Category Archives: Media

Jay Walker crosses the language barrier with TV show Resto Mundo on Zeste

This isn’t Jay Walker’s dream job. Nor are his other broadcasting gigs, hosting the weekly Montreal Rocks show on CHOM, or contributing to Global Montreal’s Morning News, or contributing music picks this summer to the Radio-Canada radio show Tandem. Nor is his actual day job, working as a real estate broker. Or his unpaid job of being a parent to three-year-old Emma Rose.

No, Jay Walker’s dream job is to be the next George Stroumboulopoulos. (Cool MuchMusic VJ George, not fired-from-Hockey-Night-in-Canada George.)

“I wanted to be on MuchMusic so bad,” he told me this week in an interview. He built a career designed to slowly move him toward that goal. He interned with CHOM when Andrew Carter and Steve Anthony were the morning men. He produced Expos games for The Team 990. He worked as a researcher on the TQS entertainment show Flash. And for the past six years he’s been hosting a show in one of the most ratings-unfriendly time slots (10pm to midnight on Sundays) in which he features Montreal artists on the radio.

But like the Expos and TQS, MuchMusic doesn’t exist anymore. The channel that replaced it, Much, has all but abandoned its focus on music, just as its French-language counterpart MusiquePlus has.

But Walker’s not complaining. He enjoys everything he does right now, including selling real estate, and he’s thrilled about his latest gig, hosting a new culinary lifestyle show on the TV channel Zeste.

Resto Mundo, which debuts Wednesday on the food channel owned by Groupe Serdy, could best be described as the reverse of a food travel show. Instead of heading to different countries and sampling their cuisine, he heads to local restaurants that feature people who have brought culinary culture from all over the world and promise an authentic experience.

Some of the nationalities are more common, like Brazilian, Portuguese and Japanese. Some are less so, like Tibetan, Senegalese and Afghan.

But while the food is all different, Walker says there are a lot more commonalities than differences.

“What I learned personally is that we are all truly the same. Every recipe starts with butter or oil, onion, garlic or ginger, and fresh ingredients.”

Each half-hour episode starts with an interview with the guest, talking about the food and the culture, and the particular dish being showcased. It’s about the food, but also about the person making it and the culture of where both come from.

“I’m not a chef, I’m in no way shape or form a culinary expert,” Walker warns. “For me it’s always about meeting and talking to the people.”

Talking might seem to be an issue for this anglophone who speaks quite well in French but with a slight anglo accent (sounding a little like Sugar Sammy in the process). Walker didn’t quite understand himself at first why he was picked. He said Olivier Tétreault, who directed the Guide Restos Voir show starring Walker’s wife, Anne-Marie Withenshaw, thought of Walker for this new project and proposed that he audition for it. He did, and was offered the job.

He still didn’t quite believe it. “I said ‘you know I’m an anglo right?’ He said ‘you’re the guy, I want you’.”

Walker happened to not have any real estate brokerage contracts, so he took advantage of the opportunity and shot 13 half-hour episodes.

Now he has to get people to watch. Which might be difficult for a show hosted by someone unfamiliar to francophone audiences on a channel not many people get.

Which is probably why even a post on some crappy media blog might help.

Resto Mundo airs Wednesdays at 6pm on Zeste starting Aug. 31.

Virgin Radio brings in new talent, loses Lee Haberkorn

It was two years ago that Virgin Radio 96 had a silly idea to hold a contest to find a new on-air talent, and the winner was some bearded kid named Lee Haberkorn.

Since then, Haberkorn has become a regular at the station, most recently hosting weekend mornings but also being very active on social media, which he uses to post videos of him engaging in a prank war with afternoon host (and program director/boss) Mark Bergman.

So it was perhaps inevitable that he’d be moving on to better opportunities sooner than later. This month he left the station to join the new Virgin Radio in Kitchener, becoming their new morning man.

Haberkorn’s departure follows that of Andrea Collins, who also left the station but stays in the Bell Media family.

