Zazeen IPTV Begins Commercial Service

In January I wrote about Zazeen's plans for a TV service that uses your Internet connection to deliver the signal - see Zazeen - shaking up the Canadian TV landscape. Since then they've been busy working to clear technical and business-related hurdles, and after 10 long months, they've finally launched.
Zazeen Logo

The service became commercially available on October 1st for Quebec customers, and October 15th for those in Ontario.

Early reports from those that have been beta testing the service are generally favourable, giving the picture quality especially good marks. Their basic package is $39.95/month with no contract, with add-on channel packages available at prices from $0.75 to $12.99 depending on the channels. Ontario and Quebec have slightly different basic channels included in the $39.95 service - you can see the lists here:
It's an excellent basic package; similar to the $39.95 package from VMedia though with a few differences that could sway you toward one or the other. VMedia also offers a cheaper ($24.95/month) plan that has the major Canadian & US networks plus a few goodies like TSN and TSN2. For those that don't need the speciality channels or can add the ones they need separately, it provides a foundation that is as close to pick-and-pay as you can get in Ontario right now. The Canadian government has been talking lately about pushing the TV providers toward a true pick-and-pay pricing structure, but I believe there's a lot of work that would have to be done by regulators and the industry before anything resembling pick-and-pay sees the light of day. I'll have more thoughts on that in a future article.
At a glance, I see things that I like about both Zazeen and VMedia's $39.95 package.
  • VMedia includes TSN, TSN2, and the Sportsnet channels. To get Sportsnet with Zazeen you have to add the $12.99/month "Rogers" package.
  • Zazeen includes Food, HGTV, Slice, and several children's channels such as Teletoon, Treehouse, and Spark. On VMedia those are available in various combinations starting at $5.95/month.
It reinforces the notion that there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to channel packages. Providers like Zazeen and VMedia have to negotiate with the content providers and abide by the bundling restrictions and/or subscriber ratios in their contracts, which often leads them to move channels into or out of their basic plan. Virtually all of the broadcast TV channels in Canada are owned by one of Bell, Rogers, Shaw, or Quebecor, so you can imagine how the negotiations go when you're a new competitor to the TV-distribution side of their business who doesn't have a large subscriber base to get them interested in taking your money.

For those considering a TV service like Zazeen or VMedia, keep in mind that you must subscribe to Internet from one of their approved partners. Naturally, Bell, Rogers, Shaw, and Videotron are not on that list, so unless you already get your Internet from the likes of Acanac or Distributel (for Zazeen) or CIKTel, ViaNet, Velcom, and a few others (for VMedia), you'll have to switch your Internet service in order to be able to subscribe. The prevailing wisdom used to be that CRTC regulations required this, but according to comments by representatives from both VMedia and Zazeen, it sounds like the limitation comes from contractual limitations put in place by the content providers and has little (if anything) to do with CRTC regulations.

Still, if you're looking to cut down on the size of the cheque you send to Rogers or Bell every month, switching ISPs to one of the approved partners will get you good service with unlimited usage at a price less (sometimes substantially less) than what Rogers or Bell would charge.

If anyone out there has TV service from Zazeen or VMedia and would like to do a review on this blog, please let me know in the comments section.
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