Bell Canada Reveals New Basic Cable Package for $25/Month…With a Catch

If hibernation season has you reconsidering nixing that cable subscription, there’s now an incredibly affordable option for you.

Bell Canada just rolled out a Starter pack – and it’s just $24.95 per month.

There’s just one catch: you won’t get any American stations. Instead, your options will include legislative action, local and French-language programming (as in, 10 francophone channels), The Weather Network, TVO, and local news stations. This is to keep with the new Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requirements.

The CRTC has demanded that cable and satellite providers offer an affordable ($25 or less) package by tomorrow (March 1), along with a variety of pick-and-pay channels. The basic packages are to feature predominantly local and regional programming (i.e. not what you’d watch on Netflix). The package must include those on CRTC’s mandatory distribution list, like CBC, CTV and Global, in addition to public interest stations like CPAC and minority French- or English-language channels.

It may also include affiliates of U.S. networks, but it’s not mandatory.

The thing is, major American broadcasters like ABC, NBC, and CBS have been excluded from basic cable packages for years. Even so, Bell’s package seems a little too, well, basic for most of us. So, while we can’t imagine countless TV binge-addicted millennials will bite, there may be a niche market for some Canadians (like TVO-obsessed children and the bilingual set).

The 26 channels offered come at more of a price if you’re not a Bell Internet subscriber to begin with: Like other Bell cable packages, the Starter kit requires a Bell Internet subscription, starting at $64.95 per month, plus $15 monthly for PVR rental. In addition to the 26 channels offered, extra à la carte channels for $4 or $7 range from TSN to Discovery and CNN. But, much like adding isolated side dishes to mains at restaurants, these additional tack-ons can quickly add up.

“Our new TV Starter offering is for customers who want to either create their own package by selecting channels and packs individually or just have a basic TV service,” Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis told the Toronto Star in an email. “Bell TV packages all comply with CRTC rules.”

Meanwhile, Bell rival Rogers Communications announced last week that it would offer an entry-level service for $24.99 per month, plus digital box rental or purchase. But, unlike Bell, this basic plan will also include U.S. channels like Fox, NBC and PBS. Furthermore, Shaw Communications now offers a Limited TV plan for $25 per month with 40 channels, that includes major U.S. networks like Fox and ABC.

As the Toronto Star highlights, communications companies must now walk a fine line between meeting the CRTC’s requirements and maintaining a viable (and attractive) business model in the wake of the new regulations.

In the meantime, there’s always Netflix.