Collins has been replaced in late mornings by perennial schedule-hole-filler Kelly Alexander, who now finally has a solid weekday job. Alexander’s weekend shift is being filled by a new import, Shannon Brooksbank, known on the air as Brooksy, who comes from Corus’s Jump 106.9 in Ottawa (where she worked with former Virgin host Tony Stark).

No replacement for Haberkorn’s weekend morning shift has been announced yet. So far the station has been filling weekend mornings with announcerless music.

91.9 Sport adds live evening programming, including Habs postgame show

91.9 Sport schedule (click for PDF)

91.9 Sport schedule for 2016-17 (click for PDF)

The station didn’t mention this in its press release, but the best news is that for the first time since 2013 (and only the second time since 2011), CKLX-FM 91.9 in Montreal will not be starting its fall season with a new name and radical change in format.

What began in 2004 as Couleur Jazz and then became Planète Jazz, then Radio X in 2012, then Radio 9 in 2014 and finally 91.9 Sport in 2015, will stick with that last brand for a second year, as Montreal’s only full-time French-language sports talk station.

And it’s expanding its programming into the evening. No, it isn’t airing live sporting events, but it will have talk weeknights until midnight, the last two hours of which on game nights will be an open-line Canadiens postgame show, even though the Habs game airs on competitor 98.5 FM.

There’s also a pregame show on weekends, from 5-7pm.

The weeknight show is called Sports Extra, and hosted by Meeker Guerrier, who has been their soccer specialist. Soccer and Football have their focus earlier in the show (when hockey fans will be listening to the game). Perhaps the most interesting thing is that he’ll also be taking calls during intermissions. (Why not take calls during commercials why you’re at it?) That will require some juggling, since they can’t have dead air otherwise. Similar to how RDS does l’Antichambre on Saturday nights, it means finding very flexible filler programming otherwise. Fortunately that’s easier to do in radio than on TV.

The weekend show Le 5 @ 7 will also be an audience-driven show, giving people the chance to make predictions before games. Sunday’s show will include a week in review and a focus on football.

The other big addition is Pierre Houde, the RDS Canadiens play-by-play man, who will become a columnist on the morning show. Other than saying he’ll be commenting on the news, it doesn’t give much detail on what we should expect, but you can make a good guess. Houde does a similar thing on a regular basis on CHOM-FM with his friend Terry DiMonte.

So here’s what 91.9’s lineup looks like now:

Weekdays

  • 6-10am: Du sport, le matin with Michel Langevin and Enrico Ciccone. News-focused. Contributors include Michel Villeneuve (7:03), Réjean Tremblay (8:03), Pierre Houde (9:03) and more.
  • 10am-12pm: Gilbert Delorme. Call-in show.
  • 12-1pm: Du sport, le midi with Charles-André Marchand. Commentary-focused. Last half hour devoted to football.
  • 1-3pm: Laraque et Gonzalez with Georges Laraque and Stéphane Gonzalez. Debate-focused.
  • 3-7pm: Jean-Charles en liberté with Jean-Charles Lajoie. Analysis-focused. Contributors include Réjean Tremblay (3:45pm), Yvon Pedneault and Mike Bossy (4pm), Mathias Brunet (4:45pm) and Bob Hartley (5:03pm).
  • 7pm-12am: Sports Extra with Meeker Guerrier. Includes segments on soccer (7-7:30pm) and football (7:30-8pm, rebroadcasting the 12:30pm show), and call-ins after Canadiens games.

Weekends

  • 10am-5pm: Les légendes du rock with Jeff Paquet. Rock music.
  • 5pm-7pm: Le 5 @ 7 with Louis-Philippe Guy (starts Oct. 1). Lookahead and look back. More hockey focused on Saturdays and football focused on Sundays.

Outside of these hours will be mainly rebroadcasts and highlights of other shows.

The morning show interviewed general manager Yves Bombardier this morning to explain the changes and video is up on their website.

