Category Archives: Media

Posted in My articles, TV

ICTV vs. MYtv: Taking sides in the fight over Videotron’s community television channel

A complaint by a group of Montreal activists against Videotron is taking on a greater significance as groups are lining up on both sides of a battle for control over Videotron’s community television service.

Last month, I wrote about ICTV, a group headed by people associated with CKUT Radio McGill and others formerly associated with Concordia’s CUTV.

After that article appeared, I was contacted by someone who wanted to set up a meeting with Isabelle Dessureault, the president of MAtv, who wanted to clear up any misconc… let’s just call a spade a spade, wanted to drive the discussion a bit more to Videotron’s favour.

Dessureault confirmed that the CRTC is not moving forward with the Videotron application for an English-language version of the MAtv community television channel, and that this process could delay the launch of that channel by a year or more. MYtv on ice became the basis for another story in The Gazette.

There was also the matter of a lawyer’s letter to ICTV from Videotron ordering it to retract statements about the company that it considered defamatory. (It doesn’t directly threaten legal action, but certainly suggests that would be the next step. Videotron confirmed the letter was sent but said “Quebecor Media is studying its options.”) ICTV refused, saying the CRTC process was the place to settle their differences of opinion.

Since then, two important organizations have backed the two sides of this battle.

ELAN backs MYtv

The English Language Arts Network, a group that supports anglophone artists in Quebec, has decided to back Videotron instead of ICTV. Executive Director Guy Rodgers and President Peter MacGibbon lay out their argument in this opinion piece published last week in The Gazette. The arguments boil down to two main points:

  1. ELAN prefers a more professional, high-quality model of community television in which artists are paid for their work instead of volunteers working for free. It believes Videotron’s model is better than ICTV’s in this regard
  2. ELAN believes that ICTV’s proposal for a single multilingual television channel would not be as good as Videotron’s proposal for two channels, one in each language.

The ICTV folks took ELAN’s stance in the measured, respectful way one expects from Montreal’s activist community: Writing an open letter with the headline “ELAN betrayed our communities by selling out community TV to PKP’s Vidéotron.” It accuses ELAN of being intentionally misleading and of supporting a “segregationist” idea of community television.

ELAN’s opinion makes sense when you consider that it represents artists, such as independent television producers, rather than the community at large. Its view has to be taken in that context. It doesn’t make them evil, and I got no impression whatsoever during their community meetings over this issue that they discouraged other people from expressing their views on the matter, nor do I think they’ve sold out to Videotron.

CACTUS backs ICTV

The other voice to take a stand here is CACTUS, the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations. The group’s executive director, Catherine Edwards, presents her group’s views in this Gazette opinion piece, which was published alongside ELAN’s.

CACTUS believes in general that community television should be taken out of the hands of cable companies, and that even if there was once a reason for cable to control community television channels, technology has made that reason obsolete.

Edwards argues that community television should be in the hands of the community, not the cable companies.

CACTUS also opposes dividing community channels by language. Among the reasons for being against this are that doing this divides the two communities, leaves no place for third languages, and allows cable companies to double the amount of money they can keep in house rather than give over to Canadian content funds.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting also has a page with one-sided information collecting comments in favour of ICTV.

The case vs. the policy

One important thing to consider in this whole affair is the difference between whether Videotron is properly following the CRTC’s community television policy and whether that community television policy is properly written to begin with.

The policy has been revised numerous times, the latest in 2010. But there’s a lot of ambiguity there. For example, the key part of community television is community access programming, but the CRTC sets only two criteria for such programming: That the idea come from a member of the community not employed by a cable company, and that this person be involved with the programming in a significant on-camera or off-camera role.

That leaves a lot of loopholes. What if the person is an employee of a company related to a cable company? Can the cable company claim copyright over the programming produced this way?

CACTUS, ICTV and others take exception to the fact that community TV channels run by cable companies are exclusive to customers of those companies. But the CRTC has chosen not to require open distribution of such community channels.

The community television policy could change soon. The CRTC has begun a year-long process of reviewing television policy, and the cable companies and CACTUS will undoubtedly be lending their voices to that process. Until then, though, the ICTV vs. Videotron complaint will be judged on existing policy.

