Bell Media to lay off dozens at Much, MTV

Despite its very profitable operation overall, Bell Media is making deep cuts to Toronto-based television production and cutting up to 120 jobs. On Wednesday, we learned that dozens of those jobs will come from Much, MTV Canada and related channels, and will have a big impact on in-house productions. We already know that indie music show The Wedge is being cancelled, as is Video On Trial and Today’s Top 10s. On MTV, we’re losing 1 Girl 5 Gays, After Degrassi, Losing It and MTV News, according to reports.

The notice of layoff, posted on the Unifor local’s website, list the 72 positions being made redundant. We (and they) won’t know exactly who’s being cut until the process is completed, including bumping of people with less seniority in other classifications.

Much aka MuchMusic, the biggest of the specialty channels in the group, had a decent profit margin, but from 2011 to 2013 experienced an $8 million drop in annual advertising revenue and a $7 million increase in programming expenses, conspiring to push the channel in the red, according to CRTC figures. This despite a significant increase in the number of subscribers. It reported an average staff count of 75, though Unifor’s seniority list has 100 full-time and eight part-time people at the Much production unit.

And in a bit of irony, one of Much’s iconic shows, Degrassi (formerly Degrassi: The Next Generation) was just nominated for an Emmy for outstanding children’s program. It’s the show’s third nomination in four years.

18 thoughts on “Bell Media to lay off dozens at Much, MTV

  1. Sidney Margles

    AT THE SAME TIME, BELL HAS NOTIFIED CUSTOMERS OF PENDING RATE INCREASES FOR TV, INTERNET AND TELEPHONE AS OF SEPTEMBER 1 OF NEARLY 10%.

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  2. Media Man

    Typical of Bell, the rich get richer..in other words, the shareholders count more than the viewers.. but then MuchMusic hasn’t really been the wonderful 24 hour video channel that I used to enjoy with all those vids..In fact, I am told, by those in the know in the record industry, that YouTube is more important than getting a video on Much..MTV is also suffering, but not to the same extent when MJ put them on the map with Thriller.

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  3. Dilbert

    Are there any surprises here? This is what happens when you have a monopoly or near monopoly situation.

    Who runs the other english music related stations in Canada? Nobody. It’s a monopoly of one, with Bell running the roost. It’s not even take it or leave it programming, because Bell pretty much lumps Much (and other stations) into cable packs that almost assure them of subscribers.

    However, all the trickery in the world won’t assure viewership. Advertising revenues are related to actual viewership, not artificially created subscriber numbers. If there are few people watching the channel, then the advertisers won’t be there either. The drops in ad revenue pretty much show the real issue plain as day.

    This situation actually exposes the sham of the Canadian cable channel industry. How many of the channels are supported and exist solely because of cable packages and like for like trading between the near monopoly players? At this point nearly a third of the revenue is from subscriptions (just over $1 per subscriber), yet you have to wonder how many people pay for much but have no interest in it.

    This article is older, but nailed the issue 2 years ago:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/the-big-question-for-tv-where-did-the-kids-go/article4267554/

    10 million subscribers, but only a few thousand watching hyped programming? Significant drops in advertising revenue suggest that those numbers are real, alarming, and show the most obvious signs of weakness in the Canadian cable business. Can you imagine the carnage if Bell could only collect subscriber revenue from people who actually wanted the channel? Their 10 million subscriber base would probably dwindle to, what, 50k? 100k? At that point, their entirely artificial business model would fail.

    Oh, let’s not forget that there is the knock on effects. While Much gets a little over $1 per subscriber, you have to remember that the cable companies (including BellTV and Fibe) get a margin on that stuff as well. Cut out the forced packages, and suddenly the income in that industry would drop as well. It clearly exposes that the entire industry is built on the backs of consumers and not always in the public interest.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Who runs the other english music related stations in Canada?

      Corus owns CMT, Blue Ant Media owns AUX, and Stornoway Communications owns bpm:tv. The rest are owned by Bell Media.

      Can you imagine the carnage if Bell could only collect subscriber revenue from people who actually wanted the channel? Their 10 million subscriber base would probably dwindle to, what, 50k? 100k?

      It depends how you define “actually wanted”. A bit under 1 million tuned in last year for the Much Music Video Awards. That’s about as good a ballpark as any for how many people are interested in it. But for about $1.52 a year per subscriber ($0.13 a month), many people might be just as happy having it as part of their package even if they aren’t watching.