One thing he points out, and is clear from the schedule, is an attempt to structure the programs to create rendez-vous moments. Soccer and football fans will know when to tune in to hear programming related to their preferred sport. People who want to listen to Pierre Houde will know to tune in at 9am. And there are top-of-the-hour three-minute newscasts during morning and afternoon drive and at noon.

More people are listening, but is it enough?

The station is cautiously optimistic, and their ratings explain why. The station’s reach and average audience is about 1/10th that of 98.5 FM, and even among men 25-54, which should be its core demographic, its market share is stuck around 4-5% vs 30% for 98.5. (For women, it’s virtually nil.)

But its numbers are better than it used to be. If you look at overall (ages 2+ 24/7) ratings measured by BBM/Numeris in the spring of each year, you see the station was much better in 2016 than any of the previous five years.

  • 2011 (Jazz): 1.0% share, 55,900 reached each day
  • 2012 (Jazz): 1.2% share, 63,400 reached each day
  • 2013 (Radio X): 0.7% share, 42,400 reached each day
  • 2014 (Radio X): 1.2% share, 51,100 reached each day
  • 2015 (Radio 9): 0.9% share, 43,000 reached each day
  • 2016 (91.9 Sport): 2.4% share, 54,800 reached each day

A doubling of ratings isn’t that fantastic when you’re so low to begin with, but it’s enough that they’re sticking with the plan. The increase in share with a more modest increase in reach means that people are tuning in longer.

 

CTV’s Your Morning: A formulaic morning show that misses chances to inform

Your Morning cast, from left: Kelsey McEwen, Melissa Grelo, Ben Mulroney, Anne-Marie Mediwake, Lindsey Deluce. (photo: Bell Media)

Your Morning cast, from left: Kelsey McEwen, Melissa Grelo, Ben Mulroney, Anne-Marie Mediwake, Lindsey Deluce. (photo: Bell Media)

YOUR MORNING is a new approach to morning television. The series will deliver an original perspective and unique insight into the stories of the day, while showcasing lifestyle topics of interests to Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

That’s how CTV announced, in June, the show that would replace the long-running Canada AM morning show.

On Monday, the show finally debuted. I watched the first three episodes of this new show, curious how it would take this “new approach” and offer “original perspective and unique insight”, but mostly how it would make morning television relevant to a generation of people who turn to Twitter and Facebook before turning on the TV.

I was disappointed.

Despite the long preparation time, the show is still in its infancy, so I won’t judge it for the kind of opening-day jitters that affect any new show. A few awkward handovers as the hosts figure out their timing, some confusion over what videos to show during discussions, or not knowing what camera to look into. Though technically it has actually been very smooth.

I’ll also preface my review by noting that I’m not the target audience for a morning TV show. I wake up well after 9am, and I don’t have the TV on in the background while I’m making lunch for my kids.

But I’m trying to keep that audience in mind. People who won’t tune in for the full three hours, but maybe some half-hour block. People who aren’t paying full attention, and mainly want the basics: knowing what’s in the news, what the weather is going to be like, and maybe a little bit of entertainment in between.

Continue reading

Dave Fisher calls it a career, is added to CJAD Wall of Fame

That’s it for Dave Fisher, the CJAD weekend morning man who retired Sunday after 32 years entertaining Montrealers on the air.

For those of you who missed it (and weren’t among the invited guests to see it in person), CJAD has posted the last hour and a half of Fisher’s final Trivia Show online:

There’s also coverage from CTV News, the Montreal Gazette and of course CJAD itself. The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein wrote a tribute to Fisher when the retirement was announced in June. Contributor Gary Beauvais writes about Fisher in the Eastern Door.

Fisher has been added as the fourth face on CJAD’s Wall of Fame, which started last December. The honour comes with a special Aislin cartoon in his honour. Fisher is the only living recipient of this honour so far.

Ken Connors takes over as CJAD’s weekend morning man starting next Saturday.

Global, City TV withdraw demands to reduce local programming minimums in Montreal

Corus Entertainment, which owns Global TV, and Rogers Media, which owns City TV, have each decided that in light of recent changes in local television policy, they are willing to accept the requirement that their stations in Montreal produce the standard 14 hours per week of local programming, and have withdrawn requests that their quota be reduced to 10 or seven hours a week.

