Crossposted from OpenMedia.ca:
While there has been considerable apprehension over Shaw’s demand for online streaming services to be regulated by the CRTC, Netflix is already two steps ahead in maintaining their competitive edge. The service has been accused of having an unfair advantage over conventional broadcasters thanks to the CRTC’s long-standing policy of not regulating Internet content. Rather than fight these accusations, Netflix has simply opted to do something that our conventional broadcasters would likely never do in an unregulated environment: willingly add a significant amount of Canadian content to their line-up.
Netflix announced on Monday that they would be providing their Canadian library will a substantial (and much needed) boost. While these additions include popular foreign titles such as Weeds, Merlin, and Saturday Night Live, the service has also struck a deal with CBC to include content from their library. Episodes of Republic of Doyle, Men With Brooms, and The Tudors are now available for viewing, and it would be reasonable to expect more to come in the near future.
Although deals to carry Canadian productions were likely in the works before Shaw began demanding regulation of Netflix, the idea that this was a pre-emptive move against regulatory intervention isn’t farfetched at all. It may be something of a revelation for Internet content services in Canada that the mere threat of regulation may be even more effective than regulation itself. While it may seem to effectively be the same thing from the audience’s perspective, ensuring that regulators are kept away from Internet services is vital for allowing the general public to contribute to the development of online content, or technologies to deliver it to a wider audience.
While this approach may protect Netflix and similar services from regulatory intervention, it will by no means prevent the ruthless tactics that Internet providers are deploying to disadvantage content distribution methods that they do not control. This can be seen in the US with the recent toll that Comcast has put in place for Netflix in an effort to force higher rates to be carried on to subscribers. No initiatives like this have been deployed in Canada, but considering that Netflix streaming comprises 20% of Internet use in the United States and is still only starting to grow in this country, it may not be long before Rogers, Shaw, and Telus are attempting the same thing.