Pick-and-pay TV has arrived—and here are the channels you need

Pick-and-pay TV has arrived—and here are the channels you need

Starting this month, as decreed from on high (i.e., the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), Canadians will no longer be forced to pony up for pricey cable packages jammed with channels they don’t want. Instead, all we’ll need is a $25 “skinny basic” package; the rest will be up to us, each channel available à la carte or in small theme packs (here’s what’s available on Rogers, Bell and Shaw). The options are virtually endless—and kind of overwhelming, considering how long it can take just to pick something to watch on Netflix.

Cable may be unraveling, but you don’t have to. Keeping in mind that stations like CBC, CTV and City will comprise the “skinny basic” (is anyone else suddenly craving a latte?), here’s our list of must-have channels for the Great Canadian Cable Unbundling.

Game of Thrones. (Image: YouTube) Game of Thrones. (Image: YouTube)
 
For prestige TV disciples
Sundance

Sundance may be synonymous with indie film, but in recent years the channel has launched its own original TV series, like the pensive Rectify. It’s also where you’ll find more obscure titles like the excellent German-American co-production Deutschland 83.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: $3

HBO

Do we really need to shill HBO to you people?
Rogers: $21 (package)
Bell: $20 (package)
Shaw: $18 (package)

Showtime

The poor man’s HBO, it’s nonetheless home to a decent amount of quality TV: Homeland, Masters of Sex, The Affair, Billions—plus the very highly anticipated reboot of Twin Peaks, coming atcha straight from David Lynch’s coffee-addled brain later this year.
Rogers: N/A
Bell: $6 (through CraveTV)
Shaw: $18 (package)

Showcase

The poor man’s Showtime, it’s nonetheless home to a decent (but somewhat smaller) amount of quality TV: Outlander, UnREAL, Sherlock and plenty of NCIS, which is consistently one of the highest rated scripted series in both Canada and the U.S. Go figure.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A

Shomi

This streaming service costs as much as a Netflix subscription, and it’s worth it: some of its offerings are almost impossible for Canadians to find elsewhere, like the fantastic British comedy Catastrophe. Shomi’s exclusive deal to air Amazon’s original output also means it’s the only place to watch Transparent.
Rogers: $9
Bell: N/A
Shaw: $9

Inside Amy Schumer. (Image: Comedy Central) Inside Amy Schumer. (Image: Comedy Central)
 
For comedy nerds
Comedy Network

It’s basically Comedy Central—or so you can tell yourself. In any case, it’s a one-stop shop for Inside Amy Schumer, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, South Park, Nathan For You, Conan, Match Game—and, for the truly depressed, reruns of Frasier.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: N/A
Shaw: N/A

Cartoon Network

What a time to be alive: people over the age of 12 can openly admit they like watching cartoons in PJs while eating Lucky Charms.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: $3

The Major and the Minor (Image: YouTube) The Major and the Minor. (Image: YouTube)
 
For silver-screen enthusiasts
Turner Classic Movies

Leave this channel on for a while and you’re bound to encounter some real finds. Just last week we stumbled upon the Freudian swamp of 1942’s The Major and the Minor. It’s about a grown woman who poses as a 12-year-old girl and falls in love with a man who, of course, falls for her too. Who knows what other treats TCM has in store.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A

Rewind

Turner Classic Movies for Generation X, Rewind is home to all the movies that, like, blew your mind when you were 22. Feel that angst all over again.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: N/A
Shaw: Price N/A

IFC

On top of stocking a long list of great movies, IFC is also home to Mr. Robot, a Golden Globe winner about a pill-popping hacker with a closet full of black hoodies and dreams of overthrowing global capitalism.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: Price N/A

Amanda Lang. (Image: Bloomberg Canada) Amanda Lang. (Image: Bloomberg Canada)
 
For news junkies
Bloomberg TV Canada

When it launched in November, Bloomberg’s Canadian edition snagged Amanda Lang, the CBC’s best business reporter. It’s the go-to channel for Canadian business news, filtered through a global lens…we assume. We keep our money in a jar on top of the fridge.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: N/A
Shaw: $3

CNN

As our neighbours to the south gear up for November’s election, you’ll want to keep tabs on the latest debates and town halls—or, at the very least, make sure you’ll understand the inevitable SNL parodies they’ll spawn.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: Price N/A

Project Runway. (Image: YouTube) Project Runway. (Image: YouTube)
 
For keeping it real
Bravo

Project Runway is reason enough to keep Bravo on your dial. Consider the classic rom-coms (The Bodyguard, Pretty Woman) that they keep in rotation for their Tuesday and Sunday movie nights a bonus.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A

E!

How else are you going to keep up with the Kardashians?!
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A

Everybody Loves Raymond. (Image: YouTube) Everybody Loves Raymond. (Image: YouTube)
 
For vintage devotees
Déjà View

This destination for lovers of classic sitcoms (and puns) is worth it for reruns of All in the Family alone. But it’s also got Roseanne, Three’s Company, Golden Girls and more episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond than you’ll know what to do with.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: $3

ESPN Classic

Home to vintage sports coverage and documentaries, ESPN Classic is great if you are a true sports fan—or just a fan of the Golden Age of Men Wearing Very Short Shorts.
Rogers: $18 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: $3

TSN's SportsCentre. (Image: YouTube) TSN’s SportsCentre. (Image: YouTube)
 
For sports nuts
Sportsnet and TSN

Sorry, sports fan. Your two go-to channels are still locked up in multi-station packages. On Rogers and Shaw, you can order Sportsnet and TSN packages separately; on Bell, you can get all of them in a mega-pack. Either way, it’ll cost you. You’ll have to face this decision on your own. MAN UP AND GIVE IT 110 PER CENT!
Rogers: $18 (package)
Bell: $25 (package)
Shaw: $8–$14 (package)

Bunheads. (Image: YouTube) Bunheads. (Image: YouTube)
 
For the whole family
ABC Spark

Once known as ABC Family—and now, in the States, Freeform, whatever that means—this channel will always be close to our hearts because it birthed the wonderful, ill-fated Bunheads. It also has a terrific roster of teen and tween content complex enough to appeal to adults, like The Fosters, Switched at Birth and Recovery Road.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A

Aux TV's Influenced. (Image: YouTube) Aux TV’s Influenced. (Image: YouTube)
 
For those about to rock
AUX

A cool music channel for cool people who like cool music. They’ve got the market cornered on excellently titled music programs, like Bangers and Thrash and Hard, and actual music, given MuchMusic mostly plays reruns of shows you can watch on other channels.
Rogers: $5 (package)
Bell: $4
Shaw: $3

MTV Canada

Like Much, it also largely abandoned the music content on which it established its good name, but the shows on offer here—Degrassi, Skins, InnerSpace, Jersey Shore, The L.A. Complex, Catfish—are essential guiltless pleasures.
Rogers: $10 (package)
Bell: $7
Shaw: Price N/A