Phone company executive’s “confirmation” was self-interested fear-mongering.
Bell and Amazon Prime Video:
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Don’t look now, but Dec. 1 has come and gone and there’s no Amazon Prime Video in Canada. At least not officially, not yet.
But what about all the reports over the past week that it was happening? Well, there are two culprits to blame for this particular misunderstanding.
First up is Bell, or more specifically Mary Ann Turcke, head of the company’s media division. She provoked a spate of headlines by stating at a CRTC hearing this week that Amazon’s video launch was indeed two days away, on Dec. 1.
She then compounded that claim by telling journalists after the hearing that Amazon Prime subscribers had been notified of the impending move. As per The Hollywood Reporter:
Outside the hearing room, Turcke told reporters Amazon had notified its Prime members they will bring a streaming video service to Canada on Dec. 1. “It feels a little bit like a soft launch, much the way we did iHeart [Radio], so we’ll see what happens,” she said.
As far as I can tell, that’s not true. I’m a Prime subscriber and I didn’t get any notification to that effect. I asked around with other Prime customers and they didn’t receive anything either.
This is where the proverbial grain of salt come into play. Turcke’s comments came at a hearing where broadcasters were arguing for the renewal of their television licenses. Such events are typically opportunities for said broadcasters to air their grievances.
And air them Turcke did. Her Amazon prediction came in the context of complaining about how Bell will soon have to compete against the U.S. company for programming rights:
“Now, a new global OTT [over-the-top] competitor — Amazon Prime — is entering the Canadian market in two days. So it’s not just our fellow Canadian broadcasters who will try to outbid us for first run, original programming, but it’s Netflix and now Amazon, two entities that are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as us and that have astronomically more buying power than we do.”
Anyone who regularly listens to these CRTC hearings recognizes this as the time-tested tactic of a Canadian company invoking the foreign bogeyman to get a regulatory break. Whether that bogeyman ever comes to pass doesn’t really matter – just mentioning the barbarians at the gates is often enough to gain some more protectionism.
When contacted, a Bell spokesman walked back Turcke’s comments. “I suspect she was referring to the various media reports about the soft launch and that Prime members could access the service in advance,” he said. “I don’t think she meant anything official had been communicated.”
The second culprit in getting people to believe that Amazon’s launch was imminent is, as usual, The Big Bad Media. Several outlets categorized Turcke’s comments as confirmation:
Such headlines are obviously incorrect. There are almost no circumstances in which one company can confirm another’s product or service launch, especially not a competitor’s. Believing Bell on something Amazon is doing is like believing Samsung saying the next iPhone is launching on a given day, or vice-versa.
To be clear, Amazon’s service isn’t officially open for business in Canada until Amazon says it is.
That said, the service is quasi-unofficially available to Canadians. It’s only a matter of time before Amazon Prime Video does officially expand. The company is spending billions on content, which can only be recouped by adding many, many more subscribers.
Moreover, Netflix’s launching of offline downloads the other day – thereby matching an Amazon Prime Video feature – is another good indication that an expansion is indeed coming.
It’s definitely a better signal to bank on then Bell’s patently self-interested comments before a regulator.