On Saturday at 7pm, City TV’s local lifestyle show will present three capsules, one each from its hosts Matt Silver, Tamy Emma Pepin and Dimitrios Koussioulas, as it airs its 30th episode. Which will also be its last.
Last month, Rogers Media confirmed to me that Only in Montreal is not being renewed past its first 30-episode run.
The news is disappointing because Only in Montreal, produced by Whalley-Abbey Media, was actually a really good show. It was well edited, well produced, fun and interesting, and introduced the city to three personalities they had known little of before. And it showcased the city in a way that has been missing on local television for far too long.
But what’s more disappointing is that the decision to cancel the show was made before the latest local TV ratings numbers came out. Since this was the first report since Only in Montreal came on the air last July, we can only conclude that the decision had nothing to do with ratings. And it’s tempting to further conclude that it therefore had nothing to do with the quality of the show.
For the record, Rogers tells me that the show had an average rating share of 0.5% among adults 25-54, and a total average viewership number of 1,500. That’s low, but its numbers weren’t helped by being put against Saturday night Canadiens games and having very little promotion.
The show had a social media presence, and its episodes were previewed on Friday episodes of Breakfast Television. Rogers also setup interviews with me just before the show premiered. But that was about it for promotion. There weren’t promo ads on the air telling viewers what was coming up in that week’s episode or when to tune in. There were no billboards in the street or other marketing vehicles promoting the show. And its lead-in at 7pm Saturdays was reruns of Murdoch Mysteries. Its repeats at 11:30pm (against Saturday Night Live) and noon Sundays (when nobody’s watching TV) didn’t help much.
A comment, but no comment
Asked about the reasons for cancelling the show, Rogers provided me with this statement from Hayden Mindell, vice-president of television programming and content for Rogers Media: “Montreal has a vital production community. We are exploring other original programming opportunities and are excited to continue working with local producers.”
It was Malcolm Dunlop, Mindell’s predecessor, that told me last summer about how Only in Montreal was part of a strategy to establish the station in the community. Dunlop left Rogers in August.
I tried asking again why the show got cancelled, since Mindell’s statement didn’t answer that question. The response I got from corporate PR was “we don’t comment on changes to our programming.”
Scott Bailey of Whalley-Abbey Media said it was “disappointing for sure” that the show won’t come back. “I feel it is a great show. Tremendously proud of it,” he said. He also said he was told that the decision not to renew had “nothing to do with the show or its performance.”
A possible answer from the CRTC
As I explained in my review of the show, Only in Montreal satisfied two quotas that City had with the CRTC: One, to produce more local programming outside Toronto, created by independent producers, and two, to spend a certain part of its Canadian programming expenditures on independent English-language producers in Quebec.
The latter is a commitment, not a condition of licence. The former requirement, imposed in 2011, expires this summer because it’s the end of City TV’s licence term. Rogers has asked that the requirement for additional local programming be deleted as part of its licence renewal application, in exchange for new commitments to scripted shows and other programs the CRTC classifies as “programs of national interest.”
The expiring CRTC requirement and the decision to cancel before getting any ratings information suggests that the show was more of a make-work project than anything else. Which is sad, because it’s actually a good show.
The show will go on
The good news is that the 90 reports contained in those 30 episodes won’t be lost to history. They were designed not to be too timely (some were shot up to six months before they aired), so they can be aired as repeats for years. The TV schedule shows that they’ll keep the show in the three weekend timeslots at least in the short term, though they’ll air three different episodes each weekend in those three slots.
Whalley-Abbey Media will continue with its other series. Tamy Emma Pepin moved from Only in Montreal to another project for Urbania and Évasion, with the first episodes airing on the latter in March. Matt Silver has a supporting role in the movie Three Night Stand, which just came out. No word on new projects for Dimitrios Koussioulas, who seems to be spending his days saying bizarre things on social media.