Television services

Choosing your television services

When shopping around for television services, we shouldn’t jump into it without knowing what options are available or thinking about what we actually want. Just like when shopping for a car or new appliances, getting the best value for our money means thinking about our needs and budget and doing our homework.

Here are four steps to help you select the best services (Note: a printable checklist summarizing these steps is available here.)

1. Determine your household needs

Ask yourself:

  • What type of programming do I and others in my household watch (e.g. sports, news, lifestyle, series, etc.)?
  • What are our favourite channels?

Make a list of the channels you absolutely want.

2. Determine your household budget

Think about what service(s) — cable, online services, etc. — you currently subscribe to and how much you pay each month. Is it too much? Set a maximum amount you would like to pay every month for all your television and online TV content.

3. Find out about the options available in your area and identify alternatives

In Canada, you can watch television in a number of ways – it isn’t just about cable or satellite anymore. Here’s a list of the different types of technologies available to watch programming.

Determine which of these options are available in your area:

  • Cable: Most Canadians use cable services. The majority of cable companies now offer hundreds of standard and high-definition channels using digital technology. To get digital cable services, you need a set-top box from your cable provider.
  • Satellite: Satellite services deliver broadcast signals directly to dishes installed at your home. A dish and a set-top box from your satellite provider are required to get that service.
  • Internet Protocol Television (IPTV): With IPTV services, digital channels are delivered to your television through a high-speed Internet connection. The provider needs to provide you with a set-top box and the necessary access.
  • Online video services: Online services include any audiovisual content available on the Internet. Some are free and others have a subscription fee. A high-speed Internet connection at home or a data plan on your smart device is necessary to watch this content. You can learn more about TV online here.
  • Over-the-air stations: In some areas, you can access your local television stations for free by using an antenna. This might also include non-Canadian services. Some are available in high definition with minimal one-time equipment costs. You can contact a local antenna dealer for more info.
  • On-demand services: On-demand services are available from television service providers and are increasingly becoming available over the Internet. They let you choose the programs you want to watch, when you want them. On-demand services such as pay-per-view and video-on-demand are typically available when you subscribe to other television services.

4. Find competitors

We often think that the big companies are our only options, but there are smaller competitors that may have better deals to offer. This might mean that you won’t be able to bundle all your services anymore, but you may end up getting more value for your money.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has tools that will help you find communications service providers in your area and compare them to one another:

Negotiating your television services

If and when you have decided to go with a television service provider – or if you have been with a service provider for some time and you now feel you need a better deal, make sure to be ready and equipped to negotiate.

The CRTC has tools to help you negotiate your TV services and make sure that your service provider is following best practices:

For more information on television services and choices available to you, visit the CRTC website.

Contacts for this topic

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0N2
Telephone: 1-877-249-CRTC (2782)
TTY: 1-877-909-CRTC (2782)
Fax: 819-994-0218

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC)
175 Bloor Street East
South Tower, Suite 1801
Toronto, ON M4W 3R8
Telephone: 416-961-6311
Fax: 416-961-7904

Competition Bureau
Place du Portage I
50 Victoria Street, Room C-114
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0C9
Telephone: 1-800-348-5358
TTY: 1-800-642-3844
Fax: 819-997-0324

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC)
PO Box 3265 Station D
Ottawa, ON, K1P 6H8
Telephone: 1-866-696-4718
Fax: 613-233-4826