The requests came as part of a proceeding to renew licences for Canada’s major television broadcasters. The large groups all have their licences expiring in 2017, and the CRTC is holding a public hearing in November to discuss what conditions should be in their renewed licences for over-the-air television and specialty channels.

Bell Media proposed no such changes for CFCF-DT, which is the market leader in the city and whose local newscasts often have a market share above 50%. But even the #1 broadcaster warned about the failing business model of local television, and said that for its network “at this time, we can only commit to the current local programming requirements and even these regulatory minima may need to be revisited once the Commission’s decision on local programming is released.”

Normally, television stations in “metropolitan” markets of more than 1 million people are required to broadcast 14 hours of local programming every week, while stations in smaller markets are required to broadcast seven.

Continue reading

TTP Media abandons 850 AM, shows no progress on other unlaunched stations

For the past five years, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by people in the local broadcasting industry is what’s going on with TTP Media, a group of local businessmen who won CRTC licences to launch three AM talk radio stations in the city and had promised to revolutionize the market with big investments in quality programming.

Unfortunately, for years now the answer has been “nothing that I know of.” And unfortunately that continues today.

Since getting the licence for 850 AM in 2013, the group’s only on-the-record activity has been asking for extensions and technical changes from the CRTC, each time indicating that the stations were mere months from launch.

But now there’s finally some news, even though it’s not clear what it means. In June, the authorization from the CRTC to launch a French sports-talk station at 850 AM expired. Because the decision approving the station was published in 2013, and the first extension given last year, a second request for a final one-year extension should have been a matter of formality.

But that request was never issued. So on June 19, when the deadline was reached, the authority to launch the station expired.

According to the CRTC, the frequency is now available for anyone else to apply for.

I chronicle my attempts to seek comments from the partners in Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media in this story published by Cartt.ca. Paul Tietolman, whose father Jack founded the station that used to be on 850 AM in Montreal, was the only one who would talk to me, but he wouldn’t answer questions about the group’s plans, wanting to defer to his partners and not act as a company spokesperson.

Continue reading

Elliott Price joins Sportsnet, kinda

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

Elliott Price, right, with co-host Grant Robinson in the CFMB studio.

It was a bit of a head-scratcher of an announcement: Elliott Price is now part of the Sportsnet Network. But what’s the Sportsnet Network?

I asked the parties involved for a story that appears in Monday’s Montreal Gazette, about what Price has been up to since he was let go from TSN Radio 690 last November.

Basically, it’s an agreement for cooperation. Price gets access to Sportsnet’s branding and personalities he can interview on his show, plus Sportsnet’s website hosts his podcast. On the flip side, Sportsnet’s radio stations in Toronto and Calgary get access to Price to give a Montreal perspective on sports stories, and Sportsnet has a “presence” in the market, a benefit that is less tangible.

I could not get them to either confirm nor deny that money is changing hands as part of this deal, but Dave Cadeau, program director of Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto said the deal isn’t financial in nature. Price is not a Sportsnet employee, and he maintains his editorial independence. Price’s show (which has been renamed Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price) also carries some Sportsnet-related advertising, including spots for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

It was Price that got the ball moving on this deal, and he said he had been working on it since the beginning. Unlike TSN Radio, which has eight stations in five provinces (in every NHL and CFL market except Calgary and Regina), Sportsnet has only stations in Toronto and Calgary, and so needs some help to cover other major sports markets.

So does this mean we could see other deals like this in the future?

“Could I see it? Sure. Are we thinking about it? No,” Cadeau says. “This is all that is planned.”

Price’s situation is pretty unusual. CFMB is licensed as an ethnic radio station (it is required to broadcast programming in 16 languages for 16 ethnic groups, but there’s no particular limit on the amount of non-ethnic programming it can broadcast otherwise), and so is only sports for 10 hours a week.

