Tag Archives: Rogers

Posted in Radio, TV

NHL broadcast schedule 2014-15: Who owns rights to what games

The final piece of the puzzle as far as the NHL schedule is concerned has finally been revealed with the publishing of regional broadcast schedules. This allows us to break down who will broadcast what where, and I’ve done so below for the seven Canadian NHL teams.

As previously announced, Rogers has all the national rights to NHL games, which includes all Saturday night games and all playoff games. Beyond that, it gets a bit complicated (some games are national in one language but not the other, for example). Regional games will be viewable in the team’s region (here’s a map of the teams’ regions), but those outside will need to fork out cash for NHL Centre Ice or NHL GameCentre to see all their team’s games. (Or maybe not? Rogers still gives me a coy “details will be announced in the coming weeks” when I ask about that.)

TSN has decided to assign its three regional rights packages to specific channels: Jets on TSN3, Leafs on TSN4 and Senators on TSN5. The five-channel TSN system launches on Monday on every major TV provider in Canada except Videotron (which tells me it’s in discussions to add the other three channels).

Below are how the TV and radio rights break down for each team. They include regular-season games only. Preseason games are regional, and subject to separate deals. All playoff games are national, so their rights are owned by Rogers in English and TVA in French.

Radio rights are not subject to regional blackouts. Listed is their local station only and does not include affiliates.

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Posted in Media, Radio, TV

The new convergence utopia: Who owns what in Canadian media

A little under three years ago, I published a post with a chart of Canada’s media giants and what they own. Now that the CRTC has given a green light to a major acquisition by one of them, I thought it was a good time to revisit and update that chart.

The following represents who will own what once all the various deals go through, including related deals for asset acquisitions involving Corus, Shaw and Pattison Group.

UPDATE: I’ve moved the chart to this page, where I will be keeping it updated.

Posted in TV

Rogers shuts down CityNews Channel

Citing “evolving viewer habits and the global structural shift in advertising,” Rogers announced it is shutting down Toronto all-news channel CityNews Channel effective immediately. It also announced that it would no longer be producing OMNI programming in Alberta, where it has two over-the-air stations in Calgary and Edmonton, and it is killing its English-language South Asian newscast.

The cuts affect 2.5% of the Rogers Broadcast workforce, or 62 full-time jobs.

CityNews Channel launched in 2011 as a local Toronto all-news channel (the announcement of its launch was exactly two years ago). Its main competition was CP24, ironically a channel that was previously run by City but that went to CTV when CTV bought CHUM in 2007. It sold City to Rogers but kept CP24 for itself.

The channel has struggled in ratings, doing worse than even Sun News Network (though that channel is a national one).

OMNI’s Alberta stations, CJEO Edmonton and CJCO Calgary, were licensed as a regional system in 2007, and Rogers had proposed 29 hours a week of local and regional programming. But that proposal was not turned into a condition of licence, and their current licence, which expires in 2015, has no provision for local programming, ethnic or otherwise.

They stopped producing regional daily newscasts in 2011, and now they have no original programming at all.

We’ll see if the CRTC has something to say about the complete lack of original programming when those licences come up for renewal.

Statement from Rogers 

Statement from Scott Moore, President of Broadcast, Rogers Media, regarding CityNews Channel and OMNI Television:

“Today, we made changes to the company’s television strategy to reflect evolving viewer habits and the global structural shift in advertising.

“Moving forward, we will focus our broadcast news resources in Toronto on 680News and CityNews on City, and as a result, have ceased operations of CityNews Channel, effective immediately.  Given the changing marketplace, programming changes have also been made at OMNI Television: the English-language South Asian newscast is no longer being offered and production operations in Alberta have ceased.  We remain committed to ethnic programming and will deliver news in four other languages, as well as continue to air programming in more than 40 languages.

“Today’s changes impact 2.5 per cent of the company’s broadcast workforce.  While difficult, these changes enable us to continue to focus our efforts where we know the market is growing, while helping us to effectively manage our costs.”

Posted in In the news

Quebecor, Rogers announce wireless network sharing deal

An odd thing to announce at 8:45pm, but Quebecor just sent out a press release saying they’ve come to a 20-year deal with Rogers to create a shared LTE wireless network in Quebec and Ottawa.

I don’t know much more than what’s in the release: The two companies will pool their resources to create a shared network, but maintain their operational independence. This deal follows a similar one between Telus and Bell to share their LTE network.

There are some side-effects to this. For one, Quebecor hints at expanding its handset lineup. Since the only one people care about is the iPhone, I’ve asked if this is the plan. I’ll let you know what they say.

