Canada’s English-language private TV broadcasters announced their fall schedules this week. In case you couldn’t keep up with all the press releases, here’s what was sent out.
If you haven’t heard about this new music competition series on CTV called The Launch, then there are some heartbroken people at Bell Media, because they’ve been pulling out all the stops promoting it.
The six-episode series (with a special seventh episode added to revisit the artists) tries something new with the singing competition format that has been tried and toyed with a dozen times. Rather than just having singers compete against each other for a record contract at the end of the series, each episode ends with a contestant’s career being launched with a new single (that’s available for download or streaming, and gets generous airtime on Bell-owned radio stations).
Based on the first episode, which aired on Wednesday, the show is divided into three roughly equal parts: the auditions, in which five artists compete to be among the two selected to record a song; the recording, in which the two finalists record a sure-to-be-a-hit pop song provided to them by a guest writer/producer; and the performance, in which both finalists perform the song live in front of an audience, and one is selected to launch with that song.
Those who paid attention during the first episode might be asking themselves why I said “five” above, since they only saw three auditions. Two artists, Julia Tomlinson and Alex Zaichkowski (aka Havelin), had their entire auditions cut from the episode (presumably for time), which really really sucks for them. They’re on the website, listed among the artists, and the post-episode press release even says they were in the episode, but all you saw of them was a 10-second voiceover during which it’s explained that they didn’t make it through. Their auditions are posted online at the links above if you want to see them.
In these kinds of shows, at least you can say the artists that don’t make it got some national television exposure. These two didn’t even get that.
UPDATE: I asked Bell Media about the cuts, and whether we should expect the same for future episodes. The answer, unfortunately, is yes:
THE LAUNCH is an entirely new format that has been evolving since it was greenlit. During the editing process which began after the show was shot in August, September, and October, it became obvious to our original production team that there was so much amazing footage we knew it would not fit into a conventional hour-long TV show. But we still wanted to showcase and promote all of the talent who were chosen for the series. So we made the decision to make the show a full 360 experience with audition footage of each episode’s five artists featured on ctv.ca and on YouTube and in the extended cut on CraveTV.
Laura Heath Potter, Director of Communications for CTV, said the affected artists were advised prior to broadcast. She also noted that all the artists got to promote themselves as they promoted the series:
Bell Media has supported all 30 artists that participated in the series through interviews on national, local and radio outlets, as well as in our on air promotion campaign and digital extras on ctv.ca and paid digital promo over the past few months. We are building a new format and are grateful to have 30 Canadian artists act as ambassadors to the series and what it is attempting to accomplish — creating new original singles by Canadian artists that resonate with music fans and viewers.
Episodes are still being edited and finalized, but for all the upcoming episodes that have been through a final cut, each of the artists that have auditions being offered exclusively as part of the extended directors’ cut and separately on ctv.ca and YouTube have been informed already.
One of the strengths of this series is that you see how the sausage is made. Not all pop stars write and compose their own songs. Many of them have the music and lyrics handed to them and just add their voice for a producer to mix together. That’s the case here — the song is written and ready before the panel even meets the contestant at the audition. The discussion afterward is about whether the producer can make the song work with that artist. And they have 48 hours to do so.
The song for the first episode is called The Lucky Ones, and you hear it throughout the episode so it gets stuck in your head by the end. It’s a pop song, with uninspiring lyrics like “close your eyes and hold me close tonight” (to say nothing about the misogynistic objectifying parts like “I never want to see your heart happy with another”), and a melody that doesn’t really set it apart from anything else you’ll hear on Virgin Radio. It has six writers and four producers listed for it, and … well, it sounds like a song created by committee.
As much as I’m critical of the song, it might have been good if the episode spent some more time actually introducing us to it. All we got was 15 seconds of producer busbee saying it’s about how much he loves his wife as we listened to a production demo performed by an unnamed artist.
The series has lined up a long list of music industry professionals to help the artists through the process, and each episode has its own mentor (Fergie, Alessia Cara and Boy George are among the others) and producer (most of which are Grammy … nominated). The constant presence is Scott Borchetta, one of the executive producers of the show, whose claim to fame is having discovered Taylor Swift. Having real experts gives the series some authenticity. Unfortunately Borchetta is a bit stiff on camera.
Though there’s no Simon-Cowell-type bad guy, the feedback from the panel is interesting and productive. Particularly in the middle segment in the studio, you get to see a real producer working with real artists, making sure they have the tempo right, that they’re on the right note, that they make sure to pronounce the lyrics well. It’s played up a bit for drama, but it’s interesting to watch.