The likelihood of Rogers starting a full-time all-sports station in Montreal is virtually zero while TSN 690 is on the air. Outside of Toronto, the market for sports-talk simply isn’t robust enough for more than one station. (Rogers did suggest it might be willing to buy TSN 690 during the Bell-Astral hearings, but it’s unclear how serious that offer was.)

So this represents the next best thing. Sportsnet gets a presence in the city that it doesn’t have to pay for, and Price gets to look a lot more professional and get lots of expert guests by associating himself with this big brand.

Price also is now a regular panelist on Sportsnet Central Montreal, the weekly sports talk show that airs on City Montreal.

Is Price’s show viable?

I asked Price whether he thinks he can get enough advertising to make his show break even. The initial response from advertisers has actually been quite impressive. Since it started as a one-day-a-week show on CFMB, the show has had several local sponsors. He said it was enough that the Sunday show paid for itself, but with the expansion to five days a week (making this a de facto full-time job for Price and co-host Grant Robinson), the advertising demands are greater. He guesses he’s about halfway there, though.

CFMB's main studio.

CFMB’s main studio.

This was my first visit to the new studios of CFMB since the Evanov Radio Group bought the station and moved it to new offices on Papineau Ave. in Rosemont. The building, which doesn’t have any exterior signage, has newly renovated offices on several floors (and half-floors). Upstairs are the studios of sister station AM 980.

The new studio is clean and reflects a the new reality of radio, and the big windows will expose hosts to a lot more natural light than the basement studios the station vacated in Westmount.

CFMB's ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

CFMB’s ground-floor studio on Papineau Ave.

UPDATE (Aug. 11): Price is interviewed on Breakfast Television Montreal about his new show.

The Beat swaps morning, afternoon drive hosts

 

The Beat 92.5 is continuing its summer of transformation. On Monday morning, it announced that it’s moving Cat Spencer to afternoon drive and Cousin Vinny Barrucco to mornings. The changes take effect immediately.

Vinny will be joined in the mornings by co-host Nikki Balch, who has returned to Montreal after leaving Virgin Radio two years ago, as well as Stuntman Sam and Kim Kieran on news and traffic. Kieran is also moving to mornings from afternoons, replacing the departing Natasha Hall.

Spencer seemed excited about the change, even though morning host is traditionally the most prestigious of the radio jobs. (The 9-to-5 workday shifts are The Beat’s highest rated.) Spencer’s on-air time isn’t only reduced to two hours a day, but four days a week, Mondays to Thursdays. He’s joined by Claudia Marques on traffic.

Spencer explained on the air that he had planned to do mornings for five years when he joined The Beat in 2011, and wanted to move to afternoon drive and have his mornings back.

The rest of the schedule is unchanged. Donna Saker does 9am to 1pm, Christin Jerome does 1pm to 5pm, and Jeremy White takes over at 7pm. Rob Kemp and Nat Lauzon do weekend mornings and afternoons, respectively.

The changes (which also include new headshots for everyone) come less than two months after The Beat brought in a new station manager, Luc Tremblay. Tremblay, who had been working at La Presse+ since 2012, will also act as program director, replacing interim PD Martin Tremblay.

Montreal’s radio industry mourns Merv Williams

Merv Williams, the former producer and announcer at Standard and Astral Radio in Montreal who contributed to CHOM’s morning show and CJAD’s Trivia Show until he was axed five years ago, has died.

The news was shared on social media by his former colleagues, but the official obituary notice was published Saturday in the Ottawa Citizen.

He died Sunday, July 10 at the Ottawa Heart Institute. He was only 39.

A memorial service for Williams will be held at the Yves Légaré Funeral home at 7200 Newman Blvd. in LaSalle on Saturday, July 30 at 11 am.

I never met Williams, but he appeared to be universally liked by his colleagues. I’ll let them offer tribute through their posts here:

Continue reading

CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series starts tonight

As part of its mandate to offer local reflection beyond the daily newscast, CBC Television is airing a fifth season of its hour-long regional documentary series Absolutely Quebec, Saturdays at 7pm starting tonight.