Videotron wants to change … kinda

In my discussions with MAtv president Isabelle Dessureault and general manager Steve Desgagné, they have been trying their best to appear reasonable about this issue. They say Videotron is trying its best to be representative of the community, that it doesn’t reject proposals for community TV programs unless they fail to meet the criteria, and that despite this dispute they are open to proposals from ICTV members. (They note that they have yet to receive any.)

Videotron admits it has gotten some things wrong, most significantly its failure to properly represent the anglophone community in Montreal (an error it is trying to fix with the MYtv application). Dessureault also says MAtv will reform some of the ways it presents information to the public, by changing its end-of-show credits to emphasize the contributions from the community and by volunteers. It also plans to create an annual report for the public that outlines their accomplishments for the year.

And Videotron plans to, by the end of the year, set up an advisory committee for MAtv that would provide feedback on programming. (It had already planned to set up such a committee for MYtv once it was approved.)

Dessureault also said MAtv will be launching a new project in June that will facilitate community contributions to television. The concept is a bit fuzzy to me, but involves a website where people can contribute ideas and content, which will then be given to someone to turn into TV shows or documentaries. The purpose is to allow people to contribute without having to commit to running a weekly show.

But on the fundamentals, there are no changes planned. Most programs are still being produced by Videotron, and Videotron retains control over programming.

Community programming isn’t easy

Dessureault stresses that getting communities involved with community TV isn’t easy, though they’re trying.

ICTV, however, argues that it has the resources to make it work. It points to CKUT, a radio station where volunteers fill an entire week’s worth of airtime without the need for repeats. It believes it can do the same on television.

The money issue

The big issue here, of course, isn’t access, it’s money. ICTV could produce hours of video and post it to YouTube. But unless it wins its battle at the CRTC, it won’t get the millions of free cable money needed to pay for it.

Cable companies have community TV channels because they’d have to spend the money anyway, and otherwise it would be outside of their control.

There’s a conspiracy theory floating around (and has been expressed by commenters on this blog) that Videotron and others use community TV for monetary profit, by charging their own community TV channels for technical services.

Dessureault says MAtv’s finances are audited, both internally and by the CRTC, and attempts to cook the books wouldn’t succeed. But she does admit that MAtv does use some of its money to pay for things provided by Quebecor. MAtv shares human resources staff with Videotron, for example, to reduce costs. It also pays rent to TVA for production space (though at “well below market rates,” Dessureault said). Dessureault said these things are a very small portion of MAtv’s budget, which she said goes mainly to programming.

The CRTC has access to MAtv’s finances, and its experts are sticklers for attempts by big companies to take liberties with finances in order to reduce their obligations. So I seriously doubt that Videotron would get away with, say, overcharging MAtv for Internet access or rent in order to suck away some of its budget.

But there’s a legitimate question to be raised over whether such expenses should be paid for by the cable company, separate from the 2% of revenues it can allocate to community programming.

That, too, may be an issue if the CRTC decides to review its community television policy.

Until then, it will be judging Videotron based on its compliance with the current policy, and that policy leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

The CRTC is accepting comments on ICTV’s complaint against Videotron until 8pm ET on April 22. You can file comments using this form. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

Further reading

Note: A slightly edited version of this post was published on the opinion page of The Gazette on April 23.

Posted in Media

La Presse+ turns 1: Has the gamble worked?

La Presse spent $40 million to develop its iPad app.

La Presse spent $40 million to develop its iPad app.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of La Presse’s $40-million gamble that its future lies in an iPad app.

La Presse marks the occasion with a press release (reproduced below) in which it lauds the fact that it’s now installed in more than 450,000 tablets, making it the most popular Newsstand app in Canada. It also reminds people that it’s about to launch its first Android app, which will be available on some Samsung Galaxy and Nexus tablets starting next week.

The company does a lot of self-congratulating, throwing out some statistics to suggest how successful it has been with this giant gamble. It points out how much time people spend with the app (44 minutes on weekdays, 50 minutes on Sundays and 73 minutes on Saturdays) as well as favourable demographics (58% are in the 25-54 demo, compared to 50% for a paper like the Globe and Mail), and even a stat suggesting people like the adds on the app.

The most interesting statistic is that “nearly 30% of La Presse’s overall ad revenue” comes from the iPad app. Even if we assume that print ad revenue is falling sharply, that’s still an impressive stat.