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      1. Dilbert

        “A bit under 1 million tuned in last year for the Much Music Video Awards. ”

        households or viewers? even at that, it suggests that their top rated, most in demand show was viewed by only 10% of their subscriber based. you have to remember that the actual cost to the consumer is not 13 cents a per month, the real costs to the consumer is whatever the cable company charges for it. The real consumer price is likely 2 to 3 times that figure. It’s not a pile of money, but when you add up the dozens of channels you are paying for but rarely watching, it’s a big chunk of your cable bill (and an even bigger chunk of their profits).

        Remember, and this is key: in a vertical market situation like we have in Canada, the parent company gets to profit a number of times along the way. I have to wonder, as an example, how much of the advertising and marketing costs are just “friendly” buys onto other channels, stations, and radio. I seem to remember plenty of Much ads on radio in Montreal.

        You can also read this:

        http://business.financialpost.com/2014/04/30/why-specialty-tvs-profitable-days-may-be-numbered-in-canada/

        A la carte programming would mean that stations like Much, unless specifically stitched into the base programming model, would be optional and less likely to have subscribers. Even if their subscriber list fell to half of their current level (which seems a pretty reasonable concept, considering viewership), they could find themselves with another 5 million a year hole, plus whatever advertising losses come from more realistic subscriber numbers… and not to forget that Bell TV would likely lose an equal amount of subscriber revenue

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    2. Media Man

      I couldn’t have said it any better than this article, hits the nail on the head..But a big problem, as a lot of cable channels have watered down their vocations…Is Much a 24-hour video channel? No !..CMT ? No ! they run series which one can see on several channels..

      It use to be a time when publicists for recording acts made sure their acts paid the VJ’s a visit on air and videos were aired..Not any more..YouTube is the place to debut a video..Period..

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      1. Fagstein Post author

        It use to be a time when publicists for recording acts made sure their acts paid the VJ’s a visit on air and videos were aired..Not any more..YouTube is the place to debut a video..Period..

        That’s the argument Bell is using to try to reduce or eliminate the amount of music videos it has to air according to its licence.

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        1. ATSC

          If consumption of music videos moved over to YouTube, it was because channels such as Muchmusic, and MTV became just awful. And the viewers switched away. If Bell wanted those people back, then they would make sure they ran music videos people wanted, and the stations were programmed by talented people.

          But, why should they. They own a large chunk of the Canadian Internet Highway. If you watch it on YouTube on your ISP service or Mobile device service, they certainly get a piece of the $ action.

          One way or another.

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          1. Isaac L

            Regardless of what the networks did, music fans moved to YouTube because they could select what videos to play and when, à la carte (hey, just like being able to pick your own cable channels). Now curation is starting to become a big deal with streaming services, but with a selection of millions of user playlists, the crowds just won’t ever return to a handful of cable channels.

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  4. Chris

    I’m surprised that more of you aren’t offended by what Bell did to compensate for their lack of music videos. They basically took Comedy Central programming from the USA and divided it up on both Comedy Network Canada and Muchmusic. If you want to watch any programs, you need to order both networks just to watch the same exact content that only airs on one single channel in the USA. Therefore, you’re paying an additional amount of money that could have been used on another genre that you might want to enjoy like sports, or movie channels. I wanted to enjoy several series and wasted my time wondering why they weren’t on Comedy Network where they belong only to find that they had been moved to MuchMusic. If that’s not offensive enough, Muchmusic is still airing shows like Jackass or the Cleveland Show that were already taken off the air( and in the case of Jackass for several years already).

    Perhaps Bell should worry more about live content such as sports where they’re soon going to be shut out from major markets completely by Rogers. I don’t see the marriage between MLSE and Rogers/Bell wasting very long and I’d take a guess that Rogers would swallow up Bell in that deal leaving Bell with a much smaller footprint in the East.

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  5. gazoo

    Plenty of other options out there aside from Big Bad Bell when it comes to Phone and Internet so go ahead Bell, ask for the 10% increase.
    Come get your modem and while you are it, here is your ExpressVu Receiver as well.

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  6. Mortemer

    Not sure why we need 3 separate music television channels each offering very limited original programming.
    I would propose that Bell consolidate Much Music, Much More and MTV into a single channel offering programs subscribers would pay to have part of their cable package. Diluting programs between various Bell channels does nothing but aggravate people and make them subscribe to less and less specialty channels.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      Not sure why we need 3 separate music television channels each offering very limited original programming.
      I would propose that Bell consolidate Much Music, Much More and MTV into a single channel

      M3 (formerly MuchMoreMusic) and MTV Canada aren’t music channels.

