Pay and specialty TV continues to grow - StatsCan


Ottawa, - Viewing of pay-TV and specialty television stations continues to grow year after year. In the fall of 2001, Canadians spent 22% of their viewing time watching Canadian pay-TV and specialty stations and 10% watching American pay-TV and specialty stations, compared with only 6% and 3%, respectively, in 1992.

This growth took place at the expense of Canadian and American conventional television stations, which saw their viewership decline from 65% in 1992 to 50% in 2001 (for Canadian stations) and from 19% in 1992 to 11% in 2001 (for American stations).

However, the new digital services do not appear to be benefiting from the growth of specialty and pay-TV services. Even though the CRTC has awarded a large number of licences to operate the new digital specialty and pay-TV services, and despite a free trial period, Canadians spent only 1.5% of their viewing time watching the new digital stations in the fall of 2001.

This slow start for digital television (DTV) is due in part to its newness, the fact that it is broadcast simultaneously with analog and also the fact that viewers must purchase new digital television sets or at least decoders to convert the signals.

At the provincial level, DTV stations are the most popular in Ontario. In the fall of 2001, there were no digital specialty or pay-TV stations in French.

The growth of pay-TV and specialty services is largely due to increased access to cable and satellite transmission. The penetration rate for satellite (this includes only subscribers to legal satellite television) has grown substantially in the past five years. In the fall of 2001, 15% of Canadian households reported that they were subscribers to satellite television, compared with only 3% in 1997. By province, the rate varied from 12% in Quebec and British Columbia to 33% in Saskatchewan.

In the same period, the cable penetration rate declined, going from 77% in 1997 to 71% in 2001. The rate was highest in British Columbia (80%); at the other extreme, it was only 51% in Saskatchewan. The decrease in the cable penetration rate is confirmed by the Cable Television Survey, which reported a 1.4% drop in cable subscribers from 2000 to 2001.

Canadian pay-TV and specialty television had almost the same proportion of viewers in the two linguistic groups. However, francophones devoted 73% of their viewing time to Canadian conventional television stations and only 4% to foreign stations (conventional as well as pay-TV and specialty); for anglophones, the corresponding proportions were 43% and 28%, respectively.

Dramas and comedies combined had the largest viewership, with nearly 39% of total viewing, followed by news and public affairs programs (26%) and variety and games programs (11%).

Overall, Canadian programming accounted for 39% of Canadians' viewing time, up slightly from 36% in the early 1990s. The increase in viewing time for Canadian programs was observed in both linguistic groups.

Francophones watched a higher percentage of Canadian programs. These accounted for 69% of their total viewing time, compared with 63% ten years ago. Among anglophones, not only was the viewing time for Canadian programs only 29%, but the increase was smaller in relation to the 27% registered in 1992.

There are also differences in the types of programs viewed. Francophones spent 35% of their viewing time watching news and public affairs programs, a remarkable increase from the 20% observed at the start of the last decade. Among anglophones, the corresponding proportion was 22%; little changed over the past ten years. Within this category, Canadian programs were the most popular for both francophones and anglophones.

The strong increase in francophones' viewing of news and public affairs programs was at the expense of variety and games programs, which saw their audience share fall from 21% to 11% over the same period.

The most popular foreign programs were comedies and dramas, which accounted for 82% of Canadians' viewing of this type of programming. The dominance of foreign comedies and dramas was most apparent among anglophones, who spent 90% of their viewing time watching this type of program, compared with 56% for francophones.

This difference between the two linguistic groups is clearly reflected at the provincial level. The proportion of viewing of Canadian programs hovered around 30% in all provinces except Quebec, where it reached 66%.
Children and teens spending less time in front of the tube

Despite increased access to cable and satellite transmission (combined) in recent years, the average time per week that Canadians spend viewing the small screen (21.1 hours in the fall of 2001) has remained stable in the past three years. However, while the national average remained stable during that period, viewing time decreased by more than two hours among teens and by more than one hour among children.

At the provincial level, New Brunswickers spent the most time watching television (24.1 hours per week), and Albertans spent the least (19.4 hours).

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