Because La Presse+ is free, its business model is entirely based on advertising. As I explained six months ago in my analysis, La Presse has priced its iPad ads along the lines of print ads, figuring that it can create an environment where the ads are noticed like print ads are, instead of ignored like most online ads.

We don’t have access to much financial information from La Presse, because the company is privately held by Gesca, which is in turn owned by Square Victoria Communications Group, which is in turn owned by Power Corporation. But even if some bad-news figures are being held close to the vest, that 30% ad revenue figure is pretty impressive.

We can also compare the 450,000 figure to La Presse’s goals. The company had hoped to reach 200,000 readers by September, but got that in May. It hoped to get 400,000 by December, and announced in January that it had surpassed that mark in installations.

When I met with La Presse last year, the estimate was an average of 1.5 readers per tablet, since many families share them. That estimate was later confirmed by a CROP survey. But when you consider the number of people actually reading at least one issue a week (versus those who download the app and rarely use it), the ratio is closer to 1:1. Late last summer, it gave a figure of 250,000 tablets installed and 196,000 people consulting at least one issue a week. At the end of November, it was 340,000 tablets and 250,000 weekly readers. That gap will probably increase as time goes on.

At 250,000 people a week reading at least one edition of La Presse+, the tablet has a bit less than a third of the reach of the print newspaper, or about half that of the printed Gazette.

From her on out, the road gets more difficult. There will be a surge once the Android app version comes out, but then with all the geeks and early adopters already on board, and a big chunk of the general population, it will be up to convincing the hundreds of thousands still sticking with print to shift over to the iPad. And then, eventually, the big decision of what happens to the print paper.

I was handed a free copy of La Presse — on a Saturday morning — at a metro station last week. So clearly they’re not planning on shutting it down any time soon.

La Presse+ is still not perfect. It’s improved its live-news system, even while the iPad edition itself remains a once-a-day thing. It’s also added crosswords and other missing pieces since it launched.

For online readers without tablets, it remains a bit annoying. Its pages can be shared online, but videos aren’t, and dossiers with multiple articles aren’t linked to each other, making it pointless to share many major stories from the app.

Unfortunately much of this is apparently by design. The environment of the iPad app is the reason they can charge so much to advertisers. Put those same stories on a website, and you’re back to the ignorable banner ads that get pennies on the dollar. If this is the future of newspapers, it’s going to be kind of an awkward one for people who read news on anything but a tablet.

So far I haven’t heard of any major media organizations making big changes as a result of La Presse+. But if it continues gaining readers and ad revenue, that may change in the near future.

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Posted in TV

Former CTV sales manager Tony Ecclissi hired at TVA Sports

Tony Ecclissi

Tony Ecclissi, who found himself without a job at CTV Montreal when his position of general sales manager was eliminated last summer, has found a new job, doing sales for TVA Sports.

Described in a TVA Sports memo filled with hockey metaphors as “our new top-line player”, Ecclissi spent more than 20 years on the sales team at CFCF and before that with CBC in Montreal. At TVA Sports, he’ll be part of a new dedicated (but small) team that will be trying to make money off all the NHL games that the network will add next season.

“I have been recruited as a sales consultant / representative to help generate sales, introduce new clients and use my experience to help the Sales Director build an effective, knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales team,” Ecclissi tells me. “This is an exciting challenge, it’s like starting up a new company.”

Posted in Media

The desperate struggle to save Canadian University Press

Canadian University Press, a 75-year-old cooperative of post-secondary student newspapers across Canada, might not live to see its 80th birthday.

Erin Hudson, its current president, is doing everything she can to keep it running, including launching a public fundraising campaign seeking $50,000 in donations. That month-and-a-half campaign ended on Monday, having failed to reach even one fifth of its goal. But the struggle to keep it alive continues.

What is CUP?

Canadian University Press started in 1938, and is a national association of student newspapers (despite its name, it also includes papers at other post-secondary schools like technical institutes and CEGEPs, though the vast majority are universities). In exchange for a yearly membership fee, which is on a sliding scale based on a paper’s overall budget — for most it’s a few hundred or a few thousand dollars — CUP provides a range of services.

The biggest one, which many members have historically believed is the only one, is a newswire service. It takes stories submitted by member papers, as well as some original stories written by a national bureau chief and until recently regional bureau chiefs, and distributes them to members so they can be republished in their papers.