Hopefully it’s just a first-episode-introduction thing, but the hour was overly narrated by a voice we’re not introduced to. (If she sounds familiar, that’s because it’s former Virgin Radio 96 announcer Andrea Collins.) There’s a lot of stating-the-obvious and repetition here that could be considerably cut down, and the narration is done in an announcer’s tone that works for a 10-second TV promo but less so for a full hour.
The Launch doesn’t have gimmicks. There are no swivelling chairs, no coloured lights to indicate success or failure, there isn’t even an audience vote component. The experts choose who gets to record the song, and they choose which artist to launch at the end of the episode. (The live performance is in front of an audience, which looks odd because not one of them is holding a cellphone.) This is good for people who want to see a show about music and artists, and works to The Launch’s advantage. It’s not as glitzy and expensive as The Voice, America’s Got Talent or American Idol, but it owns that.
The editing (less oh-gosh-who-do-we-pick and more studio time and performance) and narration could use a bit of work, and the songs could be a bit more original, though these things don’t prevent us from enjoying the show.
But for goodness sake, if you’re a show about respecting artists, don’t cut entire artists out of it and make them feel stupid for promoting the episode that has so unceremoniously cut them out of it.
The Launch is an original format, and one of the big ways Bell Media head Randy Lennox has made his musical mark on CTV. I think it has some potential as a format that could be exportable elsewhere, despite its flaws. And I’ll be tuning in for the rest of the season.
Bell Media really wants you to watch its new music competition show. pic.twitter.com/EaPpI5tyZp
— Steve Faguy (@fagstein) January 6, 2018
The Launch airs Wednesdays at 9pm on CTV and can be watched on demand at ctv.ca.
Hot off the heels of Rogers announcing new evening newscasts in all its City markets (except Saskatchewan), Bell Media announced today it is also expanding local news across the country, adding 5pm local newscasts on weekdays to CTV stations that don’t already have one.
Details are scarce. There’s no launch date more precise than “fall”, no indication of how many jobs are being added, nor what the programming strategy is for these newscasts. The press release doesn’t even say how long they are (CTV PR confirms to me they will be an hour long).
The markets getting new newscasts are:
- CTV Saskatoon (CFQC-DT), simulcast on CTV Prince Albert, Sask. (CIPA-TV)
- CTV Regina (CKCK-DT), simulcast on CTV Yorkton, Sask. (CICC-TV)
- CTV Winnipeg (CKY-DT)
- CTV Northern Ontario (CICI-TV Sudbury, CKNY-TV North Bay, CHBX-TV Sault Ste. Marie, CITO-TV Timmins)
- CTV Kitchener, Ont. (CKCO-DT)
- CTV Ottawa (CJOH-DT)
- CTV Montreal (CFCF-DT)
For the Prince Albert and Yorkton stations, CTV clarifies that they will rebroadcast the 5pm news from the larger Saskatoon and Regina markets, though those newscasts will have elements of Prince Alberta and Yorkton local news.
The new newscast will be an expansion of the existing 6pm shows. Vancouver, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and CTV Atlantic already have 5pm local newscasts.
CTV Two stations appear to be unaffected by this announcement.
I asked CTV what we could expect these newscasts to look like, how they would differ from the 6pm newscasts, and how many jobs we can expect to see added. All I was told in response is that more details would come at a later date.
Bell Media has had two years to prepare for the implementation of the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution decision. Now, with a little more than a week to go until Super Bowl LI, the first that will be exempt from simsub, CTV has announced how it will try to keep Canadians glued to its feed instead of switching to Fox for the U.S. commercials:
- Prizes. The headliner is $300,000 in cash prizes (including the $150,000 grand prize), plus a 2017 Nissan Titan and tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. During the broadcast, “hosted by TSN’s Kate Beirness and Tessa Bonhomme, who will reveal the winning keyword for each prize. To be entered into each draw, fans can simply text the winning keyword along with their name and city.” Obviously, this will only be available on the Canadian feed.
- Pregame and postgame shows. The CRTC has clarified that the simsub rule exemption applies only during the game itself. The hours and hours of pregame shows will be simsubbed, as will a half-hour postgame show featuring the awarding of the Vince Lombardi trophy. This means that CTV, rather than rushing to start an hour-long drama at 10pm when the game is just ending, will stick with the postgame broadcast for half an hour and have a smoother transition.
