Vanessa, the French-language pay TV channel launched by Anne-Marie Losique in 2010, is having trouble getting television distribution services to add an English-language counterpart to their systems. Cable and satellite services, it says, are reluctant to devote a second channel as more and more specialty services (particularly those in high definition) are taking up a finite space on their networks.
Its solution, as detailed in an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that was published on Thursday, is to turn its existing channel into a bilingual one, with all programming in one language subtitled in the other.
Jokes about how much translation of pornography is required would naturally go here. The channel only offers porn between 11pm and 6am, with the rest of the day devoted to programming about sexuality. (Or, you know, so I'm told.)
A bilingual license isn't unprecedented. Pelmorex has one for The Weather Network/MétéoMédia, and Corus and Astral share one for Teletoon/Télétoon, but those involve one actual channel for each language. CPAC also has two channels to serve each language. One example of a single specialty channel that offers programming in both languages is IDNR-TV, the natural resources channel, which has low distribution.
Vanessa was approved as a French-language service in 2007 and an English-language service in 2009, so the only real issue is whether the CRTC would accept it as a bilingual channel. It has scheduled the application as a Type 1 application, meaning a hearing has not been called to consider it.
It took three years for Vanessa to launch in French, and the channel had only 6,790 subscribers in 2011, according to data submitted to the CRTC. Even though it's among the top 10 in terms of revenue per subscriber at $45 a year or $3.75 a month (Bell and Videotron charge about $15 a month for the channel), its total subscription revenue was $305,538 in 2011, or about 1% that of the Weather Network or 0.2% that of TSN. With $700,000 in total revenue but $2.1 million in total expenses in 2011, the service lost more than twice what it made, making it one of the worst performing specialty channels in Canada.
People wanting to comment on the application have until July 9 to do so. They can read the application and write to the CRTC through its website.