But probably the most important one — and the most intangible — is a resource network that can help in times of need. There’s a lawyer that can provide legal advice in case of the threat of a libel suit. There’s a president at a national office in Toronto that can write letters of condemnation if a student union or university administration is trying to stifle freedom of the press. And there’s an email list where members can seek out advice or otherwise communicate with each other.

CUP also organizes a national conference every year, hosted by a different member paper each time. Attendees pay to enter, and it’s open to non-members, but members get a significant discount on entry fees. The national conference, as well as regional conferences, provide workshops and lectures from experts who give invaluable advice to student journalists. The conferences are also how the cooperative organization makes important decisions through a democratic process.

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Posted in Radio, Sports

TSN 690 picks up rights to Alouettes games for 3-4 years

To the surprise of absolutely no one, TSN 690 announced Friday morning that it has acquired the rights to Alouettes games from now sister station CJAD, completing the trifecta of Montreal major sports rights.

The deal is for three years, starting this one, with an option for a fourth, Bell Media tells me. It includes the two preseason games, all regular season games and all postseason games, including the Grey Cup. TSN said it would also air special events like the CFL draft, training camp and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductions.

Rick Moffat and Dave Mudge will be the broadcast team, as they were at CJAD.

The station also announced that it is moving The Als This Week to Mondays at 7pm, and that Alouettes general manager Jim Popp will be a guest every week on the show.

The Alouettes’ first game is June 14.

The regular-season schedules of the Alouettes and Impact this season includes three conflicts where both teams are playing simultaneously: July 19, Aug. 16 and Oct. 18, all Saturdays. In those cases, expect Impact games to move to CJAD.

We’ll see what happens when the Alouettes conflict with fall Canadiens games. TSN has said it plans to broadcast all games from both teams.

Financial terms of the deal were not discussed on air and are usually not disclosed.

As silly as it is for TSN 690 to wrestle rights away from a station it now shares not only an office but a program director with, this deal more importantly represents a renewal of the broadcasting rights, which expired after last season.  It ensures that Alouettes games will continue to be carried on English radio through the end of 2016, and likely 2017 as well.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Election night projections the networks got wrong

Rigueur, rigueur, rigueur.

Those words were uttered by TVA’s Pierre Bruneau on election night in 2007, after Radio-Canada had earlier incorrectly projected that Liberal leader Jean Charest had lost his seat in the election that swept the Action démocratique du Québec to official opposition status and ended the political career of André Boisclair. TVA held off on calling the race for that seat, and reaped the benefits.

The TV networks make big deals of their “decision desk” teams, the computers, political analysts and experts who wait until they’re absolutely sure that a race can be called before making a decision. That care is counteracted by the race to be the first to declare the result of the election.

But surely the chance of being embarrassed, as Radio-Canada’s Bernard Derome was in 2007, by calling even a single seat wrong would be enough to ensure that they always get it right.

Not so much.

On Monday night, all three local English TV stations with elections specials made more than one incorrect call. And, to their shame, I caught them on my PVR.

8:33: CBC calls Lévis for Liberals

CBC Lévis

Simon Turmel was one of a few Liberals to steal seats away from the CAQ in the Quebec City region. Or at least that’s what CBC seemed to think, announcing the gain with Turmel sitting in a seemingly comfortable lead of more than 1,100 votes.

But not quite. When the night was over, the CAQ’s Christian Dubé won the riding by 1,943 votes.

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Posted in Montreal, Radio

CRTC says Radio X Montreal can remove jazz music programming

Planète Jazz is no more.

Two years after RNC Media first requested that CKLX-FM 91.9 in Montreal be relieved of its conditions of licence requiring a specialty jazz format, and a year after an initial denial, the CRTC approved the request on Tuesday as part of the station’s licence renewal.

Under the new licence, the station would remain under a specialty format, but one that requires at least 50% of its programming to be spoken word.

The new licence, which is for a short term because the CRTC found that the station failed to comply with terms of its existing licence (including incorrectly classifying some popular music as jazz to meet its specialty licence requirements), takes effect on Sept. 1. But a CRTC spokesperson tells me that the change relating to format takes effect immediately.

When it denied the same application a year ago, the CRTC cited two main reasons: the fact that the station appeared to be failing to meet its current licence, and the fact that it has approved another French-language talk station in Montreal (TTP Media’s news-talk station at 940 AM) and that granting this request could threaten the financial viability of that station.

