US cord-cutting options may get the most attention these days, but there are a growing number of cheap cable alternatives in Canada. Up until recently, Canada’s TV fans were restricted to on-demand streaming services, but 2021 brings with it exciting options like RiverTV, Canada’s first multichannel live TV streaming service.
Read on to discover more about:
- Canada’s first vMVPD, RiverTV
- Free cable alternatives in Canada
- Cheap streaming services
- Sports-only live TV services
- Where to find more information on cord-cutting in Canada
We’ve been following the worldwide cable-TV alternatives market for years. We’ve seen exciting changes in the market in the US, but the lack of multichannel live TV streaming service in Canada was particularly concerning. The traditional pay-TV stranglehold in Canada is finally starting to break with the 2020 introduction of RiverTV.
RiverTV Pricing and Packages
RiverTV offers lightweight pricing compared to traditional cable and satellite TV options in Canada. You’ll get 30+ live and on-demand channels for just $16.99 per month. You can also choose between several add-on channels, including a $3.99 per month add-on package that includes movies from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
RiverTV Supported Devices
Although the service launched recently, the company put in some work behind the scenes to ensure users could access the service on a large number of devices. This service works on iOS devices (Android support coming soon), Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and several smart TV brands.
The full list of supported devices includes:
- TV streaming media players: Apple TV, Android TV (such as the Nvidia Shield) Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast (coming soon)
- Smart TVs: Android TV (Sony, LG, Philips), Roku (Sharp, TCL, Hisense, JVC), Fire TV Edition (Toshiba, Insignia)
- Game consoles: None
- Mobile devices and tablets: iOS and iPadOS, Android (coming soon)
- Desktop browsers: Mac and PC browsers (coming soon)
RiverTV Simultaneous Streams
This service offers up to 3 simultaneous device streams at once. That’s equivalent to what most US-based over-the-top services also offer.
There is currently no cloud DVR option available through RiverTV. However, the service offers a large on-demand library with content available from almost every channel in the package.
RiverTV On-Demand Library
There are currently thousands of hours of on-demand video available through RiverTV. Several channels in the package are on-demand only. Others offers a wide selection of current and previously-aired content, including TV show episodes and movies.
Free Cable Alternatives in Canada
If you’re into saving as much money as possible, utilizing free options might be right up your alley. Unfortunately, good free options in Canada (as with elsewhere) are somewhat few and far between. We did locate one free option that you can view in Canada.
Crackle is a Sony-owned online streaming website with a small library for TV shows and movies. Adweek called Crackle’s content library “mediocre” in 2010, but we found that times have changed. Although the service still has under 1,000 TV shows and movies available, it includes highly-rated content, all for free. Sony supports the service through ads inserted into all of the available content as well as some on-page ads.
You’ll find hit shows like 1990s sitcom Seinfeld available through this service, as well as top-rated movies like Stephen King’s It (the original, not the remake). Sony has a large list of partnerships with other content makers, including Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, and anime company TOEI. These partnerships allow the service to offer more than just Sony-branded content.
Even though the service is free, you can find new, original content as well. As a free service, Crackle doesn’t have a large budget to produce original content at the same level as Netflix’s Stranger Things or Amazon Prime’s Man in the High Castle. Nevertheless, the fact that you can watch quality programming for free these days is pretty amazing in and of itself.
Crackle makes finding that content easy. A simple-to-use interface has a section for TV programs and one for Movies. Those are further broken up with filtering by genre or format (full episodes, full movies, clips, previews, etc.). You can also perform a basic search at the top of any page in case there’s something specific you’re looking for.
Many services force you to register for their free content, but not Crackle. You can go to the site and watch. Crackle will give you several bonus features, though, if you do register:
- Pause and resume content across different devices
- Premiere alerts.
Crackle is available as an app on almost any device you might have, including Roku, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and most smart TVs.
If you like Crackle, you’ll love Tubi TV. This streaming service follows a similar format to Crackle but offers a far larger library of content. The only difference is that most of Tubi TV’s library is B-level TV shows and movies. That said, the content library has over 300 titles that are rated “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, making it a great source of both old and new(ish) content that you’ll definitely want to see.