- More channels. In addition to CTV, the game will also be broadcast on CTV Two and TSN. This isn’t really necessary, since few Canadians have access to CTV Two or TSN but not CTV, but putting the Super Bowl on these other channels increases the chances that someone picking a channel randomly from their guide will stumble on a Bell-controlled Canadian feed rather than a U.S. Fox affiliate. The game will also be streamed online on CTV.ca and CTV Go. That online rebroadcast is not regulated by the CRTC, and there will be no (legal) way to watch a Fox station online in Canada.
- Letterkenny. Rather than an hour-long drama at 10pm, CTV will air, for the first time on regular television, the first episode of the Crave TV original comedy series Letterkenny, commercial-free, at 10:30pm after the postgame show. (Because the series has really coarse language, CTV is going to delay the airings in the Mountain and Pacific time zones so they air at 10:30pm local time instead of just after the game.) Fox is airing 24: Legacy, whose Canadian rights are held by City TV. CTV has, to their credit, been using the coveted post-Super Bowl spot about half the time to showcase original Canadian series. Here are CTV’s Super Bowl leadout shows since it won the rights in 2007 (2010 was the only case in which CTV also aired the program the U.S. Super Bowl broadcaster followed up the game with):
- 2008: Nip/Tuck (U.S.)
- 2009: The Mentalist (U.S.)
- 2010: Undercover Boss (U.S.)*
- 2011: Flashpoint (Canada)
- 2012: The Voice (U.S.)
- 2013: Motive (Canada)
- 2014: Masterchef Canada
- 2015: Masterchef Canada
- 2016: Legends of Tomorrow (U.S.)
- Pushing pre-viewing of U.S. ads. CTV is encouraging Canadians to visit BigGameAds.ca to watch “all the latest American SUPER BOWL ads.” That sounds like an interesting project until you learn that the page is just a redirect to an unaffiliated website that is embedding YouTube videos of some ads. Other ads haven’t been released yet, and in some cases we’re only going to see trailers for ads until they actually air live. A redirect to YouTube’s AdBlitz channel might have made more sense.
One thing that wasn’t announced is anything special about the Canadian ads themselves. Bell says it has spots from Nissan, Coca-Cola, The Keg, Mazda, Scotiabank, Subway, Sun Life Financial and Tim Hortons, and no doubt some of them will have put decent money into those ads, but Tim Hortons isn’t exactly Budweiser.
Will the contest and other measures be enough? No. But maybe CTV won’t lose as many viewers to Fox as it had worried it would. And if it keeps most of its viewers, the Super Bowl on CTV could easily remain the most watched television program of the year in Canada.
Super Bowl LI airs Sunday, Feb. 5 at 6:30pm on CTV, CTV Two, TSN, RDS and Fox, the latter with American commercials between kickoff and the end of the game.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not quite as bad as the massacre of hundreds of analog over-the-air transmitters by public broadcasters in 2012, but Bell Media has proposed a major cull of its transmitters, removing a third of them from their licenses as part of its licence renewal application filed with the CRTC.
The cull affects mainly low-power retransmitters in small towns, some as little as 1 Watt of transmitting power, though some are as high as 260,000 Watts. All of the affected transmitters are analog (and so none broadcast in HD).
Bell Media explains its request thusly:
These analog transmitters generate no incremental revenue, attract little to no viewership given the growth of [cable and satellite TV] subscriptions and are costly to maintain, repair or replace. In addition, none of the highlighted transmitters offer any programming that differs from the main channels. The Commission has determined that broadcasters may elect to shut down transmitters but will lose certain regulatory privileges (distribution on the basic service, the ability to request simultaneous substitution) as noted in Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-24, Over-the-air transmission of television signals and local programming. We are fully aware of the loss of these regulatory privileges as a result of any transmitter shutdown.
In short, Bell has determined that these transmitters cost far more to operate than they’re worth in viewership, even when you consider secondary benefits like simultaneous substitution.
As part of promises to the CRTC, including during the Astral acquisition, Bell promised to keep its TV stations on the air through 2016 or 2017. With its licence up for renewal on Aug. 31, 2017, that promise expires. Nevertheless, no local originating stations are pegged for shutdown here, and there’s no direct effect on local programming.
The list of transmitters Bell wants to delete from its licences is below. The CRTC counts 42, while I count 41 (not including the three already approved as part of separate CRTC decisions). In some cases, the transmitters are already off the air for a variety of reasons (“destroyed in a fire” comes up a few times, though the reasons can sometimes be quite strange).
