A generation ago, most people watched TV the same way—by tuning in to scheduled programming on a handful of conventional channels. With the advent of cable and satellite, Canadians embraced specialty channels that focused on niche interests like food and cooking, history and sports, giving them the power to choose from an abundance of channels. Today, Canadians live in an era of personalized TV with on-demand content on the device of their choice. This personalized TV experience is further customized and guided by algorithm-driven recommendations that reflect their unique preferences and habits. The evidence is not clear as to whether online viewing represents a shift or is part of an overall increase in viewing across all platforms, but it is clear that traditional TV viewing is in decline. This change is not happening as quickly as some suggest and not evenly across the English- and French-language markets, but it is definitely happening. Both subscription and viewing to traditional TV is in decline. By one measure, Netflix is now the highest-rated video service in select adult demographics (aged 25-54, 18-34) and for kids (aged 2-11).
“I come home, turn on the TV. If I’m cooking, I can go back and rewind it. We are encouraged to believe that cable is obsolete, but I don’t believe it’s true.”Focus group participant from Calgary (EKOS)
“I want to be able to choose what I want when I want to watch it and that’s a big thing for me. So when it comes to demand services like Netflix or Amazon Prime that’s ideal.”Focus group participant from Ottawa (EKOS)
Figure 12: Traditional TV viewing is still significant but declining
Figure 13: TV is getting more personal as it moves online Source: CRTC estimate (Numeris, MTM)
Note: Adults aged 2+ for 1991 and 2005. Estimate for 2017 is for adults aged 18+.
Figure 14: Younger people and Anglophones watch more online TV Source: CRTC estimate (Numeris, MTM)
Note: Estimate for 2017 is for adults aged 18+.
Figure 15: TV cord-cutting is more pronounced in the English-language market but also evident in the French
Note: Traditional TV refers to cable, satellite and fibre TV services.
Figure 16: Netflix viewing tops the largest stations in key demographics in the English-language market
In countries around the world, most if not all of the top programs are domestic. Canadians do overwhelmingly prefer to watch domestically produced news and sports programming, but when it comes to entertainment, foreign programming offers some stiff competition. Francophones align more with the global trend, while the English-language market bucks it: few of the top 100 entertainment programs in this market are Canadian programs.
Figure 17: English Canadians' thirst for foreign entertainment is unique in the world
Note: Top programs, excluding news and sports.
Figure 18: Canadian entertainment faces challenges in the English-language market but there is strong demand for domestic entertainment in the French-language market
To be clear, AM/FM radio has not been abandoned by Canadian listeners. Far from it. Even listeners who have shifted to satellite and online audio still consume AM/FM radio in substantial numbers. Instead, traditional over-the-air AM/FM radio is declining slowly and consistently in both the English- and French-language markets. As with viewing trends, radio’s decline is attributable to broader choice driven by new technology platforms.
“A lot of the stuff you hear on the radio is the same stuff. (Online) I get music from the world - it’s not restrictive. I get a better variety of music when I'm out and about or in my house, compared to the repetitiveness you get on the radio or broadcast.”Focus group participant from Sault Ste. Marie (EKOS)
As alternative music platforms emerge, it isn’t surprising that the time we spend listening to music stations is declining, albeit slowly. A plus for radio, at the moment, is its ubiquity and ease of use in the car.
“It’s a passive way to get information when you’re doing something else, it’s very easy that way.”Focus group participant from Saskatoon (EKOS)
Figure 19: Time spent listening to music radio stations is in decline
Figure 20: Most Canadians listen to music both on radio and online Source: EKOS (2018)
Note: Radio includes AM/FM and satellite.
Figure 21: AM/FM radio is the dominant audio source used in the car by a wide margin Source: Edison (Infinite Dial Survey)
Note: Base: aged 18+ and has driven or ridden in a car in the last month and used any audio source in a car.