Bell drops EWTN from digital service

  • February 1, 2011
Thousands of loyal and faithful watchers of Eternal Word Television Network across Canada are losing their favourite station as Bell TV will drop EWTN from its digital satellite television service as of Feb. 27.

“EWTN had a low viewership and Salt + Light (Canada’s national Catholic television channel) is a strong alternative. This channel capacity is needed for new and high-demand channels,” said Bell spokeswoman Marie-Eve Francoeur in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

For Toronto EWTN fan Glen Burke, the network is a big part of his TV habit.

“It’s essential to me, as much as CBC or CNN,” said the retired teacher and St. Basil’s parishioner.

EWTN claims more than 500,000 subscribers in Canada. Neither EWTN nor Bell would say how many of those subscribers receive the channel through Bell TV. Bell TV has just under two million subscribers nationally.

The conservative, American Catholic TV service is still available on most other cable and satellite TV providers in Canada.

“We approached (Bell) and said, ‘You will be the only major carrier or provider in North America that doesn’t carry us,’ ” said EWTN’s Canadian marketing manager Brady Grant.

The TV channel is mobilizing its network of 6,000 “media missionaries” across Canada to protest Bell’s decision and inform viewers of their alternatives with other cable and satellite companies. The media missionaries, who normally place information about EWTN programming at the backs of churches, will be directing Bell subscribers to to find out where they can get EWTN.

“We’re definitely telling people who watch us on Bell to call viewer services to express their dismay,” said Grant.

Bell’s decision on the satellite feed is final, according to company officials. Some other channels with low viewership were also dropped to make room for more high definition channels.

“Bell must continually make programming choices and adjustments to match consumer demand with the channel capacity we have available. Channels with very low viewership or subscriber totals, such as EWTN, are removed to free up capacity for more popular programming,” said Francoeur.

EWTN is hopeful it may obtain a spot on Bell’s new Fibe platform — a combined Internet and television service delivered on fibre optic cables. Fibe is currently available in parts of Ontario and Quebec, with plans to offer it nationally.

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