First up is Cricket & Parc Ex: A Love Story, by Barry Lazar and Garry Beitel, about Montreal’s South Asian community and their love for this sport that’s much more popular in India and Pakistan than it is in this part of the world.

Carrie Haber, the producer of the Absolutely Quebec series, describes this documentary in more detail on CBC’s website, and the trailer is above. Mike Cohen at The Suburban also writes about it.

And it’s already online.

The series airs the first three episodes in the second half of July, then takes a break for the Rio Olympics. It returns at the end of August for the final three episodes.

Here’s the full lineup, with the descriptions provided by CBC:

 

Cricket & Parc Ex — A Love Story (July 16): A love story about Montreal’s South Asian community who live for their love of cricket. The documentary takes us onto the action-packed pitch and into daily life in Parc Extension – one of Canada’s poorest and most vibrant immigrant neighbourhoods.

Fennario — The Good Fight (July 23): This POV documentary captures the acerbic wit of David Fennario, a social activist and one of Canada’s great playwrights as he grapples with the devastating legacy of WWII on the men and women of his Verdun, Quebec neighbourhood. It originally screened at the 2014 RIDM festival, and Montreal Gazette reviewer T’Cha Dunlevy gave it three and a half stars.

The Shigawake Movie (formerly titled Barr Brothers in the Land of the Rising Sun) (July 30): The Shigawake Music and Agricultural Festival is one of Canada’s most remote music festivals, enjoying its 6th year at the tip of the Gaspé peninsula. Performances by Barr Brothers, Katie Moore & many others capture the Summer spirit of the Gaspé and highlight music’s ability to bring together isolated communities whose youth are reckoning with uncertain futures in the region.

Clay vs. Clay (Aug. 27): The story of Clay “Big Thunder” Peters, a 33-year old drug and alcohol addict, who hitchhikes across Canada from Vancouver to Montreal with the goal to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. Directed by Elias C. Varoutsos and edited by Alan Kohl.

In Vitro: Quebec’s New Fertility Frontier (Sept. 3): Following three stories of people at various stages of IVF treatment who are experiencing the impact of recent changes to Quebec’s formerly one-of-a-kind IVF program.

Mile-Enders (Sept. 17): TV Producer Lori Braun and her gay best friend, showrunner Adam Wanderer question the current state of their lives while exploring the food, drink, lifestyle and pop culture of their hometown in this coming of “middle” age docu-comedy.

Ken Connors leaves The Beat to take over weekend mornings on CJAD

Ken Connors

Ken Connors

Along with the news that Natasha Hall is hanging up her microphone for another mysterious job opportunity, The Beat 92.5 is also losing assistant program director Ken Connors. He made the announcement after the fact on Facebook Friday:

Connors has been with Corus/Cogeco for 11 years, and like Hall was one of the people who worked at AM 940 before that.

UPDATE (July 18): As expected, Bell Media has announced that Connors is taking over as host of the weekend morning show on CJAD, replacing the retiring Dave Fisher. Connors will also co-host the Home Improvement Show with Jon Eakes and the CJAD 800 Trivia Show.

UPDATE (Aug. 6): Connors was interviewed on CTV Montreal about his new job.

CRTC settles Videotron/RDS dispute, opening door to subscribers getting RDS GO

It’s not official yet, but a decision released by the CRTC this week will likely lead to Videotron subscribers soon finally getting access to RDS GO and being able to stream Canadiens games on smartphones, tablets and online.

The decision, released Tuesday, is what’s called a final offer arbitration between Videotron and Bell Media over the distribution of RDS and RDS2. The companies couldn’t come to an agreement over renewing the distribution contract, which expired last August, and so Videotron asked the commission to intervene.

In final offer arbitration, both parties present complete contracts to the commission, and it chooses one in its entirety (or, exceptionally, can refuse both).  This method of conflict resolution has the advantage of rewarding whichever side presents the most reasonable-seeming offer, and so encouraging both sides to be more reasonable in those offers.

