TV and Home Entertainment in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers

Last updated: 10 June 2023

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Discover the Best of Canadian TV and Entertainment.

Detailed Information on cable, streaming, multilingual content, subscription prices, and more.

Table of Contents


Welcome to your guide to understanding the TV and home entertainment landscape in Canada. This resource will assist you in understanding Canadian programming, well-known cable companies, and popular streaming services, including international streaming services like Hotstar, iQiyi, and Shahid. We'll also walk you through the specifics of subscription costs, parental controls, internet requirements for streaming, and free entertainment options.

What are the major TV and entertainment options in Canada?

In Canada, there are a variety of entertainment options. Newcomers will have the ability to pick between:

  • A pre-bundled linear cable (simply called cable) or satellite television (TV) package with their telecommunications provider;
  • An Canadian online streaming service; or
  • An international streaming service.

Increasingly both newcomers and Canadians alike are opting for international or Canadian streaming services, with many households in Canada holding multiple subscriptions to different services.

The increasing popularity of streaming services is being driven by cost, convenience, and choice. Subscription streaming services allow users to watch video on-demand with most providers allowing two or more simultaneous streams with a single account, providing cost-effectiveness for users.

Furthermore, users save time by not having to watch commercials, as (premium) streaming services generally do not contain any advertisements. Additionally, they won’t have to waste time searching for something to watch as streaming services have a wide selection of titles and can be cancelled at any time without the implications of breaking a contract or altering a cable and internet bundle.

However this being said, many people choose to retain a cable or satellite television connection in their homes, due to stable coverage of live events, and overall variety of programming that the medium still offers.

What is unique about Canadian content? What are some popular Canadian shows and films?

Canadian television has often been lauded as original, and interesting—similar in style and themes to both American and French/British media—with a few distinct cultural touchpoints in between that are uniquely Canadian (aspects of indigenous (especially Inuit) cultures, ecological influences, vibrant multiculturalism, and more.

Many current Canadian shows reflect this, with some of the most popular being:

  • Anne with an E;
  • Degrassi;
  • Kim’s Convenience;
  • Letterkenny;
  • Orphan Black;
  • Schitt’s Creek; and
  • Trailer Park Boys;

However, Canada has also contributed much to the silver screen, making significant contributions to cinema, including such critically acclaimed landmark films as:

  • Atanarjuat–The Fast Runner;
  • Dead Ringers;
  • Incendies;
  • Jesus of Montreal;
  • Mon Oncle Antoine;
  • Orders;
  • The Fly; and
  • The Man Who Planted Trees.

In addition, many of the biggest Hollywood movies are made in Canada, due to the country’s favourable production costs. Movies like Titanic, Mean Girls, Good Will Hunting, Interstellar, Catch Me If You Can, and many more have been filmed in Canada.

Who are the major cable TV providers in Canada?

Much the same as with phone and internet plans, cable TV providers are largely focussed on a small number of players—in fact many of these are the same players, which include:

  • Bell (through Fibe TV);
  • Rogers (through Rogers Cable Inc—currently the largest cable provider in Canada);
  • Telus;
  • Shaw Communications (also active through Shaw Direct); and
  • Cogeco;

These providers offer different packages based on what content you would like to watch. In addition, cable TV is often paired with internet and/or cellular plans in offer packages. Some of these providers also offer satellite TV packages with comparable costs and parallel programming options.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of both cable and satellite television?

Cable TV and Satellite TV are both popular options for television service, however each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Cable TV offers more channels for a lower price than satellite TV but is restricted to geographical areas where the cable line can be physically run. Satellite TV offers a much wider area of coverage, but the available channels are more limited, and the overall cost is usually more expensive. Both technologies offer subscription services like movie channels and sports packages, though satellite TV tends to have slightly more consistent reception quality.

Cable TV is usually less expensive than satellite TV but is restricted to geographical areas with a cable line. Cable provides more channels for the price, but the reception quality is typically slightly lower than satellite. On the other hand, satellite TV has a wider coverage area and better reception quality but may have fewer channels available and is usually more expensive. Both technologies offer subscription services such as movie channels and sports packages which can be added to the basic service. Regardless of whether you choose cable or satellite, both offer a reliable solution for providing television service in daily life.

What are the popular streaming services available in Canada?

Streaming services have become a popular alternative to traditional cable television in recent years. Newcomers to Canada will have access to many Canadian streaming services, as well as some international and American services as well.

In addition, many cable and satellite TV providers also offer bundles of streaming services that customers can avail through them. This can be advantageous when choosing multiple streaming services (more on this later).