UPDATE: Bell has revised its list, and now has 40 transmitters listed, not including those already approved.
A couple to note:
- CJOH-TV-8 Cornwall, a retransmitter of CTV Ottawa, has a 260,000W signal that can be easily captured in the western part of Montreal and off-island suburbs. It’s the last analog television signal that reaches into the Montreal area, and it’s the reason why CTV Ottawa is carried on Montreal cable systems. Bell estimates this transmitter reaches 73,823 people.
- CKNX-TV Wingham was a CBC affiliate that launched in 1955, then became an A Channel station owned by CHUM, then was sold to CTV. In 2009, at the height of the battle over fee for carriage, CTV said it would have to shut down the station, prompting a ridiculous negotiation for a sale to Shaw via newspaper ads. Despite a $1 purchase price, Shaw reneged on its offer after due diligence. CTV converted the station into a retransmitter of CFPL-TV London, Ont., and it became part of the CTV Two network. (Since then, CTV was bought by Bell and Shaw bought Global TV, which effectively ended the fee for carriage debate.) Of all the transmitters proposed for shutdown, this one reaches the most people (235,984).
CTV stations (40/109 transmitters)
CJCB-TV Sydney, N.S. (1/6 transmitters):
- CJCB-TV-5 Bay St. Laurence (1W)
CJCH-DT Halifax, N.S. (2/9 transmitters):
- CJCH-TV-2 Truro (8W)
- CJCH-TV-8 Marinette (10W)
CKCW-DT Moncton, N.B. (5/9 transmitters):
- CKAM-TV Upsalquitch (already approved) (230,000W)
- CKAM-TV-1 Newcastle (9W)
- CKAM-TV-2 Chatham (9W)
- CKCW-TV-2 St. Edward/St. Louis, P.E.I. (1,100W)
- CKCD-TV Campbelton (1,800W)
CHBX-TV Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (1/2 transmitters):
- CHBX-TV-1 Wawa (66,400W)
CJOH-DT Ottawa (1/4 transmitters):
CJOH-TV-6 Deseronto (100,000W)(UPDATE: Bell says this transmitter was listed in error)
- CJOH-TV-8 Cornwall (260,000W)
CICI-TV Sudbury, Ont. (1/2 transmitters):
- CICI-TV-1 Elliot Lake (19,000W)
CITO-TV Timmins, Ont. (2/5 transmitters):
- CITO-TV-3 Hearst (7,110W)
- CITO-TV-4 Chapleau (1,550W)
CKY-DT Winnipeg (2/9 transmitters):
- CKYB-TV-1 McCreary (already approved) (10W)
- CKYS-TV Snow Lake (8W)
CICC-TV Yorkton, Sask. (4/5 transmitters):
- CICC-TV-2 Norquay (69,000W)
- CICC-TV-3 Hudson Bay (680W)
- CIEW-TV Warmley (170,000W)
- CIWH-TV Wynyard (140,000W)
CIPA-TV Prince Albert, Sask. (4/5 transmitters):
- CIPA-TV-1 Spiritwood (46,900W)
- CIPA-TV-2 Big River (205W)
- CKQB-TV Melfort (15,500W)
- CKQB-TV-1 Nipawin (11,600W)
CKCK-DT Regina (4/7 transmitters):
- CKCK-TV-1 Colgate (84,800W)
- CKCK-TV-2 Willow Bunch (52,700W)
- CKCK-TV-7 Fort Qu’Appelle (241W)
- CKMC-TV-1 Golden Prairie (229,000W)
CFCN-DT Calgary (4/9 transmitters):
- CFCN-TV-1 Drumheller (80,000W)
- CFCN-TV-6 Drumheller (9W)
- CFCN-TV-16 Oyen (710W)
- CFWL-TV-1 Invemere, B.C. (10W)
CFCN-DT-5 Lethbridge, Alta. (6/10 transmitters):
- CFCN-TV-3 Brooks (8W)
- CFCN-TV-4 Burmis (382W)
- CFCN-TV-11 Sparwood, B.C. (8W)
- CFCN-TV-12 Moyie, B.C. (5W)
- CFCN-TV-17 Waterton Park (1W)
- CFCN-TV-18 Coleman (9W)
CFRN-DT Edmonton (2/11 transmitters):
- CFRN-TV-2 Peace River (4,300W)
- CFRN-TV-8 Grouard Mission (10,000W)
CFRN-TV-6 Red Deer (1/2 transmitters):
- CFRN-TV-10 Rocky Mountain House (1,600W)
No retransmitter deletions are proposed for the following stations:
- CKLD-DT Saint John (3 transmitters total)
- CFCF-DT Montreal (1 transmitter total)
- CFTO-DT Toronto (3 transmitters total)
- CKCO-DT Kitchener, Ont. (2 transmitters total)
- CKNY-TV North Bay, Ont. (1 transmitter total)
- CFQC-DT Saskatoon (3 transmitters total)
- CIVT-DT Vancouver (1 transmitter total)
CTV Two stations (2/12 transmitters)
CFPL-DT London, Ont. (1/2 transmitters):
- CKNX-TV Wingham (260,000W)
CKVR-DT Barrie, Ont. (1/4 transmitters):
- CKVR-TV-1 Parry Sound (7W)
No retransmitter deletions are proposed for the following stations:
- CHRO-DT-43 Ottawa (1 transmitter total)
- CHRO-TV Pembroke, Ont. (1 transmitter total)