Paid (But Still Cheap) Cable Alternatives
If you’re willing to pay a bit of money for a cable alternative, there are some healthy options for you. While Canada has been slow to get the plethora of streaming options available south of the border, there are still a number of great streaming services offering their content to Canadians.
Tablo is a digital video recorder that records and streams live, over-the-air channels to any device on your network. Tablo TV works by connecting the company’s device to your internet and an OTA antenna that can pick up broadcast signals. The Tablo device can then record those streams to its device, or allow you to watch those streams on almost any device that has an internet connection and the company’s app installed.
The benefit of this device is that you can access the app and content anywhere. This makes Tablo far more useful than many other OTA devices, freeing you up to watch your free content on multiple TVs without having to pay for separate DVRs or separate digital antennas.
According to Tablo, to make their system work you’ll need:
- An OTA HDTV antenna (available through the Tablo store)
- An internet connection
- A USB hard drive (required for watching live TV on some Tablo DVRs)
- A WiFi-enabled computer (Chrome/Safari browser) or a mobile device (iOS7+ or Android 4.1+)
It’s important to note that OTA content is limited. You won’t have access to the hit shows and movies that you might have through different cable-only subscriptions. However, OTA options are not only beaming in high quality, but the options are also increasing. We covered the growth broadcast channels last year, finding that there has been a notable resurgence in OTA options across the board.
Tablo will set you back around $130 for a one-time purchase of the hardware, after which everything else–including the app–is free. You can combine Tablo with free options like Crackle to enjoy both hit movies and TV shows for a lower cost than even half a year of a cable subscription.
The Tablo app is available for Android, iOS, Roku, LG Smart TVs, Nvidia Shield, Amazon Fire TV and more.
Netflix is an obvious and unavoidable addition to this list. Simply put, Netflix is completely owning the market for cable alternatives, including in Canada. Netflix is not only available in Canada at a low cost, Canadians actually get to enjoy many of the hit movies first before they hit the American Netflix library.
The Canadian Netflix library is also one of the largest in the world, with over 3,000 titles. This makes signing up for a Netflix account is all the more attractive for Canadian users.
Given its popularity, there’s little we can say about Netflix that most users don’t know, beyond this one tidbit: Netflix prices are slowly creeping higher. Netflix raised prices for Canadian customers this summer to $10.99 for a standard plan and $8.99 for a basic subscription. The premium plan that offers ultra-high definition and 4K streaming is now $13.99 a month.
If you’re feeling a bit spurned, don’t worry. Netflix is also raising prices on its US customers and in other regions worldwide. However, all of these price increases will help pay for the company’s increasingly popular and award-winning premium content as well as original Canadian content.
With it’s vastly increasing library of must-watch shows like Stranger Things, a Netflix subscription is quickly becoming a necessity for those that don’t want to miss out.
Users will find Netflix available on almost every type of device, including smart TVs, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and most iOS and Android devices.
Canada’s alternative to Netflix, CraveTV, is a steal at $7.99 per month. This streaming service also offers high-quality programming that is difficult to locate inexpensively elsewhere in Canada, including the hit show Designated Survivor and the Hulu exclusive The Handmaid’s Tale.
Simply put, CraveTV lands exclusive programs that Netflix doesn’t offer, and that are only available through many US-only TV services. Importantly, CraveTV has deals to offer content from many top providers, like HBO and Showtime. Even the new Star Trek Discovery is available through CraveTV.
One of the key benefits to CraveTV is that the service allows you to browse their content before you buy. CraveTV has a menu available on its site that makes browsing the content library easy, even without the subscription. This should help you make a better, more informed decision regarding whether CraveTV is the right service for you.
CraveTV is only available in Canada. You can watch using most iOS and Android devices, as well as through Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, some Samsung Smart TVs, and on your computer through your web browser.
If you’re thinking of getting an Amazon Prime account, you’ll be happy to know that the service includes Prime Video without any additional cost. For $79.00 a year (about $6.50 per month), you’ll get thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows. The price also makes Amazon Prime one of the cheapest streaming services available for Canadian customers.