So why the change of heart? Two reasons: One, since this is a licence renewal decision, the CRTC is more open to changes to that licence. The commission doesn’t like rewarding non-complying stations by changing their licence conditions during their licence term. And it says in this decision that it monitored programming last fall and found the station had rectified its licence compliance issues.

As for competition with TTP Media, the CRTC said that “the Commission’s standard practice is to not consider applications for new stations intended to serve the market in question within two years of the publication of its decision to approve a new station when it was licensed following a call for applications.”

The French TTP Media station was approved on Nov. 21, 2011. It was supposed to launch two years later, but was granted a one-year extension to Nov. 21, 2014. But there’s no similar extension to a de facto moratorium on new competing formats. So the CRTC felt it no longer had to consider that issue. The commission also notes that TTP Media did not write to the commission to oppose this application.

Those issues dealt with, it came down to the basic question: Is there an economic need to justify this change?

The CRTC found a year ago that there was one. And that situation hasn’t changed.

CKLX-FM was first approved by the CRTC in 2003, along with others including CJLV 1570 AM in Laval, CKDG-FM 105.1 in Montreal, and the 104.7 FM transmitter for CBC Radio One.

The logic at the time was that because the Montreal International Jazz Festival was so popular, a jazz music radio station would also be so, or at least popular enough that it could be profitable. So Spectra, the company that runs the festival, partnered with broadcaster RNC Media and applied for a licence for a radio station, which was later approved.

But it didn’t work that way. Jazz music simply wasn’t that popular. Some fans have argued that’s because the station’s music was poorly programmed, but after a decade, it was clear it could not be made profitable. Spectra was bought out as a partner, and RNC made the decision to change Planète Jazz to Radio X, copying its mega-successful programming format in Quebec City.

That decision hasn’t been that successful either. The station has only a 1% market share among francophones in the latest BBM ratings, and 3% among francophones age 25-54. The station has argued that it’s growing, but it still has a long way to go.

The new CRTC licence means that now Radio X Montreal must have at least 50% talk programming, and has no requirement at all for jazz. It would likely mean a more CHOI-like programming schedule, with more talk in the evenings and more rock music on weekends. Right now, the station switches to jazz music at 7pm every day, and runs jazz all weekend except in the afternoons when it has a rock music show.

In an on-air discussion after the decision was published, station management said there would be an evaluation of programming options over the coming weeks, and no changes would be announced right away.

Radio X has posted photos of staff drinking champagne after the decision.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Radio X’s licence change takes effect Sept. 1. Though RNC Media apparently believes this to be the case, the CRTC tells me that it actually takes effect immediately.

UPDATE (April 15): Jazz was removed from Radio X’s schedule over the weekend. It now airs rock music all weekend and repeats overnight.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Bravo renews English version of 19-2 for second 10-episode season

The cast of 19-2. (Photo: Bell Media)

The cast of 19-2. (Photo: Bell Media)

So it looks like 19-2 is as much of a success adapted in English as it had in the original French. Bell Media announced on Tuesday that the Montreal-set cop series will be renewed for a second 10-episode season.

The French series, created by and starring Réal Bossé and Claude Legault, debuted in 2011 on Radio-Canada to critical and ratings success. It was praised in particular for the realistic portrayal of police officers. Bossé and Legault spent time with Montreal police to learn what life is really like on the job.

Fans of the French series have had to show patience, though. Because of various delays, the series has only aired 20 episodes (two 10-episode seasons) in three years. A fourth season is only slated to air in January 2015.

Bell’s press release doesn’t give an idea of when Season 2 of 19-2 would air.

The English 19-2 was originally ordered as a pilot for CBC, but was picked up by Bravo when CBC passed on it, a decision the public broadcaster is hopefully regretting. It’s basically a shot-by-shot remake, with nearly identical plot, the same characters (except for Bossé’s Nick Berrof, who becomes Nick Barron, played by Adrian Holmes), same music and same cinematographic style. The actors are different (with the exception of Benz Antoine, who plays the alcoholic cop Tyler), and Podz, the director whose mark is so clearly felt in the French version, is not behind the camera in the English one. Still, the English version is as compelling as the French one, and worth watching even for those of us who already know what’s going to happen next.