In this case, the CRTC sided with Videotron, judging that its offer was better. The supporting documents in the case are heavily redacted to protect commercially sensitive information, so we don’t know any of the details of the contract, including what wholesale per-subscriber price Videotron will pay for RDS, what kind of volume discount it will get on that price, how long the term is or even how many RDS subscribers Videotron has.

But the documents do give plenty of insight into the relationship between Bell and Quebecor, and the tone of the many letters to the CRTC suggests there’s no love lost between these two organizations.

Videotron wants streaming

According to the documents submitted, Bell and Videotron managed to work out most of their differences on the new contract, including multiplatform rights, which Videotron has been trying to get a deal on since at least 2014. And it made it clear it sees these rights as essential:

Il est très important de souligner l’urgence de la situation puisque tant et aussi longtemps que le tarif multiplateforme n’est pas réglé, les abonnés de Vidéotron n’ont pas accès à ce contenu et sont désavantagés vis-à-vis les abonnés de Bell Télé. De plus, en retardant l’accès à ce contenu, Bell Télé continue de jouir d’un avantage concurrentiel important tout en désavantageant Vidéotron.

Though Videotron initially wanted to put multiplatform rights to arbitration as well, after failing to get the issue resolved in mediation in 2014, the companies solved that issue on their own, leaving only the wholesale price for the channels up to the commission.

With the CRTC’s decision, there’s now a new contract with RDS, one that includes multiplatform rights and will allow Videotron to meet new packaging requirements set by the CRTC to come into effect by Dec. 1.

So when do we get RDS GO?

Not quite yet, it seems. While the company told me in a statement that it’s happy with the decision and that there’s “agreement in principle” on multiplatform distribution, some aspects of the deal are still in discussion. “It’s impossible for us to make an announcement on this subject today,” the company said.

Hopefully this will be resolved by the time the Canadiens season begins again this fall.

Multiplatform distribution, and in particular “TV anywhere” apps, still have plenty of holes, particularly where they involve large vertically integrated companies. Few Bell services are available to Videotron customers this way, and few TVA services are available to Bell customers.

 

These issues will eventually be resolved as new distribution contracts are signed (in many cases probably involving a quid pro quo to avoid giving one distributor a competitive advantage), but they’re taking forever.

Because this deal concerns only RDS, it doesn’t affect distribution of other Bell Media services on Videotron (not even TSN). But hopefully this will help speed up discussions about getting those services on board as well.

The arguments

Since the CRTC arbitration in the end concerned mainly just the wholesale fee for RDS, the arguments presented by Bell and Videotron mainly concerned trying to set a higher or lower value on the channels. Though both offers increased the wholesale fee for RDS, Bell’s increased it more than Videotron’s did.

Much of those arguments centred on comparing RDS to TVA Sports, which of course is owned by Videotron’s parent company Quebecor.

Bell’s arguments for a higher fee included:

  • RDS maintains higher overall ratings than TVA Sports, even after losing national NHL rights.
  • RDS is more respected by viewers than TVA Sports.
  • RDS’s production and acquisition costs have increased dramatically.
  • Outside of hockey, RDS is by far more popular than TVA Sports, with many more marquee events.
  • Though Saturday night Canadiens games are popular, many more Quebec francophones are choosing to watch the games in English on CBC or Sportsnet than watch TVA Sports (they don’t say why, but this probably has to do as much with the fact that some people just don’t feel the need to subscribe to the channel as it may with people not liking its broadcasts).
  • Videotron is changing its packaging rules to come into compliance with the CRTC’s new rules. A higher per-subscriber wholesale fee should be expected when there are fewer subscribers.
  • RDS needs to compete not only with TVA Sports but with online sources of sports programming.
  • Bell’s offer is more in line with what other distributors in Quebec pay for RDS.
  • Videotron has done nothing in its packaging of RDS to warrant a “special discount”.
  • Videotron is treating RDS more harshly than TSN, because its goal is not fair market value but to punish RDS in order to support TVA Sports
  • Quebecor started TVA Sports and is aggressively bidding for sports rights, which is why RDS’s acquisition costs have increased so much in the first place