- CHWI-DT Wheatley, Ont. (2 transmitters total)
- CIVI-DT Victoria (2 transmitters total)
Other stations (1/5 transmitters)
Bell Media acquired two TV stations in northern B.C. from Astral Media. They have since adopted CTV Two programming, but are licensed separately from Bell Media’s other stations.
CJDC-TV Dawson Creek, B.C. (1/3 transmitters):
- CJDC-TV-1 Hudson’s Hope (already approved) (9W)
No change is proposed for CFTK-TV Terrace, B.C. (2 transmitters total)
CTV and CTV Two also have (de facto) affiliates in Lloydminster, Thunder Bay, Kingston, Peterborough, Oshawa and St. John’s. These are not owned by Bell Media and are unaffected by this application.
In a letter, the CRTC asks Bell for more information about this request, notably how many of these transmitters are still running and how many people will be affected. A response is requested for Monday, June 27, but the major broadcasters have requested an extension to that deadline because of the amount of information being requested of them.
The CRTC is accepting comments from the public on Bell Media’s licence renewals, which includes the deletion of retransmitters, until 8pm ET on
Aug. 2 Aug. 15. You can submit comments here (choose Application 2016-0012-2). Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record. Public hearings will be held in Laval and Gatineau in November to discuss the application.
- Many point out that CTV/CTV2 is owned by Bell Media, which also owns a TV distributor, as if they’re doing this merely to boost TV subscription rates. The likelihood of a large number of people in these tiny towns switching to a pay TV service owned by Bell is pretty low. And if this was the purpose, wouldn’t they have shut down more transmitters? (Besides, CTV doesn’t get subscription fees from people who subscribe via cable companies.)
- Some say in general CTV would have been better off if it wasn’t owned by a telecom company, or that this wouldn’t have happened if CTV was independent of one. That, of course, ignores several facts: (1) CBC and TVO also shut down hundreds of analog retransmitters years ago, (2) Global TV’s parent company actually did go bankrupt before the network was purchased by Shaw, and it might not have survived had that not happened, and (3) Conventional television as an industry is losing money or barely breaking even, and a lot of that is because the cable companies that own those networks are subsidizing them.
- A couple say the channels or bandwidth should be given or sold to another company so they can put transmitters or TV stations there instead. But (1) Broadcast television allocations are not sold like that; (2) There’s zero demand for new television stations or transmitters; and (3) there is plenty of space on the television broadcast band for more transmitters, especially in these small markets.
— CTV Communications (@CTV_PR) June 3, 2016
Canada AM, which for 44 years was the national morning show on CTV, is no more. On Thursday, owner Bell Media announced that Friday would be the last show.
While it gave a chance for the show to say goodbye, it wasn’t much of one. Producers cobbled together a tribute show with lots of still pictures (many of them poor-quality social media posts taken from cellphones, and almost all from the past few years) and well wishes people sent in through Facebook, Twitter and email.
The reason for the cancellation wasn’t budget cuts, or a desire to cut down on Canadian content, or an evil plan to save money by rebroadcasting CTV News Channel (Canada AM was already simulcast on CTVNC), but rather a desire to reboot the morning show format and maybe attract a younger audience.
On Monday, Bell Media announced its replacement: Your Morning, hosted by Ben Mulroney and Anne-Marie Mediwake. (Pop Goes The News had spread a rumour that the two of them would host this show when the Canada AM cancellation broke.) The show will debut in late August.