19-2 is the first English drama in forever that is clearly set in Montreal. This leads to some odd things we just have to accept, such as the fact that even though Montreal is a French city and French signs are everywhere, nobody ever actually speaks the language or even has a strong accent. There are also the occasional geographical head-scratchers.

But it’s fun to see our fair city on the small screen in English without the producers trying to tone down its character so it can pass for any American city.

Bell has qualified 19-2′s first season run on Bravo as a big success, reaching an average of 190,000 viewers a week, making it the No. 3 show on the network. The series got a boost the first week with a day-after airing on CTV, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the season rerun on the main network similar to what it did for Space’s Orphan Black.

Assuming Season 2 of the English series goes the same way the French one does, it’ll be a roller-coaster plot-wise, starting the first episode with a school shooting (in the French version, the school shooting scene was done as a 13-minute continuous take, though it’s not clear if the English version will repeat that experiment and Podz is going to direct it again in English) and ending with a big reveal where … well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Bell also notes that the English series, produced by Sphère Média Plus and Echo Media, will be going to Cannes to be shopped to international broadcasters around as part of the MIPTV conference there next week.

The first nine episodes of 19-2 are available for viewing at Bravo.ca. The first season finale airs Wednesday, April 2, at 9pm on Bravo.

Posted in Technology, TV

Videotron finally joins the iPhone club

One of many ads in Saturday papers announcing Videotron's introduction of the iPhone.

One of many ads in Saturday papers announcing Videotron’s introduction of the iPhone.

Three and a half years after launching its mobile network, Videotron has finally solved its biggest issue: Until now, you couldn’t get a plan with an iPhone.

At first, the problem was technological. The frequency spectrum Videotron acquired in the 2008 auction was in the 1700 MHz band (called the Advanced Wireless Services band), and the iPhone wasn’t compatible with that band. It wasn’t just an issue for Videotron — it also prevented the iPhone from being compatible with the T-Mobile network south of the border.

That changed last year, when Apple introduced a model of the iPhone 5 that was compatible with AWS and the T-Mobile and Videotron networks. By last fall, people could get their hands on an iPhone 5 and by adding a Videotron SIM card make it compatible with the carrier’s network.

After that, the issue stopped being a technological one and started being a legal one. Videotron didn’t have a deal to sell the iPhone, so the best it could do was encourage people to buy it at Apple stores and install a Videotron SIM card themselves.

A couple of weeks ago, in a brief and understated email (whose contents were strictly regulated by the terms of the deal between Videotron and Apple), the company announced it would start selling iPhones on March 28. On March 29, full-page ads came out in all the papers announcing the iPhone 5s was now available at Videotron retail outlets.

Not only does this mean that Videotron can join the big guys, but also that it can stop pretending that non-Apple products are just as good as Apple ones. Without the iPhone, Videotron pushed Android apps and devices, including the Google Nexus One, which was the hot new thing when the network launched. Parent company Quebecor did its best to wipe the iPhone out of its universe, even going so far as to push producers of fictional shows on TVA to replace characters’ iPhones with Android devices (Quebecor downplayed this as something similar to product placement).

All the while, it remained impatient, hoping that Apple would soon deem Videotron worthy of inclusion.

Illico TV app now available

On Monday Tuesday, Videotron will announce that the Illico TV app is available for iPhone users. The application allows subscribers to Videotron’s television service to access live TV channels and free video-on-demand shows on their iPhones. And for the most part, they can do this regardless of who their carrier is.

Using the app, which was added to the Apple app store on Friday, requires authenticating with Videotron to prove that you’re a Videotron cable TV customer, which gives you access to channels you subscribe to, including a bunch of live channel feeds.

One exception to the rule is RDS, which is the most expensive channel to get the rights to. You can access RDS’s live feed, including Canadiens games, only if you’re also a Videotron mobile customer as well. This is the result of the rights agreement between Videotron and RDS (owned by Bell Media). RDS sells its mobile rights through the mobile carriers.

Videotron’s iPhone app doesn’t allow purchases, so you can’t buy video-on-demand movies. The reason for this is simple math: Apple’s required percentage take of in-app purchases is so high (30%), that Videotron can’t make any money selling content this way.

The Illico Club Unlimited subscription video-on-demand service is also not available yet on the iPhone app.

