New OTT service launches undue preference complaint against Bell

February 26, 2014  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

An Ontario-based IPTV provider has filed a claim of undue preference against Bell Media for refusing to license its content to the company, which is launching a new over-the-top service called Pick TV.

In the complaint, Leiacomm owner Howard Rabb accuses Bell of denying his company access to its channels and programming based solely on its distribution model.

The complaint quotes an e-mail sent to Rabb by Antonella Menna, Bell Media’s manager of content sales and distribution, stating that the company does “not wish to enter into agreements with OTT operators at this time.”

Rabb’s complaint alleges that Bell is already distributing much of its content to other providers, including services they own and control such as CTV Go and Bell Mobile TV, which he says is counter to a 2012 Broadcasting Order pertaining to digital media broadcasting undertakings.

That order addressed several key issues raised by participants, including the “no head start” rule, referring to situations where a programming service is launched on a BDU’s distribution service prior to it being made available for distribution to other BDUs on commercially reasonable terms and exclusivity on digital media broadcasting platforms.

“By making programming available on Bell-controlled websites operating under New Media Exemptions but not licensing to other companies seeking to do the same, we believe Bell is erecting obstacles to new competition in the distribution space,” says the complaint.

The complaint also notes that Bell services such as HBO Canada and TMN are currently carried on rival services such as Rogers Anyplace TV.

“Leiacomm would like the opportunity to distribute this content as well through our system by paying Bell the same affiliate fees that they negotiate with other licensed BDU operators as well as non-licensed operators such as SMATVs and exempt BDUs,” wrote Rabb in his complaint.

The complaint goes on to say that Bell is potentially abusing its position as a vertically integrated rights holder with the greatest number of networks and stations and is using its position to prevent new entrants to the distribution space.

“Bell’s refusal to sell their service to [OTT] providers such as Leiacomm, on the grounds that our service distributes television online to Canadians, while simultaneously building their own online customers through their new media portals, gives them a head start by denying this content to new providers,” says the complaint.

The complaint says that Bell channels represent the largest block of channels available to Canadians, and that without those channels it would be unable to offer a competitive service.

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