The basics are the same: Three hours each weekday morning, airing on CTV stations in Eastern Canada (CTV-owned Western Canada stations air local morning shows under the CTV Morning Live brand), and simulcast on CTV News Channel.
Mulroney and Mediwake are joined by “anchors” Melissa Grelo, Lindsey Deluce (news) and Kelsey McEwen (weather). Mulroney and Grelo will continue in their other jobs as hosts of eTalk and The Social, respectively.
The most telling detail about the new show is that it’s produced by the people behind CTV’s other daytime programs, The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social, including executive producer Michelle Crespi. So expect the new show to have a feel similar to those shows.
That also means moving, from suburban Agincourt (20 kilometres from downtown Toronto), where it shared space with CTV Toronto, TSN and CTV News Channel, to 299 Queen Street West downtown, the historic home of City TV and MuchMusic, that currently hosts CTV’s daytime programming, eTalk and BNN, among others.
The fact that CTV is calling this a new show with a new name, and not simply announcing new hosts and a new studio for Canada AM, should indicate how Bell Media feels about the Canada AM brand. The fact that it’s almost a half-century old was a source of pride, but also a problem. It’s your mother’s morning TV show. So even though it’s the same idea with the same time slot and broadcast in the same places, the new show gets a new (awful) name, a new studio and a new look.
Canada AM hosts Beverly Thomson and Marci Ien will stay with Bell Media, and Jeff Hutcheson had already announced plans to retire.
Even if we accept that ending Canada AM was a choice that had to be made, it’s unfortunate that it was on such short notice. The show could have finished out the summer and been given a proper chance to say goodbye. Or even just a few extra weeks to put together a proper tribute. It certainly would have been good for ratings.
Instead, we have CTV News Channel’s Marcia MacMillan getting up earlier, doing headlines at 6am. CTV stations without their own morning shows will rebroadcast that until Your Morning gets off the ground.
With CTV having the rights to 4pm Sunday NFL football games starting this season, the network is forced (or, well, is forcing itself) to pre-empt its local 6pm newscast on Sundays until mid-January for stations in the CDT, EDT and ADT time zones.
At first, it looked like CTV was going to air the local news after the football game, at 7:30pm ET, but now it looks like most stations are simply going to air SportsCentre to fill time until 8pm.
The situation varies a lot by market. In Atlantic Canada, there’s just the early game, so the Sunday newscast is unaffected. In Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., the late game ends before 6pm, so no schedule change is needed there. In Kitchener, Winnipeg and Northern Ontario, as well as for new CTV affiliate CKPR in Thunder Bay, the plan is still to air a local newscast after the football game, which will likely start late a lot of the time.
For CTV Montreal, whose Sunday evening newscast draws tens of thousands of viewers, they’ve decided to do a live webcast of the 6pm show starting tonight. (You can watch a cheesy promo of it here.) The webcast can be seen on their website, montreal.ctvnews.ca.
I haven’t seen any announcements about other CTV stations trying this.
This change also means that for Montreal, there will be only one local newscast in English at 6pm Sundays: Global. CBC airs its weekly Disney/kids movie Sunday evenings. It’ll be interesting to see if Global capitalizes on this to try to drive up viewership for that time period in Montreal, which is historically one of its weakest markets.
In Ottawa, viewers don’t even get the choice of Global. They have retransmitters of Global Toronto, City Toronto and CHCH Hamilton, and CTV Two Ottawa, which doesn’t have evening newscasts.
After the second week of the NFL playoffs in mid-January, the schedule will return to normal, and the 6pm Sunday newscasts will return.
There’s no longer a CTV television transmitter in Wiarton, Ont. And all because of a dispute with a neighbour that started with an apparent misunderstanding over the cutting of trees.
The story is contained in an application owner Bell Media filed with the CRTC on July 10 to revoke the broadcasting licence of CKCO-TV-2, a 100kW transmitter in Wiarton, which is on the Bruce Peninsula separating Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. It’s one of two retransmitters of CKCO-DT in Kitchener. The other is in Oil Springs, Ont., covering Sarnia.
As Bell tells it, it has had trouble accessing the transmission tower, even though it owns the land the tower sits on, because the access road to it is on property owned by a neighbour. For years, there was a verbal agreement with that property owner to access the site using his road (which leads to a street officially called Tower Road). But three years ago, the property was sold. The new owner had a falling out with Bell after “Bell Media rightfully prevented the new owner from cutting trees located on our property.” In January 2014, the new owner demanded Bell pay $1,000 a month to use his road, plus $34,000 in back pay going back to when he originally purchased the land.