New prices

Something that’s already making headlines is the prices that Videotron is using to sell them. Videotron is offering unlimited calling and 4GB data for $75 a month, while the Big Three are offering $110 a month for the same plans. Additionally, it’s offering the iPhone at an almost $500 discount for a 24-month plan. That means more than $20 a month of your iPhone plan with Videotron will be going just to pay off the discount you got for your device.

It’s almost as if Videotron has been waiting for this day for years.

Posted in Sports, TV

Alyson Lozoff leaves City, Sportsnet

Alyson Lozoff

Alyson Lozoff

City Montreal is barely a year old (and none of its local programs have even reached that anniversary) but it has already lost its first personality.

Alyson Lozoff, who was the Montreal reporter for Rogers Sportsnet and also the co-host of City TV’s local sports magazine show Montreal Connected, “is no longer with the company,” a Rogers Media spokesperson confirmed to me today.

She wouldn’t comment on why this is, and my attempts to reach Lozoff and City Montreal have failed to generate any response. Her Twitter account has been silent since March 22.

Lozoff’s departure was not addressed at all on the air. She last appeared on Montreal Connected on March 20 with co-host Wilder Weir as if everything was normal, without a hint that it would be her last show. During the week, the show’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were changed to list only Weir as the host.

Weir hosted this week’s episode solo, never explaining why his co-host from the previous week had suddenly disappeared.

This type of disappearance usually indicates a firing or unamicable resignation (say, to join a competitor). I have no idea which of these is the case.

Lozoff’s disappearance is curious because if anything Rogers should be hiring more people to be covering hockey in places like Montreal where it currently doesn’t have any broadcasting rights but will gain them starting this fall. On the other hand, it could be that in the process of re-evaluating its staffing across the country, the company has decided that Lozoff shouldn’t be part of the team.

Or maybe we’ll find out soon that she got hired by TSN or something. I really have no idea.

All I know is that the teeth on City Montreal just got a little less white.

Posted in TV, Video

Sun News Network 2012 debate translation highlights

This marks the second provincial election campaign in which TVA has decided to separate itself from the consortium that organizes televised leaders’ debates and go it alone with a series of one-on-one debates.

It almost didn’t happen. Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois said no at first, wanting to limit her to the other, more traditional debate that aired on Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec. But she later relented.

You might recall that the Sun News Network, which like TVA is owned by Quebecor Media, also aired the TVA face-à-face debates in 2012. Few people watched it on Sun News, but when a report about the debate that included two short clips were posted to Sun News’s website, it went a bit viral. The clips came to a total of about 23 seconds, and they were highlights picked by Sun News, so they didn’t show the worst parts.

Since the translated debates weren’t posted online, they might have been lost to history if not for one thing: I recorded all three hour-long debates on my PVR. And they’ve been sitting there ever since.

With the 2014 face-à-face debates only hours away, I recorded some clips from the debate and compiled them into eight minutes of highlights. The result is the video you see above.

A source at Sun News tells me that the network will air tonight’s debate, but that they have hired different translators.

I’ll be PVRing it anyway. Just in case.

TVA’s face-à-face debates air Thursday, March 27 from 8pm to 10pm on TVA and simultaneously translated on Sun News Network. It will also air on CPAC.

UPDATE: After posting the video to YouTube, I went in to clean the automatically-generated captions. But the captions generated for the debate clips were just so great that I couldn’t touch them. They include such gems as:

  • 2:06: “I wouldn’t victims contra months prego merman”
  • 5:28: “second spend your life getting minutes for me his / as Julia and modern yesterday sent / week with the mall butthead”
  • 6:14: “he added that the troops mister sister 20 as you go”
  • 6:34: “thank you so much as a queen of thank you so much musica”
  • 7:21: “and mister across america their leader / how to Chris you’re a doctor becker / he wouldn’t allow your the day all the balls we have”
  • 8:08: “going to help me fire a gritty / you lose my me I cannot do we”
  • 8:37: “your house layout so attacker 7,000 jobs that are you gonna cut people”
  • 8:49: “overheard the Cougar 30 Passa Passa”
  • 8:53: “I hope this exchange farewell lighting you for your torso”
Posted in Montreal, TV

The battle over Videotron’s community TV channel

It was supposed to be simple and non-controversial: An application by Videotron to create a second community television channel in Montreal to serve the anglophone community.