Some popular streaming services in Canada include:

  1. CBC Gem—A streaming service provided by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, classified as a crown corporation), CBC Gem is an application-based service with a huge library of Canadian content, and some international content as well. CBC Gem is available in both a free (ad-supported) version, and a premium (ad-free) version for a small monthly;
  2. Crave—Another Canadian streaming platform, Crave is a streaming service under the Bell Media umbrella. In addition to a lot of Canadian content, Crave is also the official outlet for SHOWTIME and HBO content in Canada. Priced a little higher than some of the other streaming services on the list, Crave aims to deliver on content for its higher price tag;
  3. Netflix—Often considered the worldwide streaming leader, Netflix does have service in Canada, fully equipped with all of its exclusive blockbuster shows, and multi-lingual programming—at a cost on parity with other streaming services;
  4. Apple TV+—Apple’s streaming service features many of its own originals, spanning genres from drama, comedy, and family, all the way to reality television and live music. At a price comparable to many other streaming services, and available in Canada with some Apple devices for an extended free trial, AppleTV+ is another popular player in the streaming service market;
  5. Disney+—Disney’s flagship streaming service boasts a lot of timeless content, including the complete Star Wars saga, and all the classical Disney movies that earned the studio it’s name. With many popular new shows as well, Disney+ is available in Canada at a slightly cheaper rate to other streaming services;
  6. Amazon Prime Video—Available internationally, and as part of a Prime membership with Amazon, Amazon Prime video boasts one of the largest libraries of any streaming service, including comprehensive fiction and non-fiction films and television, as well as news, and sports programming. Additional “channels” have to be purchased on the service however, depending on what additional programming you would like to watch;
  7. ESPN+—A sports leader under the Disney umbrella, ESPN’s streaming service boasts much of the content that made the channel’s name, including the best of Basketball, American Football, Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Hockey, Motor Sports and more. With comprehensive packages, and bundle deals that include Disney+, ESPN+ is a popular choice for sports fans, at a slightly cheaper price to streaming services with more comprehensive or entertainment-based programming;
  8. Crunchyroll—For those looking for a reliable service to watch anime content, Crunchyroll is a reliable option that offers a plethora of choice when it comes to Japanese animated content. At a lower monthly price to many other streaming service, Crunchyroll is a niche streaming service that still spans a number of genres;
  9. FuboTV—Structured like a comprehensive cable TV package, Fubo aims to be a one-stop shop for your entertainment needs. The service features comprehensive programming with an emphasis on live TV and sports (particularly the British Soccer Premier League); with a price tag that is on parity with other large streaming services in Canada; and
  10. Hulu—Another Disney subsidiary, Hulu is a growing streaming service that has a focus on entertainment content from a variety of genres. Customers can watch original Hulu content, classic movies and film, or even browse content from other streaming services at an extra cost. Also available in bundle deals with a Disney+ or ESPN+ subscription, Hulu’s monthly price is slightly less than its competitors and offers a plethora of entertainment content.

What multilingual and multicultural programming is available in Canada?

In additional to the above streaming services, newcomers to Canada will also be able to access streaming services and content from their country of origin. To this end, both TV stations and streaming services can be availed, some popular examples of which include:

  • Omni Television—Canada’s only multicultural and multilingual television broadcaster, Omni offers current affairs and daily news programming in Arabic, Cantonese, Filipino, Italian, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Punjabi. The television channel (also supported by an online streaming service) also features original long-form, and popular acquired content from relevant countries to feature on their platform;
  • ShahidTV—A large Arabic-language streaming platform, Shahid provides the most popular and latest content in movies, television, sports, live television, entertainment news, and more. Available as an application on both Google and Apple stores, the service aims to be a one-stop shop for all kinds of Arabic content;
  • Iqiyi—Featuring the latest in Chinese, Korean, and Thai dramas, as well as variety shows, movies, and anime, Iqiyi is an Asian entertainment streaming platform that focuses on catering to those looking for East Asian entertainment. With multiple subtitle and dubbing options for content, the site is billed as a hub for Asian content; and
  • Hotstar—India’s largest paid streaming platform, Hotstar consolidates the most popular Indian programming for all over the country’s diverse regional entertainment landscape, offering the content (including movies, tv shows, sports, and more) with multiple language options for customers.

How much do the different TV and streaming subscriptions cost?

Costs can vary greatly depending on whether you choose to go with cable/satellite TV or a streaming service(s).

The average cable or satellite TV connection has a monthly cost ranging between $60 CAD to $130 CAD at the high end. Much of these extra costs come down to provider, channel bundles and add-ons selected, and whether one chooses a satellite or cable TV connection.

In comparison the average premium streaming membership in Canada can cost between $14-22 CAD, depending on the kind of service provided. Additionally, many individuals and families may choose to have multiple streaming services, to better serve their entertainment needs. Some satellite and cable TV providers offer bundles of streaming services, which can be beneficial in this case, as prices are often reduced and services can be billed together.

Importantly, prices can vary for both cable/satellite TV and streaming services, depending on whether they are bundled with internet and/or phone services.

What are some free or low-cost entertainment options in Canada?

There are multiple free entertainment options available in Canada, including free versions of streaming services, TV channels, and online platforms.