Naturally, Bell thought this was a ridiculous sum and offered to pay $5,000 a year, with no back pay. The owner refused, and so Bell could no longer get a vehicle to its tower.
The next month, the power went out at the tower. Bell discovered a serious fault in the electrical system which required a series of repairs, but again the owner of the road denied access. Bell’s only access to the tower was through a tiny strip of land connecting its land to the road. Which meant travelling on foot. And since this was February in rural Ontario, this meant going by snowshoe.
Without the ability to fix the electricity, the diesel backup generator stopped working and CKCO-TV-2 went off the air.
Other than the TV transmitter, there’s only one other tenant, Spectrum Communications, a company that provides two-way radios and other specialized communications for businesses and institutions. It pays $14,000 a year until its lease expires in August 2015, which isn’t enough to justify the $91,000 a year it costs to run the tower and its transmitters.
So Bell has decided to give up on the 230-metre-high tower and hand back the licence for CKCO-TV-2. It’s unclear if they plan to sell the tower, dismantle it or do something else.
The scheduling conflict was obvious the moment Bell Media announced last December that it was picking up Sunday afternoon NFL games at 4pm from City: If the games go from 4pm to 7pm (or 7:30pm), then the 6pm local newscast is going to have to move, at least in the eastern part of the country.
On Thursday, as Bell Media did its upfront presentation to advertisers in Toronto (you can see the fall primetime schedule here), we got some details of what’s going to happen: The Sunday evening newscast won’t be cancelled, but it will be chopped to half an hour and pushed to 7:30pm, sandwiched between the NFL game and the 8pm airing of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
That’s the case in the eastern time zone, at least. In Atlantic Canada, there’s no conflict because the NFL games will air on CTV Two, which doesn’t have Sunday evening newscasts. In the Central time zone (Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in the winter), the news will air for half an hour at 6:30pm (the Sunday evening newscast is already half an hour long in these areas). And in Mountain and Pacific time zones, since the game ends at 5:30 and 4:30pm respectively, the evening news is unaffected.
This schedule only takes effect during the NFL season. The first disrupted Sunday is Sept. 4, and the last will be at the end of January. (Early playoff rounds also conflict, but the Super Bowl airs in primetime, so it won’t bump local news.) After that, the schedule returns to normal and the news goes back to being an hour at 6pm.
The Sunday evening newscast has some special features to fill that hour of time on what is usually a slow news day. Sunday Bite and Power of One could just take a break for five months, be moved to other days or be shortened and integrated into the shorter newscast.
One of the consequences of this move in Montreal is that it leaves only Global with a 6pm local newscast on Sundays during the NFL season. (CBC doesn’t have a 6pm newscast Sunday because that’s when it airs movies.) The station might take advantage by putting its best foot forward on those Sunday evenings in a bid to attract more viewers for the rest of the week.
Please make better Canadian Super Bowl ads
Speaking of CTV and the NFL, the network is starting a contest, with the Canadian Marketing Association, to encourage Canadian advertisers to create their own must-see Super Bowl ads.
Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year where Canadians actually want to watch U.S. ads, because of the hype around them. But while some U.S. advertisers also buy ads on CTV’s simulcast, many don’t, and we get much lower quality ads as a result. CTV’s heavy rotation of promo ads for its programs have also been frustrating viewers with their repetitiveness.
So we have a contest, whose rules haven’t been defined yet, but whose prize seems to be a free ad during the Super Bowl in Canada.
It’s unlikely to reverse the tide. Even if there’s one ad that Canadians would want to watch — and there have been some in recent years — and the U.S. commercials are posted online within seconds of their airing (and often well before that), most Canadians who care still prefer to watch the U.S. commercials live.
Seems a lot of Canadians didn’t like not being able to see U.S. Super Bowl ads. Here are some highlights of their chatter during the game on Twitter.
— Hussy (@WHOOSAIN) February 3, 2014
Did you see that funny super bowl commercial? Ya me neither #canadianprobz
— Canadian Problems (@CanadianProbz) February 2, 2014
— Pierre Martin (@pmartin_UdeM) February 3, 2014
— Sara Daniele (@IMSaraDaniele) February 3, 2014
Apparently we just missed a commercial that used the hamster dance song. Fuck you CTV.