Amazon has also been spending big to keep up with Netflix. You’ll find a large library of Amazon exclusives, including the award-winning series Man in the High Castle. Beyond this, Amazon has a large number of hit movies available through Prime, and an even larger library of streaming content that you can purchase or rent.
Unfortunately, Prime Video does still lag behind Netflix and even CraveTV in the amount of hit TV show content that lands on its service. Nevertheless, what’s there is high quality and streams in high definition.
Prime Video took a while to get its own apps out, but you can now watch Prime Video on almost any device. Prime Video apps are available for iOS, Android, Roku, many smart TVs, and of course, Amazon Fire devices.
CBS All Access launched in the US and then expanded its service to Canada in 2018.
Pricing information is hard to come by for now, but All Access currently costs USD $5.99, or a commercial-free subscription for USD $9.99. If similar pricing comes to Canada at the exchange rate, that would make pricing between $7.99 to $12.99. At that price, CBS All Access would offer a valuable alternative to CraveTV and Netflix.
However, the bigger question for CBS All Access is whether the service can hold its own against Netflix in Canada. Much of that depends on what the service plans to offer when it hits Canadian shores. At present, CBS All Access has over 9,000 on-demand episodes of various TV shows, mostly from its own branded content. Even among that content, it appears that some of the company’s own content is missing, often because it’s licensed out to other services–including CBS All Access competitor Netflix.
And for Canadians, the biggest draw for this service would be access to the new Star Trek Discovery. However, CraveTV is currently licensed to show Star Trek Discovery in Canada, making the value of CBS All Access far less.
Still, CBS All Access does have shows you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, including new episodes of The Big Bang Theory and NCIS. Additionally, you’ll be able to watch live TV and sports streaming through this service, although what that will look like in Canada has yet to be announced.
CBS All Access will be a very viable option for anyone in Canada looking to cut high cable subscription costs. Users can expect it to be available on most devices, including iOS, Android and mostly likely Amazon Fire TV.
Sports-only Streaming Services
One thing you may miss after cutting the cord in Canada is live sports. To fill in the gap, you may need to utilize a live TV streaming service. There are two great options for cord-cutters in Canada: DAZN and Sportsnet Now.
A product from Rogers, Sportsnet Now offers easy live streaming for $24.99 a month. The streaming service provides users with access to Rogers Sportsnet service without having to pay for the rest of the cable subscription. Sportsnet subscribers can get access to a large library of live streaming content, including NHL, some MLB games (including the Blue Jays), NBA games, Premier League and more.
Sportsnet Now boasts a variety of features with its streaming service. Users can enjoy HD streaming, split-screen viewing, 24-hour “look-backs” for missed games, and on-demand streaming of Sportsnet programming.
Unfortunately, Sportsnet Now is somewhat limited for those that want more U.S. sports content. MLB games are limited, and Sportsnet has no contract for NFL games. Those who want access to NFL games will need to check out DAZN instead.
The Sportsnet Now app is available on a large number of devices, including iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Xbox One.
One of the newest sports streaming services around, DAZN (pronounced “Da Zone”) is only offered in a small handful of countries–including Canada. As of July 2017, Canadians can now enjoy everything this service has to offer, including NFL, MLB, NHL, motor sports, tennis, soccer, WWE, and more.
DAZN started in Germany and has slowly branched outward. Given the service is still somewhat new, there are a number of complaints. These typically include dropped streams and overall poor quality. According to some users interviewed by the CBC, DAZN has been ruining their sports viewing due to these issues.
DAZN is slightly cheaper than Sportsnet Now, coming in at $19.99 per month. Until the company gets its issues worked out, however, you may want to wait a few more months before picking this one up.
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Should you decide to grab up a DAZN subscription, you can watch through multiple devices, including Android, iOS, several smart TV brands, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV.
Find More Information Through Forums
Looking for more information on cord cutting in Canada? You’ll find various websites and forums set up by Canadians, for Canadians. One of the best and more active out there is the Reddit forum /r/CanadaCordCutters. Here you’ll find news reports and discussions on different streaming services available in Canada. That includes some of the more niche sports streaming options like DAZN and Sportsnet Now.
Do cheap cable alternatives in Canada exist? You bet! The options may be fewer than in other regions, but Canada is one of the fastest-growing areas for streaming services.