As part of its fall upfront presentation to advertisers, Shaw Media announced on Wednesday that it is launching two new specialty channels before the end of the year. Though what the press release doesn’t say is that these are actually rebrands of existing channels.
Twist becomes FYI
Twist TV, a lifestyle channel whose schedule includes reality shows like Till Debt Do Us Part, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and I don’t know how many shows devoted to weddings and bride-ness, will be rebranded FYI this fall. FYI is “geared towards a younger, upscale audience” and “offers contemporary lifestyle programs” aimed at millenials. “FYI hosts a hub of modern lifestyle programming featuring health and wellness and food and fashion.”
FYI will effectively be a Canadian version of an American channel by the same name. A&E Networks is rebranding its Bio channel to FYI as of July 8. The U.S. channel has already announced what some of its new shows will be. The list includes Epic Meal Empire, a half-hour 16-episode show starring Montreal’s Epic Meal Time. (I don’t know if this will be considered a Canadian program.)
The U.S. rebrand also brings up the question of what happens to Biography Channel Canada, owned by Rogers, which shares branding with the U.S. version, and gets shows like Gangsters: America’s Most Evil, Mobsters, Women Behind Bars, Celebrity Close Calls, Celebrity Ghost Stories and My Ghost Story from its U.S. counterpart. Without a supply of fresh content, it too could be headed toward a rebrand.
Twist began as Discovery Health Canada in 2001. When the U.S. network turned into the Oprah Winfrey Network 10 years later, the Canadian Channel was morphed into Twist. (Corus rebranded a different channel, Viva (formerly CLT) into OWN Canada.)
The history of the channel means FYI remains tied to Discovery Health’s CRTC licence conditions, which requires it to air programming “devoted entirely to useful, practical, reliable and entertaining programming related to health, wellness and medicine.”
Whether Twist and FYI fit into this definition depends, I guess, on your definition of “wellness”. If reality shows about getting married or fashion or home renovations qualify, then I guess so.
FYI will also be bound by other licence conditions, limiting the amount of sports, drama, comedy, movie and music video programming combined to 10% of the schedule. There’s no limit on the number of reality shows, formal or informal educational shows, or entertainment magazine programs.
FYI must also ensure that at least half its schedule (and half its primetime schedule) is Canadian programs.
According to CRTC figures, Twist made $1.76 million in ad revenue in 2012-13, had 2.2 million subscribers and had a 60 per cent pre-tax profit margin, employing a staff of 10. It’s clearly not in financial trouble, though I guess Shaw believes it can boost those ad figures by targetting a younger audience.
Mystery becomes Crime + Investigation
The other rebrand seems less dramatic on the surface, but involves a much bigger change in programming. Mystery, the channel whose schedule is half Law & Order reruns (plus whatever shows Shaw owns that it can pretend fit into this category), will become “Crime + Investigation” in December.
“Crime + Investigation strives to engage viewers’ minds and crime solving skills, drawing the audience into investigations by offering a behind-the-scenes look at gripping, unforgettable crime stories,” reads the press release.
This is also a case of a Canadian channel copying a U.S. brand. Crime & Investigation is also owned by A&E. Its programming features reality shows following law enforcement and investigators.
If “CI” follows the U.S. version, this will mean dropping most of its drama reruns and replacing them with justice reality shows. And that would make it very similar to Investigation Discovery, formerly Court TV Canada, a Bell-owned channel that’s doing the same thing.
First licensed in 2000 as “13th Street”, Mystery is “devoted to mystery and suspense programming. The service will nurture and encourage short-form Canadian mysteries. It will provide a wide assortment of genre-specific programs including movies, television series, short films and documentaries that will focus exclusively on the delivery of entertaining programming on suspense, espionage and classic mysteries.”
Whether law and order reality shows fit into this definition is a matter of interpretation. The channel has limits on comedy, professional sports and music video programming, but is otherwise free to air what it wishes as long as it fits the nature of service.
Mystery was co-owned with Quebecor until 2012, when Shaw bought it out. As part of that deal, Shaw promised the CRTC to devote some funding to scripted dramas and other so-called programs of national interest until 2017. The dramas wouldn’t have much of a home on the new channel, but that money could also be spent on long-form documentaries.
In the latest CRTC financial numbers, Mystery had $6.5 million a year in advertising revenue in 2012-13, a staff of 11, about 2 million subscribers (growing steadily over the past five years) and a very healthy 47 per cent profit margin.