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Bell Media's Crave streaming service to offer ad-supported tier this summer

TORONTO — Crave is making room for commercial breaks on its streaming service.
The Crave app is seen on a phone in Toronto on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Bell Media says it will launch an ad-supported tier of its Crave streaming service this summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

TORONTO — Crave is making room for commercial breaks on its streaming service.

After years as an exclusively advertisement-free subscription platform, Bell Media says it plans to launch new Crave tiers sometime this summer that include commercials during programming.

Shows that will be offered in the ad tiers include classic sitcoms "Friends" and "The Big Bang Theory," the Canadian comedy "Letterkenny" and some of its HBO programming.

Bell unveiled the plans as part of its upfronts presentation, an event held primarily for advertisers in hopes of stoking their enthusiasm for the coming TV season and selling commercial spots in the process.

Representatives for Crave declined to outline details on the tiers of service, including whether they would come at a cheaper price for consumers or if it plans to increase the cost of its existing ad-free Crave packages. The main Crave package is currently $19.99 per month.

Crave is the latest streaming platform looking to secure a slice of the lucrative ad market amid a crowded market of TV options and an economy that's leading consumers to spend less on entertainment.

Netflix was the first major subscription streaming service to test an ad tier last November when it added a “basic with ads” plan that cost $5.99 per month — $15 cheaper than its most expensive plan. The option included a smaller selection of films and TV shows with occasional commercial breaks.

Other ad-supported streaming options are also available in the Canadian market, including free video-on-demand platform Tubi and Pluto TV, which offers more than 100 channels of free TV series, movies and sports.

Last week, CBC announced it would grow its selection of live, ad-supported streaming channels beyond its flagship CBC Explore news service with channels dedicated to comedy and local news.

Crave's rollout of commercial breaks will not affect its traditional pay TV service offered through cable providers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

David Friend, The Canadian Press