The deal also includes an option for Rogers to purchase Videotron’s unused AWS spectrum in greater Toronto for $180 million. This is important in the context of other new wireless players like Mobilicity and Wind Mobile deciding putting themselves up for sale. Mobilicity has already agreed to a sale to Telus and Wind may also sell to one of the three major incumbents. A partnership between Videotron and Rogers adds to the impression that Canada simply isn’t large enough for more competition in wireless.

Or it might not.

Posted in Montreal, My articles, Radio

Rogers says it’s willing to buy TSN 690

See also my story on this in The Gazette.

Could this be the future of CKGM?

Could this be the future of CKGM?

Though it had seemed cool to the idea previously, Rogers says it is now willing to make a “reasonable offer” to Bell Media to purchase CKGM (TSN Radio 690) and keep it running in its English-language all-sports format.

The revelation came through Rogers’s final submission to the CRTC dated Wednesday. Most of it focused on Rogers’s position that Bell should not be allowed to acquire The Movie Network. But it also included a proposal to solve the problem of the Montreal English radio market and the fate of the money-losing all-sports station.

The full submission can be read here. The relevant paragraphs are these:

45. Finally, on the separate issue of the radio station CKGM-AM and Bell Media’s proposal to obtain an exception to the Commission’s common ownership policy, the Bell/Astral panel indicated during the hearing that it would consider shutting the station down if the Commission did not allow Bell Media to operate 4 radio stations in the Montreal market. We understand that Bell Media was concerned that if an exception to the common ownership policy was not granted, then radio listeners in Montreal would be denied access to sports radio in that city.

46. With that concern in mind, Rogers Media is informing the Commission that it would be prepared to make Bell a reasonable offer to acquire CKGM-AM and that we would be prepared to operate it as an English sports radio service. Given our sports properties (which include the Fan 590 in Toronto) and the fact that we now have a presence in the Montreal market with our recent acquisition of CJNT-DT, Rogers Media is confident that it has the infrastructure in place to operate the station profitably.

47. If there are concerns that there would be no buyers for CKGM-AM and that Montreal radio listeners would be deprived of a sports service, we believe that our commitment to make a reasonable offer for the station should allay them.

This would seem to solve both the problem of Bell owning too many stations in the market and of wanting to keep an all-sports station here. But there are some caveats. First of all, the station wouldn’t be called TSN 690 anymore. Bell has no intention of licensing the brand, and Rogers wouldn’t want it anyway. So it would probably be called Sportsnet 690 The Fan (which would be easily confused with Fan stations at 960 and 590).

More importantly, Bell has said that if it sold the station it would not sublicense radio broadcast rights to Canadiens games, instead moving them to CJAD. And CJAD is already the broadcaster for Alouettes and Impact games. So The Fan wouldn’t start off with much in the way of local broadcast rights.

Nevertheless, Rogers is obviously aware of this, and feels it can make the station profitable, thanks to its recent acquisition of CJNT, which gives Rogers its first broadcast property in the market. Sportsnet’s existing resources in Montreal, added to those that will work on a weekly sports show on CJNT, and the national resources of Sportsnet TV and radio, will also help.

It’s unclear if Rogers was one of the two players that Bell told the CRTC had made “informal” inquiries about CKGM. We do know that the other was Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media, which has licences for news-talk AM stations in English and French and is waiting for a decision from the CRTC on an application for a French-language AM sports station in the market. Tietolman has not hidden that he would be willing to acquire CJAD in particular, and possibly other stations put up for sale as well.

Rogers was asked about acquiring this station during last year’s Bell-Astral hearing. They weren’t terribly enthusiastic, but didn’t dismiss the idea either. Here’s what Susan Wheeler, Rogers’s VP of regulatory affairs, told the commission on Sept. 12:

Certainly, we would be interested in expanding our sports radio network across the country. So that’s certainly something of interest to us. Whether it’s a viable business model without the Canadiens rights I think is something that we would have to do the math on.

But I also, I guess, would question the limitations that Bell, you know, has said in previous testimony that they don’t have the rights to sub-license the Canadiens rights. So I’m wondering whether that’s something the Commission could look into further.

Bell has until May 21 to provide a final written reply to the commission on this and other issues brought up by interveners based on new information brought up at the hearing.

UPDATE (May 21): Bell says this is the first it hears of Rogers being interested in the station, and “we question the sincerity of this claim.” Bell also questions why Rogers is only bringing this up now, instead of in its original intervention or at the hearing.