Videotron’s arguments for a lower fee (one closer to that for TVA Sports) included:

  • TVA Sports has higher peaks in ratings thanks to NHL playoffs and Canadiens Saturday night games
  • RDS has lost other important sporting events to TVA Sports, including some MLB, NFL, QMJHL and tennis rights
  • Bell offers RDS and TVA Sports at the same retail price, suggesting equivalent value to consumers
  • RDS lost a third of its ratings due to the loss of Saturday night NHL games, NHL playoffs, NHL special events and non-local NHL games
  • RDS’s subscriber revenues have already gone up considerably faster than its expenses, particularly jumping from 2011 to 2012, when it went from 44% of revenue to 62%. (This is mainly because until 2011, RDS’s wholesale rate was regulated by the CRTC.)
  • RDS’s profits continue to increase (though they were cut in half in 2014-15 after losing NHL rights).
  • There’s also RDS Info, which isn’t part of this contract but also collects subscriber fees while adding little original content
  • Television subscribers are already beginning to unsubscribe from some services or eliminate pay TV all together, citing cost as a major factor.
  • Comparing Videotron to other distributors in Quebec isn’t appropriate both because of Videotron’s high market power as a distributor and Bell’s high market power as a broadcaster. (Plus, of course, Bell TV is one of Videotron’s main competitors in Quebec.)

Comparing ratings is tricky, especially for this past season, since no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs. TVA Sports’s overall numbers would have been much higher had that happened. There were a lot of other issues with arguments on both sides, and of course plenty of other arguments were presented that were redacted in the public documents.

The decision

The CRTC found Bell’s offer reasonable on several points, like packaging, volume discounts, and how it compares to other rates. But it found RDS could not justify the rate increase it wanted when you look at historical rates, which it found more relevant to this case.

The other factor that swayed the commission was the variability of the rate. Instead of a fixed per-subscriber rate, both offers proposed a scale where the larger the number of subscribers overall, the lower the per-subscriber rate. But the CRTC found that Bell’s offer was too flat, and “would have the effect of insulating the programming service from the impact of subscriber choice at an unreasonable level.” In other words, if people dropped RDS from their packages, Bell would see only a small drop in their subscriber revenue and Videotron would be forced to pick up an unreasonable amount of that loss.

As a result, the CRTC picked Videotron’s offer. This may be good news for Videotron subscribers wanting to get RDS, particularly as a standalone service, but more importantly good news for Videotron’s bottom line.

Renato Zane leaves City Montreal

Renato Zane

Renato Zane

The summer broadcasting staff shuffling continues.

The man brought in a year ago to take over from the departing Bob Babinski as head of City TV’s local operations in Montreal has left his post.

“Renato decided to leave us…we were sad to see him go :(” writes Rogers Media’s Michelle Lomack, emoticon and all.

Zane couldn’t be reached for comment.

Lomack said Rogers plans to replace the position and hire a new managing producer for Breakfast Television.

Natasha Hall leaving The Beat

Natasha Hall, Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan.

Natasha Hall, Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan in their Beat gear at this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade.

I’m thinking this picture might be cursed. Three of The Beat’s female personalities in pretty cool-looking purple coats, and within months they all leave the station.

Unlike Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan, though, Natasha Hall’s departure is voluntary. She’s leaving for another job, though she wouldn’t say what it is exactly. But she seems pretty excited about it.

Hall’s job, doing news and traffic for the morning show, was posted by Cogeco Media, open for only a week and a half, suggesting they may already have someone in mind to fill it.

The station declined to comment on Hall’s departure.

Cogeco also posted the assistant program director job at The Beat, to replace the also-departing Ken Connors. The job posting doesn’t include any on-air duties. It’s interesting to be hiring a new assistant PD because the program director job is still being filled on an interim basis by Martin Tremblay.

UPDATE (July 22): Kim Kieran, currently doing afternoon traffic in addition to promotions work, has won Hall’s former job. She starts Aug. 15.