Shaw doesn't want to stop other cable and satellite companies from offering its TV content on devices such as mobile phones and iPads; it's targeting new competitors that already have a handle on the new media space.
At an unusually convivial set of hearings in Calgary on Tuesday, Shaw made its presentation to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to request approval for its $2-billion deal to buy the television assets of CanWest Global Communications Corp.
One of the concerns raised in documents filed to the federal regulator, is that, as a cable giant, Shaw might try to make some of the CanWest TV content - such as shows from specialty channels HGTV Canada or Food Network Canada - exclusive to its own distribution platforms. This is especially a concern on newer media devices, where there are few restrictions on such exclusivity.
"This is obviously the elephant, whatever the expression is. The big fear that the preferential mode of distribution, of viewing things, will be new media," CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said during the hearing on Tuesday. "...People are very much afraid that you are going to use your enormous purchase power to buy exclusivity."
But chief executive officer Jim Shaw, who has clashed with the regulator in the past, reassured the panel that the company has no plan to do such deals.
"We're for diversity of products. ... Denying access or taking control for a personal issue is not even on our agenda," Mr. Shaw said.
Mr. von Finckenstein referred to one example of such a deal: Bell Canada was able to restrict viewing on mobile phones of video from the Vancouver Olympics to its own devices. Customers with other wireless providers could not watch the Olympics on their phones, even if they had the ability to use their phones to visit the CTV website, where content was available with computer access.
Competitor Telus, in a filing to the regulator in August, has asked the CRTC to impose "safeguards to limit any abuse of market power and anti-competitive behaviour by Shaw and its affiliates, particularly ... on linear and new distribution platforms."
However, Shaw president Peter Bissonnette pointed out on Tuesday that Telus has made a deal with the Canadian Football League to offer games exclusively on its phones.
"It's not your business strategy to be exclusive?" Mr. von Finckenstein asked.
"That is 100-per-cent correct," Mr. Shaw responded.
This is a key issue because it also factors largely in another big media deal in Canada this year: BCE Inc. announced on Sept. 10 that it will acquire its own TV content, by buying CTV Inc. in a $1.3-billion deal.
Shaw executives stressed that the purchase of TV assets is meant to help the distributor compete with alternative offerings, often known as "over-the-top" options such as Apple TV, streaming website Hulu (which is still only available in the U.S.), and the forthcoming Google TV. Those services were repeatedly referred to by Shaw, which sees over-the-top options as a major competitor in the future.
"We need to expand," Mr. Shaw said. "We need to get more Canadian programming on [video on demand] We need to do a little more online stuff with that ... We want to have every product, because it's our feeling that people leave because you can't offer a product."
Mr. von Finckenstein told Shaw executives that keeping CanWest afloat is of great importance to the broadcast system.
"Your aims and ours are absolutely the same," he said.
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