CTV to shut down two stations

UPDATE (May 1): SOLD!

And so it begins. CTV announced today it is not applying for license renewals for two small-market ‘A’ network stations: CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont., and CHWI-TV in Wheatley, Ont. (which serves Windsor).

This comes a week after CTV said it would not renew the license of CKX-TV in Brandon, which is actually a CBC affiliate and carriest mostly CBC programming in primetime.

A whackload of broadcast stations from CTV and Global have licenses up for renewal this year. Not only is the media meltdown hurting their bottom lines (or, more accurately, their creditors) and the world economic crisis making it worse, but with a forced switchover to digital broadcasting in 2011, this is the ideal time to decide to throw in the towel for small-market stations rather than start investing in new transmitters.

In its press release, CTV implicitly blames the CRTC’s decision to turn down their money-grab for their decision to shut down the station. It also sounds like the network hopes this will prompt the CRTC to change its mind.

CTV-owned stations in southern Ontario: CTV (blue), A (green) and the two stations being shut down (red)

CTV-owned stations in southern Ontario: CTV (blue), A (green) and the two stations being shut down (red)

Local news is expected to be taken up by London’s A station and Kitchener’s CTV station. It’s unclear if the transmitters themselves would be shut down or converted into rebroadcasters.

It remains to be seen if similar fates will hit Canwest’s E! secondary network, which still doesn’t have a buyer.

More coverage from CP, CBC, Canwest, Windsor Star, London Free Press, Reuters and the Globe and Mail.

12 thoughts on “CTV to shut down two stations

  1. princess iveylocks

    Geographically, the map makes it pretty obvious why those two stations got canned. Northern ON = no audience, southern ON = riveted to Detroit crime/news.

    Now, if they shut down A-Channel Morning News in London, that would be a sin. I can’t wake up to Toronto crime. Ditto Kitchener. I need my homegrown grow-ops and downtown head-stabbings to face each day renewed.

    Reply
  2. Shawn

    Personally, I’ve never had a problem with the concept of over-the-air stations getting a fee when they’re carried by cable or satellite. Yes, it means I’d have to pay more, and I don’t like that, and maybe it would make me more seriously consider canceling cable.

    But the cable channels I watch are, for the most part, just as ridden with commercials as the broadcasters. Yet they have access to a revenue stream that the broadcasters don’t.

    Why is that fair?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Let’s turn that on its head: Why is it fair to force people to pay for something they already get for free?

      How about this: let broadcasters charge fees for cable carriage, and then let cable subscribers choose if they want those channels or not. I’m sure plenty of them will say no and just hook up the rabbit ears when they want the local news.

      Reply
  3. Shawn

    Well, then, I suppose one solution would be to remove the very idea of “basic cable” and let people decide whether they want to pay for local broadcasters or not.

    That isn’t likely to happen, of course, but if it did, I’m certain stations would back off carriage fee demands pretty quick.

    They’d be sure to lose market share and they’ve got a sweet deal going with the combination of compulsory basic cable + simulcasting anyway, as previously noted here.

    Reply
  4. Fagstein Post author

    Here’s another idea: Why do cable channels get to demand subscriber fees from cable companies in the first place? It’s one thing with pay TV channels like HBO or The Movie Network, but the rest can certainly live off advertising with their endless Seinfeld repeats.

    I think the CRTC should concern itself less with trying to find ways to give money to conventional TV networks and more with how specialty channels have licenses to print money while contributing very little to Canadian broadcasting.

    Reply
  5. Shawn

    That’s a very good point. I can’t speak to the cost-side of what it takes to start and run a cable channel, but I agree it’s somewhat fishy how these relatively marginal “discretionary” channels have turned out to be such cash cows for their owners.

    While I don’t want to shift this back to my Canwest bashing — okay, I guess I do — I recently cancelled what had been my all-time favourite cable channel, IFC Canada, because I was so dismayed at what Canwest has done to it.

    Launched by Salter Films, then sold to Alliance Atlantis, IFC was maybe the one single reason I got cable: it was like have a rep house in my living room. Under Canwest, it’s been reduced in shockingly quick and brutal fashion to showing crap like The Two Coreys, and the same largely junky movies that Canwest recycles on other holdings like Showcase Action, Showcase Diva and the new and particularly execrable Movietime. All laden, as you point out, with huge amounts of advertising.

