of consultations, which is focusing on the potential effect of over-the-top streaming and the move away from terrestrial TV on the budgets of local broadcasters.
2013-2014 saw a $141 million reduction in total to Canadian private TV stations, both from advertising and government cutbacks, so the survival of local content and credible journalism is very much up in the air as stakeholders make their case to the CRTC during an eight-day hearing process that began on January 25.
Opening up their subscriber-only streaming services was imposed on Rogers and Bell, with additional conditions mandating that they re-invest a certain percentage of revenue into Canadian-produced media and also include Canadian programs in their online libraries.
Netflix, meanwhile, doesn’t have to do any of that and remains outside the regulatory purview of the CRTC.
On March 1, Canadians will have access to the much touted $25 “skinny basic” cable packages mandated by the CRTC, which will provide viewers with a minimum of local and public interest stations plus a smattering of American networks like ABC, CBS, PBS and NBC, with the possibility of adding channels à la carte.
CraveTV is also adding U.S. program Casual on an exclusive basis, and will be adding HBO series like The Newsroom, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood and The Jinx to its line-up.
CraveTV’s first Canadian original series Letterkenny, shot in the Sudbury area, will premiere on February 7.