The full paragraph about CKGM in Bell’s reply is here:

Rogers made a last minute claim that they would make a reasonable offer to purchase CKGM and operate it as a English-language sports service. We question the sincerity of this claim or its appropriateness at this stage in the process given the guidelines the Commission set for final Intervener comments. There is no actual evidence on the record that they would or could make such an offer or that they could viably operate CKGM as a sports service. The claim was raised for the first time in the final paragraphs of their final comments after not having even been hinted at one time in the whole course of the proceeding even though the exception to the Common Ownership Policy for CKGM has been a consistent part of our application since it was filed. Even since this surprise announcement, Rogers has not attempted to contact Bell Media about this possibility.

Posted in Montreal, TV

Rogers proposes two television stations to replace CJNT

Back in May, when Rogers and Channel Zero announced that they had reached an agreement to buy CJNT from the latter and turn it into a Citytv-branded station (with it becoming a Citytv affiliate in the meantime), it was unclear whether it would remain Montreal’s only ethnic television station. Rogers Media President of Broadcast, Scott Moore, couldn’t be pinned down either way on what, if any, amendments to the station’s licence the media giant would propose as part of the purchase.

On Sept. 5, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission published the application for transfer of ownership, and we learn that, in fact, Rogers is asking to change Citytv from an ethnic station into an English one, or at least to relieve it of a condition of licence requiring 75% of programming from 8pm to 10pm be ethnic in nature (a condition that previous owners have tried and failed to have relieved).

But this request comes with a twist: In exchange for turning CJNT into an English station, Rogers proposes to support a brand new television station in Montreal whose programming would be almost entirely ethnic in nature. The new station, which would be the 10th over-the-air television station in Montreal, would be run by an independent group and would include some of the same programming that used to air on CJNT.

During this week, I’ll be speaking with the principal parties involved (Rogers, Channel Zero and the independent group proposing the new station). In the meantime, here’s what the applications themselves say.

Citytv Montreal

“The acquisition of CJNT-TV and its conversion to an English-language commercial television station will allow RBL to establish an over-the-air television presence for Citytv in Montréal. This is a key step towards making Citytv more competitive with CTV and Global in terms of programming and our ability to access network advertising revenues.”

Rogers has made clear its intention for a more national footprint for the Citytv network, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week. Advertisers treat Citytv, which has no stations east of Toronto, as a small regional player, and Rogers wants that to change. So it signed an affiliation agreement with three small-market western stations in the Jim Pattison Group, and acquired Saskatchewan educational network SCN, rebranding it Citytv Saskatchewan. And it acquired CJNT in Montreal.

The network still isn’t complete. There’s no station in Atlantic Canada, and only a retransmitter in Ottawa. But these moves have increased the network’s reach about 27%.

Being a national advertising player is a priority for Rogers, so much so that it’s willing to lose a lot of money on a Citytv station in Montreal:

“In terms of revenue potential, Citytv has a very limited ability to sell network advertising. National advertising buyers want access to top quality programming on national networks with extensive audience reach to meet their clients’ needs in the most efficient way possible. They naturally look first to CTV and Global for network buy opportunities, as these networks have the national reach that they are seeking. Citytv network buys may be considered to fill the gaps, but only after the buyers have exhausted their advertising opportunities with the large national networks.”

Purchase price

The application lists a purchase price for CJNT: $10.3 million. That breaks down as about $550,000 for the actual assets (mostly transmission assets, as Rogers isn’t interested in the existing studios or programming rights), and the rest for the licence itself. When Channel Zero bought CJNT in 2009, it was in a package deal with CHCH in Hamilton for $12, along with commitments to cover the stations’ liabilities.

If we consider a $6 purchase price and a $10.3 million sale price, that’s a 171,666,667% return on investment in just three years for Channel Zero, or 57,222,222% a year. That’s about 10 million times the rate on my RRSP.

From the Rogers application, we also learn a bit about Channel Zero’s motives, including the fact that it took the station mainly so it could get CHCH:

Channel Zero’s primary consideration was the acquisition of CHCH-TV; however, it was clear that the stations were being sold as a package and Channel Zero was enthused by the opportunity to acquire an ethnic station in one of Canada’s greatest cities.

Channel Zero has invested just under $500,000 on technical upgrades to the CJNT-TV facility including converting the transmission facilities to digital. It has also created new office facilities and has funded operating losses which are expected to total $1.5 million by the end of the current broadcast year.