    Thing is, I do know enough about the biz to say that most of these digital channels would not survive without subscriber fees. Their market share is too small to net much from advertisers.

    Which would mean either a) eliminate advertising from discretionary channels so that their profit margins are more in line with their relatively small market share or b) eliminate all subscriber fees, as you suggest, so that only the most popular channels can survive.

    Reply
  6. Skye99

    This is great news. When are the rest of the CrapTV stations shutting down?

    Earlier this week, CTV filed applications for the renewal of most of our conventional (local television) broadcast licences, which expire at the end of August. In the next few days our applications, along with those of Canwest and Rogers, will be made public by the CRTC.

    Before that, I think it is important to inform you first.

    As you already know, we are not renewing the licences of CKX-TV Brandon, and the ‘A’ stations in Wingham and Windsor. We are also not renewing some 45 rebroadcasting transmitters, which primarily carry the CTV service. These are in areas of the country where over the air broadcasting is just no longer economical.
    In terms of our CTV stations and the remaining ‘A’ stations, we have asked only for a short term one year renewal, as the CRTC has announced they will begin a new process looking into the crisis in conventional television later this year.

    We have been alerting the CRTC to the deteriorating health of conventional TV for several years. Needless to say, the recession has not helped matters and has, in fact, accelerated the decline. This year, we will lose a significant amount of money in conventional. Our specialty business, with its two sources of revenue (ads and subscriber fees) is not immune to the forces of fragmentation as well as the recession. But it is holding its own, in part as a result of the spending cuts we made in November.

    However, if the situation with the CTV stations is alarming, the situation with the ‘A’s is grave.

    When we bought the A’s, they had never made money. We hoped to turn this around and this year achieved a major increase in their ratings. Despite this, the A’s will continue to lose money. This is not the fault of our hard working and dedicated employees who work at our ‘A’ stations across the country. It is because the business model for conventional television is now broken.

    What can we do?

    Starting immediately, we will be looking at stop gap measures to reduce costs at the ‘A’s. These changes are not aimed at solving the big issues of conventional. We’re merely trying to keep the ‘A’s open until regulatory restructuring for the entire sector can take place. While we welcome this new, year-long CRTC process and while we can’t guarantee the survival of the ‘A’s until that time, together we will do our best.

    We are a private broadcaster. We are not the CBC. We are here because we make a profit from the service we provide. Each unit of our Company has to contribute in some way.

    In the long term, we believe the only real solution to the crisis in conventional is fee-for-carriage, which American broadcasters have been negotiating and are now beginning to receive.

    Local television provides a service to our viewers. We know viewers value our local stations highly. In fact, most actually think they are already paying for their local service. The cable and satellite companies have opposed such a fee saying that it would be wrong to raise rates for no additional service. Ironically, since making this argument, all major cable and satellite distributors in the country have raised their subscription rates, while providing no additional service.

    These are tough times for all Canadian businesses, but those of us who work in the broadcasting sector are feeling the effects of both our own unique issues and the recession.

    It is important for every employee in our TV division to understand these issues. That’s why as of today, we are taking the step of posting our application overview on our website, http://www.ctv.ca so you can see our challenges for yourselves. It contains a full discussion of the issues affecting conventional TV.

    Ivan Fecan

    Reply
  7. yup

    Shawn is absolutely right.
    Every time a specialty channel succeeds, GlowBull or CrapTV has to over-pay and buy before the other guy does. Then, the programming can not be sustained because the budget doesn’t work.
    The same applies for these 2 idiot networks who must buy every simsub possibility and put it on their main network AND E, Omni, Access, etc., while losing money to do so.
    Consequently, the demand is made to CRTC that we’re lsoing money, so force the BDU’s to screw the consumers out of more money through carriage fees.

    CRTC: Let these idiots go under if need be.
    Stop letting them buy up the successful niche channels and ruin them.
    If you’re going to allow carriage fees, there better be opt-out for us.

    Reply
  8. Horonymous

    Rabbit ears will still work. If you have a built in ATSC tuner no problem it you don’t you need an external ATSC tuner.

    Reply
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