Anglophones had long complained that since Videotron bought CF Cable TV, they have not had a proper voice in community television. The CRTC even asked Videotron to do something about it. Just months before the announcement, the English Language Arts Network publicly called on Videotron to restore English community programming.

So when Videotron made its big splash about starting MYtv, the reaction seemed to be positive, at least at first. ELAN hosted a meeting in September to get input from the community, and though there were few people present, there were some tough questions for Videotron’s representatives.

Now, those questions have been formalized in a complaint to the CRTC.

The complaint, filed by a group calling itself Independent Community Television Montreal (ICTV), includes an 86-page document meticulously arguing that the programming that airs on MAtv does not meet CRTC requirements for a community channel. It argues that the CRTC should declare that MAtv is not complying with its licence conditions, and instead grand a licence to ICTV to operate a multilingual community channel that would replace both MAtv and MYtv.

I summarize the complaint in this story, which appears in Monday’s Gazette.

But as long as the story is, there’s still so much detail I had to leave out.

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Posted in Radio

Jeremy White moves from The Beat to Edmonton’s Virgin Radio

Jeremy White at The Beat's first anniversary party in 2012. That's CJ over his shoulder.

Jeremy White at The Beat’s first anniversary party in 2012. That’s CJ over his shoulder, and “hot fan girl” Amanda Kline on his arm.

As The Beat’s staff and selected guests were celebrating the station’s first anniversary under its new brand, I chatted with its general manager, Mark Dickie, and its program director Leo Da Estrela. Among the topics we discussed over the loud music was this guy, Jeremy White, an enthusiastic young personality out of Kahnawake who impressed his bosses with his work ethic.

If The Beat’s competitor had any sense, they told me, they’d have stolen White away from them and given him a job at CHOM.

They asked me to keep that to myself, since they didn’t want Astral to actually steal White away from them.

But now Dickie has moved on to another job, Da Estrela is preparing for his own departure, and White has finally been stolen by Bell Media.

The only catch is he won’t be working in Montreal.

Virgin Radio Edmonton announced on Wednesday that White has been hired as their evening host starting March 31. White relayed the news via social media early Thursday while he was still on the air at The Beat. He’s already overhauled his Twitter account with the new job info.

White has another week at The Beat before moving west.

The new job is a step up from his current one doing overnights at The Beat. (He briefly got bumped up to doing the evening job at the Beat after Paul Hayes left, to “give him some prime-time exposure,” and got bumped back when they hired Kim Sullivan. White also hosts the Saturday Party Jam on Saturday evenings.)

CFMG-FM bills itself as “Edmonton’s #1 Hit Music Station,” but it actually has just a 3.9% overall share, behind The Bear (rock), CFCW (country), The Bounce (CHR), Sonic (hot AC), K97 (classic rock), CISN (country), Up 99.3 (AC), Hot 107 (top 40), Cruz FM (adult hits), Fresh FM (hot AC), Now (hot AC) and Capital FM (classic hits), plus talk station CHED and CBC Radio One.

In short, it has a lot of work to do.

As you would expect, White says he’s excited about the new job, but will find it hard to leave Montreal.

Just add his address to the monthly shipment of smoked meat, bagels and poutine to Montreal expats in Alberta.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

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Posted in My articles, TV

Tamy Emma Pepin’s bilingual trip through the UK

Tamy Emma Pepin certainly seems to have had a pretty successful career in the media. A contributor to TQS, the Journal de Montréal, and TVA as a freelancer. An editor for Huffington Post Québec. A social media ambassador for Tourism Montreal.

More recently, she was a contributor to Cap sur l’été on Radio-Canada, and she was one of the hosts of local lifestyle series Only in Montreal. That series, sadly, has not been renewed, but she quickly moved on to her next project: a travel series produced by Toxa (the company behind Urbania) and airing on Évasion.

The 13-episode one-hour series, Tamy @ Royaume-Uni, was shot last fall, and debuts Thursday at 8pm. So I had a chat with Pepin and another with producer Raphaëlle Huysmans about the show for a story that appears in Thursday’s Gazette.

It’s a French channel, and voiceovers and explanations to the camera happen in French, but because this is Britain, most of the stuff that happens is in English (which is thankfully subtitled rather than dubbed). Rather than sounding like an instructional video or sales pitch, the series takes a more documentary-style approach, following Pepin around as she plays tourist.

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