Some of these include:

  • YouTube offers a wide range of content including vlogs, TV shows, and movies. While it is free to use, users can also opt for a premium subscription called YouTube Premium, which offers an ad-free experience for an added price. However, one downside of YouTube is the limited availability of major network TV shows. Despite this, YouTube has become a popular choice for watching shows and creating original content;
  • The Roku Channel is another streaming option that provides access to over 4,000 TV shows and movies for free, but it is ad-supported. While the content on The Roku Channel is mostly older shows and movies, it can still be a good choice for family movie nights or casual viewing;
  • Tubi is a similar platform to The Roku Channel, offering free TV shows and movies with ad-supported content. It is accessible on various devices such as smartphones, Amazon Firestick, Xbox, Playstation, and more. While Tubi mostly offers older content, there are critically acclaimed masterpieces in its library;
  • CBC Gem is a streaming service that focuses on CBC TV shows, including originals, documentaries, and kids' shows. It is free to use, but there is an option for a premium service that removes ads. While CBC Gem does not offer blockbuster movies, it is a great alternative for cable TV subscribers;
  • Pluto TV is a professional-tier free streaming service that offers a wide selection of TV shows, live TV, movies, and entertainment content. It does have commercial breaks and specific showtimes, but it provides a diverse range of programming. Users can access Pluto TV without creating an account;
  • HGTV's free streaming service is a great option for those interested in real estate, home improvement, or gardening. It offers the same shows as the cable channel, usually posting episodes online within 24 hours of their air date;
  • CTV, one of Canada's oldest and largest television networks, offers a free streaming service with a wide range of Canadian and American TV shows, as well as movies. Users can catch up on their favorite shows, watch live TV, and enjoy a quick and lag-free website, although it does contain ads;
  • Slice is a platform that focuses on vlogs, how-to videos, and documentaries. While it doesn't offer mainstream content like TV shows or movies, it features well-done content from emerging Canadian influencers, particularly in the areas of makeup, travel, skincare, and fashion;
  • Food Network is a free TV channel that provides a variety of content related to recipes and cooking competitions. While they offer many free recipe videos, full episodes are only available to subscribers of GlobalTV;
  • BNN Bloomberg is a free streaming service that specialises in business and finance-related news. It is beneficial for investors to stay informed about emerging companies, trends, and financial news. BNN Bloomberg provides a live stream, as well as free video clips and interviews;
  • Vice TV offers documentaries, vlogs, docu-series, and news content. It provides a unique perspective and honest opinions on global cultures and current events;
  • Kanopy is a platform that offers free films and documentaries with an ad-free viewing experience. It partners with public library networks and universities, allowing their members to access the movie collection. However, it primarily focuses on films and does not offer TV shows;
  • TVO Kids is a safe and kid-friendly streaming site that offers TV shows and educational content for children. It features live TV, educational games, and a user-friendly interface, making it a great option for keeping kids occupied and engaged; and 
  • Omni TV is a TV channel that provides news, TV shows, and documentaries, with a focus on global news and documentaries. It offers content in multiple languages.

                    Additionally, in terms of low-cost options, some premium streaming services also offer basic versions of their services, usually supported by advertisements. While this can be inconveniencing, it can allow customers to avail the same services at a much lower cost.

                    How can I set parental controls and understand content ratings in Canada?

                    Setting parental controls can often be a concern for families when looking at entertainment options. Depending on whether you decide to avail a cable/satellite connection, or a streaming service(s), the process to set these controls can vary.

                    If you have a satellite or cable TV set-up, you can set parental controls using the settings on your TV modem program. This can vary depending on what service provider you are using, so a quick web search may be useful as well.

                    For streaming services, parental controls usually need to be set for each individual streaming service. Many streaming services also have options for “kid’s” accounts, that filter content that is age appropriate for children, ensuring that parents don’t have to worry about their child consuming inappropriate content.

                    To set parental controls on your accounts you must go to the settings menu of your streaming service. From here an option is usually embedded to set parental controls, or to set a PIN which will need to be input in the future to view age-inappropriate content. Note that this can vary slightly depending on streaming service.

                    Creating a “kid’s” account usually happens towards the start of your account set-up with each streaming service. Note that these are entirely separate accounts that are usually part of family plans.

                    What news channels are available in Canada, and how can I access them?

                    Outside of international news channels (which can be availed depending on what TV bundles or streaming services one chooses), Canadian news TV is generally dominated by three main players:

                    • Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC)—A crown corporation, the CBC airs local news, national news, and panel debates on its main channel, at different times during the day. In addition, the company runs CBC News Network, which has much of the same news content, but with a more in-depth, 24-hour focus;
                    • CTV—A subsidiary of Bell Media, CTV airs both local and national news at different times during the day on the main CTV channel, as well as operating a 24-hour news channel called CTV News Channel.; and
                    • Global—Similar to both its counterparts, Global airs both local and national news at different times during their daily programming cycle.

                    All of these news channels tend to be part of basic cable/satellite TV packages, and also can be viewed in various mediums on their websites.

                    What are the internet speed requirements for different streaming services?

                    Depending on the kind, quantity, and desired quality of the content you watch, different internet speeds may be appropriate.

                    For example, an internet speed of 10-50 Mbps is usually appropriate for standard definition video streaming (480p).

                    Speeds between 100—500Mbps are preferable to streaming high-quality video (as high as 4K resolution), with varying buffer times and streaming capabilities, the higher that internet speeds get.

                    Finally 500Mbps (and higher) is ideal for streaming 4K video, seamlessly and regularly. For a more in depth discussion on appropriate internet speeds for your needs, click here.

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