— Russ (@Russkun) February 3, 2014
As Bell Media tries to figure out how it will deal with losing NHL hockey to rival Rogers, the company has already started solidifying its deals for other sports programming. On Monday, it announced that it has extended and expanded its deal with the National Football League, and will, starting next season, be presenting football games at 4pm on Sundays on CTV and CTV Two in addition to the 1pm games it currently airs.
NFL games normally go three hours, and sometimes longer, so basic math suggests that airing games at 4pm on Sundays means those games will still be going at 6pm. But Bell Media couldn’t say right away what would happen to 6pm local newscasts on Sundays.
“The specific programming plan is evolving, but we have every intention of meeting our local news obligations in eastern Canada,” was the response from Bell Media when I asked about the Sunday newscasts.
CTV stations in large markets like Montreal and Toronto are required to air 14 hours of local programming a week. Currently, they air about 16 hours a week of local news, so they could cancel Sunday newscasts and still meet their CRTC obligations. Because the CRTC requirement doesn’t distinguish between original programs and repeats, they could also cheat by repeating an evening newscast the next day at 6am. (Global Montreal did this every weekday before the launch of Morning News. CTV also does this in some markets.)
Not having Sunday evening news wouldn’t be the end of the world. They could do like CBC and just have a late-night newscast on Sundays. City Toronto, which airs NFL football at 4pm on Sundays, cancels the evening newscast when it airs those games.
Moving the news to another time would be tricky, though. They can’t make it earlier without bringing it all the way back to noon. Pushing it an hour later might work, but ask any fan of 60 Minutes how often the 4pm football game ends before 7pm. CTV also airs primetime shows at 7pm. Right now that’s when it airs ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
Making this even more complicated is that the NFL season is only 17 weeks long, running from September to early January. So they might have one schedule for the fall and another for the rest of the year.
They have a few months to figure it out. The change takes effect with the 2014-15 season which starts in September.
I remember when the Colbert Report first launched in 2005. I remember the three weeks between the time it debuted on Comedy Central in the U.S. and the time that CTV began airing it in Canada. I remember the handoffs between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, which got viewers of the first show to tune in to the second.
But after eight long and truthy years, the Colbert Report aired its final new episode on CTV on Aug. 15. When it comes back from vacation in September, CTV will have replaced Colbert at 12:35am with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, a move being made in anticipation of the replacement of Fallon with SNL’s Seth Meyers in early 2014.
Stewart is staying on CTV, as is Conan O’Brien, whose show gets pushed back by half an hour. The new schedules, as of Sept. 2, will look like this:
- CTV: National news at 11pm, local news at 11:30pm, Daily Show at 12:05am, Late Night at 12:35am, Conan at 1:35am, a Comedy Now! rerun at 2:05am, and then infomercials
- CTV Two: Local news at 11pm, Tonight Show at 11:35pm, Criminal Minds rerun at 12:35am, then infomercials
- Comedy Network: Daily Show at 11pm, Colbert Report at 11:30pm, Conan at midnight
The move makes sense for Bell Media for two main reasons:
- Simultaneous substitution: Airing Late Night instead of Colbert means that CTV can take over NBC’s signal for that hour each night and insert its own ads. Because Comedy Central isn’t available in Canada, there’s nothing to substitute with Colbert (which airs at a different time anyway). It’s the same reason why NFL games air on CTV but CFL games air on TSN. The system favours airing U.S. network programs on broadcast channels.
- Must-have programming on Comedy: With Colbert being “exclusive to Comedy”, a fact that CTV isn’t hiding (it even bragged about that during ads shown to the audience at Just for Laughs galas this summer), fans of the show must subscribe to that channel to get it. I suspect most fans already subscribe to that channel, but this is even further incentive. And specialty channels are where the big money lies in television right now.
There are other bonuses too. Colbert no longer airing on CTV might push more cable distributors to offer Comedy in high definition (Videotron, for example, currently doesn’t, which means Videotron subscribers won’t be able to watch the show in high definition anymore.)
Of course, the wishes of viewers aren’t really factored in here. Given the choice, they would probably prefer the existing system, seeing Stewart and Colbert on CTV and having the option to watch classic late-night on NBC. But when the wishes of the viewers conflict with the ability to game the system for more profits…
Ever wanted to travel downtown at 5am on a weekday so you can see the hosts of a national morning show, watch a performance from 98 Degrees and maybe have people spot you in a crowd? No? Well, you’ll get a chance to do it anyway as Canada AM broadcasts from the esplanade of Place des Arts on Thursday morning.