The Best Guide to Cable Packages and Alternatives

Canadian Cable Packages

Canadian cable companies provide a wide range of services offering uniquely Canadian content.

If you are looking for a cable package in Canada, the cable companies are completely different than those in the United States. Fortunately, the companies in Canada provide cable packages quite comparable to those in the states. In this article, I will discuss those cable companies and provide an outline of the kind of services that they provide.

Rogers Cable

Rogers Cable is the oldest cable company in Canada, going back to the dawn of cable in the 1980s. In fact, Rogers Cable used to have a monopoly, leading them to make some controversial decisions, such as their decision to force certain channels on subscribers and then refuse to provide them forever when subscribers said that they didn’t want them. Much has changed since Rogers held their monopoly, though they still have something of a bad reputation among subscribers who remember their behavior at the time.

Unlike most companies, Rogers cable doesn’t focus on providing bundles that include other services such as phone and internet (though they will provide those as well at a discount when asked). Rather, they provide “tiered” service, providing various levels of service, depending on how much you wish to purchase.

Their first two tiers are “digital basic” and “digital plus”. Don’t be tricked by the title: all cable is digital by definition. The first provides the basic cable service, which, unlike in the United States, must be advertised by those providing it. “Digital plus”, on the other hand, provides a number of specialty channels, though not the most popular ones like A&E. One nice thing about all Rogers channels is that they are “time shifted”, meaning that you can watch them as though you live in any Canadian time zone (so, for example, you can watch shows later on the east coast or earlier on the west coast).

The “VIP” and “VIP Ultimate” packages include a complete package of most and all available specialty channels, respectively. Note that this includes only the Canadian specialty channels. HBO, for example, is only available by satellite.

Shaw Cable

Shaw Cable was the first real competitor to Rogers Cable, and provides a number of different cable packages. Their history is a little strange. At first, everyone was just happy that Rogers Cable had competition, but over time, Shaw itself became one of the “establishment” cable providers. Nonetheless, they provide high quality service. They focus on providing “mix-and-match” cable options, rather than the tiered options of Rogers Cable, providing more options in terms of the channels you want to purchase. They also provide high definition television options that can be mixed in with the regular digital television of their main packages.

While they offer mixing-and-matching, they also provide some fairly straightforward tiered service. The first is a basic cable service that is, by definition, the same as that offered by Rogers. This is the basic service all companies are required to provide by law. Their second tier, called “Digital TV”, provides all specialty channels except for the movie channels that became so popular in Canada with the creation of the Movie Network back in the 1980s. Their final tier “Digital TV+Movies” provides all specialty channels, plus the movie channels. All of their services except the basic service are less expensive than those provided by Rogers. Again, American specialty channels like HBO are not necessarily available.

Their HDTV service doesn’t offer any new channels. Rather, they offer high definition versions of the channels that they already offer. Perhaps because of the ease of copyright in providing HDTV versions, their HDTV programming is not much more expensive than their standard programming, costing only $10-$15 extra per month.

Bell Fibe Packages

Bell Fibe is an interesting new concept in television. It isn’t strictly speaking a cable company, since it uses an internet protocol for providing television, but it isn’t strictly speaking internet either, since you are not connected to the web. Instead, it is something of a hybrid technology. What they have created, though, is a very reliable television service that is available in some areas of Toronto and Montreal that streams high definition television directly to your television set without interfering with (or being interfered by) your internet use.

The packages in Bell Fibe are quite flexible and user-friendly. All of them have the same basic level of service, and then you choose a number of Theme packs, such as sports, children’s programming, news or ethnic programming. This means that they have some of the most flexible cable options on the market today. While it is not available in many areas, it is quite a high quality service, and you should expect it to expend elsewhere in the near future.