City won’t renew Only in Montreal (and won’t say why)

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 Only in Montreal set at Whalley-Abbey Media's offices in Westmount.

The Only in Montreal set at Whalley-Abbey Media’s offices in Westmount.

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.

Most of the segments are also available on City’s YouTube channel. Some are also on City TV’s website.

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.

Only in Montreal's cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

Only in Montreal’s cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

12 thoughts on “City won’t renew Only in Montreal (and won’t say why)

  1. Marc

    That is too bad. The production quality is very high. I wonder if Montreal Connected isn’t far away from being axed, too.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I wonder if Montreal Connected isn’t far away from being axed, too.

      It’s not. Montreal Connected is a requirement of City Montreal’s broadcasting licence. It can’t cancel the show unless it gets the CRTC to change that licence (or it shuts down the station).

      Reply
  2. Media Man

    I will admit that I didn’t see every show, because of what you admit, poor timeslots..but the fact that subjects weren’t timely. shoot something in December in the snow and it airs in April or whatever doesn’t help either.

    CTV Montreal would not have done a show like this. And Definitely, this is a filler type show..So do they meet their quota of local hours.. Stuff like this just confirms to me that networks and their suits, in general, view local programming as a pain in the ass, especially anything outside of news shows….

    What is really locally is some sort of local entertainment/variety type show, local talent they would perform, segment for interviews, movie reviews, pop culture stuff,etc…maybe a local ETalk, but not as ritzy, a bit more serious

    Reply
  3. Dilbert

    Well, two things at play here first: The guy who pushed for it is gone, and you can bet that the show wasn’t the cheapest thing in the world to produce. Not expensive mind you in real terms, but perhaps was eating up too much of the local production budget.

    My guess is that you will see the money split up for perhaps two different programs, and maybe with some local “CITY” people on the shows. Now that they are stable on their Breakfast thing, it’s perhaps time to put that money to work in a better way.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The guy who pushed for it is gone

      Malcolm Dunlop was the executive in charge, but I don’t know that it was him who “pushed for” this show or even if it was his idea.

      Not expensive mind you in real terms, but perhaps was eating up too much of the local production budget.

      The show wasn’t really part of the local production system. It was purchased by Rogers Media and produced entirely separately from City Montreal. They might have set a budget for local programming in general, but I don’t think the budget for in-house programming is so directly related to that of acquired programming (especially since the programming was acquired even before local productions began).

      My guess is that you will see the money split up for perhaps two different programs, and maybe with some local “CITY” people on the shows.

      At the moment, they have no obligation to spend that money on local programs. They’re asking the CRTC to direct more funding to national scripted shows in exchange for dropping the requirement that led to this show.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        “At the moment, they have no obligation to spend that money on local programs. They’re asking the CRTC to direct more funding to national scripted shows in exchange for dropping the requirement that led to this show.”

        Then you have answered the question already, City appears to be leaning towards content that it can use on all of it’s stations, rather than station specific stuff.

        I don’t think it precludes however that the local City staff could possibly put together other local projects, helping to defray some of the costs of operating the morning show. The set is perfect for an interview show, and while they don’t have a news department per se, they do have the ability to go in the field to record stuff, which means a “magazine” type show is always possible. Heck, they could just run the “best of breakfast TV” and that would already be a boost in local programming :)

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I don’t think it precludes however that the local City staff could possibly put together other local projects, helping to defray some of the costs of operating the morning show.

          I don’t know where they would get the time or money to produce these other projects. And if they have ideas for things they want to produce, it would make more sense to just incorporate those things into the morning show.

          Heck, they could just run the “best of breakfast TV” and that would already be a boost in local programming :)

          They’ve done that. It’s not a permanent feature, but it’s an option if they feel it’s worth it or need to fill some time.

          Reply
  4. Trevor

    Ah, the great combination of Rogers not caring about local programming at all, and that they’re probably stretched from the hockey deal.

    God, Canadian television needs a revolutionary thinker, and badly.

    Reply
  5. Dilbert

    Well, if it’s such a great show, I am sure one of the other local stations in Montreal would love to pick it up.

    Oh wait. CTV thinks “local programming matters” only when it comes to making money, and Global won’t spend the money for anything past a green screen to read news in front of. Yup, this show is doomed.

    Isn’t it wonderful that we have so much competition in the local market?

    Reply
  6. Philip Coogan

    After reading this article, I went to check Youtube for videos of the show. (I don’t get City personally). They have 29 2/3 reports from the whole series.

    I am halfway through the series. The hosts are a bit out there, but it was really interesting to see all the people they interviewed, a wide variety of recognizable faces. Even if the main subject wasn’t known to me, there were others featured within. From well known celebrities like Coeur De Pirate, Georges Laraque and Martha Wainwright to Montreal icons like Bill Brownstein, Lederhosen Lucil and Susan Semanek. It’s a very interesting collection of stories. It’s kind of surreal how many people I know and sometimes rub elbows with. Montreal has a lot going for it even if it seems small if you know what I mean

    Shame that this show was not renewed.

    Reply

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