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  7. Kevin

    The only real question is: which channel will be eliminated next?

    Media companies have been brutally affected by the internet, and the damage is hidden because they’ve been bought by what used to be cable companies.

    There will come a day when the CRTC decides to break up the vertical model, but by then it will be too late.

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    1. Dilbert

      The CRTC is way too busy re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to deal with the huge gaping wound in the broadcast industry, which is vertical integration. All the discussions and future considerations planning will not work if they don’t address the biggest issue hurting Canadian media.

      As much as I don’t like seeing people lose their jobs, I will be entirely honest to say that losing some channels in all media, from radio and broadcast TV to cable would not be a bad thing if that is the price to pay for breaking up the media gloms.

      My personal suggestion is this: A company or group of companies should only be allowed to own ONE part of the broadcast chain. They can be a broadcaster (limited to 2 properties per market, ANY type), a distributor (cable, sat, or IPtv), or a cable channel operator (maximum of 3 or 4 properties).

      Second one is this: the CRTC and the Canadian government should move over time to nationalize the final mile connecting houses to the outside world, and more to restructure access to consumers homes so that they are not monopolies. The longer term goal would be to replace the cables with FTTH, but for the moment, allowing competition on cable, phone, and internet services would be a huge boost to the economy and to consumers.

      It’s unlikely that we will ever see in our lifetime that Bell gets broken up by government decree because generally they don’t have the attachments to do it, no matter how good the results would be.

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      1. Fagstein Post author

        the CRTC and the Canadian government should move over time to nationalize the final mile connecting houses to the outside world, and more to restructure access to consumers homes so that they are not monopolies.

        It kind of already has. The CRTC has policies that require telecom companies to open wires to homes to direct competition. That’s how we have home phone competition and small independent companies providing DSL Internet access.

        But to actually nationalize it might have unintended consequences. First of all, are we talking about phone lines or coaxial cable lines or fibre-optic lines? Or all of the above? If this applied to all new types of connections, it would discourage companies like Bell from building up fibre-to-the-home networks, because those networks would immediately become property of the government.

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        1. Dilbert

          The CRTC “competition” thing for DSL is remarkable only because it’s not true sharing of cable. See, the DSL providers still control the cable and the networking done on it, and just parse it out to other players. They charge a fairly high fee for that as well.

          The end result is the competitors are limited to slower DSL speeds, and cannot benefit or implement their own FIBE style products. They are limited in competition, just the way companies like Bell like it.

          If this applied to all new types of connections, it would discourage companies like Bell from building up fibre-to-the-home networks, because those networks would immediately become property of the government.

          Having Bell building fiber to the home in a way that is beneficial to them alone isn’t the true benefit for Canadians. Having a fiber optic link to your home that could carry a wide variety of programming, internet, music, and other options at the same time would be a true benefit to Canadians. The Bell method means that Videotron still has to come in next to them and install another line, and any actual internet competitors would have to do the same. Bell’s move to FTTH is just another nice way of sealing up the market place, contributing to the monopoly nature of the Canadian telecommunication world.

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          1. Fagstein Post author

            The CRTC “competition” thing for DSL is remarkable only because it’s not true sharing of cable. See, the DSL providers still control the cable and the networking done on it, and just parse it out to other players. They charge a fairly high fee for that as well.

            “Fairly high” is a matter of opinion. The fee is regulated by the CRTC.

            The end result is the competitors are limited to slower DSL speeds, and cannot benefit or implement their own FIBE style products.

            Do you have evidence that Bell and other incumbent carriers are limiting the DSL speeds of independents?

            Having Bell building fiber to the home in a way that is beneficial to them alone isn’t the true benefit for Canadians.

            I think Bell would argue that creating a fibre-optic network has a benefit to people who have higher Internet speeds and more TV channels. It’s certainly preferable to not having a network, no?

            The Bell method means that Videotron still has to come in next to them and install another line, and any actual internet competitors would have to do the same.

            Maybe, maybe not. The CRTC is holding a hearing in October about regulations affecting fibre-to-the-home and whether there should be mandatory sharing.

            Bell’s move to FTTH is just another nice way of sealing up the market place, contributing to the monopoly nature of the Canadian telecommunication world.

            I’m not sure how the logic works where creating a third telecommunications line into people’s homes is “contributing to the monopoly nature” of anything. How does this reduce choice at all?

            Reply

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