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Bell Media Chief: Using U.S. Netflix Has To 'Become Socially Unacceptable'

Bell Urges 'Behavioural Change' To Stop Canadians 'Stealing' U.S. Netflix

Accesing U.S. Netflix in Canada is “stealing” and the country needs a measure of “behavioural change” to stop the practice, the new president of Bell Media says.

“It has to become socially unacceptable to admit to another human being that you are VPNing into U.S. Netflix,” Mary Ann Turcke said at the Canadian Telecom Summit Wednesday, referring to the now widespread practice of using virtual private networks (VPNs) to get around geographic restrictions on streaming services.

“Like throwing garbage out of your car window, you just don’t do it. We have to get engaged and tell people they’re stealing,” she said, as quoted at the Financial Post.

For Turcke, the issue became personal when her 15-year-old daughter discovered on a trip to the U.S. that American Netflix has a wider content selection than the Canadian service, and began VPNing into the U.S. service upon returning home.

“She was told she was stealing,” Turcke said, as quoted at the Toronto Star, and “suffice to say, there is no more VPNing."

According to research from Media Technology Monitor, about one-third of Netflix users in English Canada use VPNs or other technologies to access the U.S. service.

That’s a problem for Bell Media, which has launched its own over-the-top streaming service, CraveTV, and finds itself having to compete with Netflix’s large U.S. selection of movies and TV shows.

Rogers and Shaw have also launched their own Netflix competitor, Shomi, and last month announced they would make the service available to all consumers, regardless of whether they have a cable TV subscription.

Turcke told reporters that Bell doesn’t have any immediate plans to do the same with CraveTV, and the service will continue to be limited to Bell TV subscribers and subscribers to partner cable or satellite TV services.

That may have to do with the fact that CraveTV offers premium content from HBO and Showtime that is ordinarily not available on streaming services.

Turcke lamented the fact that avoiding geo-blocking has become so socially acceptable that there are “how-to” newspaper articles instructing people on how to do it.

She said the media industry shouldn’t rely on regulators like the CRTC to address the problem, and instead step up their content offerings and accessibility, so that accessing foreign services becomes less appealing.

Turcke criticized the complicated “rights ecosystem” in Canada that makes it difficult for providers to deliver content across different platforms.

“The distinction between national borders is not something our consumers are willing to tolerate,” she said, as quoted at the Globe and Mail. “It is enough to drive anyone to the dreaded Netflix. Legally or illegally.”

Turcke is new to the job of president of Bell Media, having taken over less than two months ago from Kevin Crull, who left the company after reports he had attempted to influence coverage of the telecom industry at Bell-owned CTV and BNN.

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