This is consistent with criticisms that while Channel Zero has invested a lot of time, energy and money into programming at CHCH, it has all but ignored CJNT. (Though, the application also correctly points out that if Channel Zero had not bought CJNT in 2009, the station would likely have been shut down.)

The big question, though, is why Rogers is bothering with this when it could just apply for a new licence for a new television station, and leave CJNT to remain ethnic. The CRTC asked the same question, and here is Rogers’s response:

Montreal, as a major English-language television market, remains a key part of our expansion strategy. As such, we have looked at number of options to monetize Citytv’s programming in this market including applying for a new licence, applying for a rebroadcast transmitter, negotiating broad distribution and simultaneous substitution with local distributors and available acquisition opportunities.

The purchase of CJNT-TV was the most attractive of these options as it represented the fastest and most predictable entry into the market and would allow us to start monetizing our programming in the upcoming broadcast year.

The other point made is that if Rogers tried to start a new station, Channel Zero and CJNT would probably be first in line to oppose it.

It’s through the related application presented for this CRTC hearing that we learn that Channel Zero had originally planned to ask the CRTC to convert CJNT from an ethnic station into an English station, similar to what Rogers is proposing now. Channel Zero and the group behind the new ethnic station project came up with this joint proposal in order to allow CJNT to become English without depriving Montreal of its only ethnic television station.

If the Rogers acquisition is denied, Channel Zero is apparently still interested in converting CJNT into an English station. From Rogers’s application:

In the event the Commission denies the proposed transaction, 2209005 (the licensee of CJNT) intends to apply to the Commission to convert CJNT-TV into an English-language television station as it does not believe the station is viable, on a long-term basis, as an ethnic station based on its current business model. RBL (Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.) has also been informed by 2209005 that should the Commission deny the proposed transaction that it will strongly oppose any applications for a new English-language television station to serve Montreal, as 2209005’s intention is to apply for an English-language television station in Montreal.

Programming

Proposed Citytv schedule for CJNT (PDF)

As previously stated in May, Rogers’s plan for CJNT would not include a daily evening newscast, since Montreal already has three of those (CTV, CBC and Global). Instead, most of a Montreal Citytv station’s local programming would come through a local morning show called Breakfast Television Montreal, which would run from 6am to 9am weekdays. This is consistent with Citytv’s other (non-Toronto) local stations, which also rely on Breakfast Television for most of their local programming.

The application describes the proposed morning show as “a mix of local news, information and entertainment programming focused exclusively on the Montréal market.” It also touts the “community” focus of the shows, covering everything from cultural events to fundraisers.

The other local show would be a weekly sports show, which in its application Rogers calls “Connected Montréal”:

RBL will also launch a weekly half-hour sports program, to be known as Connected Montréal, dedicated to covering the best in professional, amateur, university, CEGEP, and junior league sports in the Greater Montréal area. Currently, there are no programs on television that showcase the talented athletes and coaches that make-up this rich and diverse sporting community. We intend to focus on the positive influences sports bring to young people, community building, and the historical and cultural fabric of Montréal.

This show will include a mix of game highlights; team, athlete and coach profiles; and analysis from a wide variety of local sporting events. This program will be uplifting and motivational, providing Montréalers with the opportunity to celebrate their city’s athletic achievements.

The proposed programming grid lists a one-hour program called “The Fan” that would air Sundays at 6pm and repeat Mondays. The half-hour option seems to be the more recent of the two. It’s not clear at this point when exactly the show would air, but likely on weekends with at least one repeat, Moore tells me.

With 15 hours for the morning show and half an hour for the sports show (repeated once), the station would produce 15.5 hours of original local programming a week, and air 16 hours including the repeat.

Citytv Montreal would also air Citytv network programming as it does now, including Cityline and programs like The Bachelor Canada.

But the big thing is U.S. programming. The reason Rogers wants more local stations (as opposed to distant-signal carriage on local distributors) is to benefit from simultaneous substitution. The real losers here aren’t CFCF or CKMI, they’re WPTZ, WFFF, WVNY and WCAX, who will lose a big chunk of what non-substituted primetime programming it has left.

Plan B: An ethnic station

Rogers’s application proposes an alternative if the CRTC decides against turning CJNT into an English station:

“RBL would be prepared to respect the current licensee’s commitment to provide 14 hours of local ethnic programming each week, provided that the word “original” is deleted. We would be prepared to accept the revised commitment as a (condition of licence) in the licence to be issued for CJNT-TV as an ethnic station.”

But more importantly, Rogers needs the requirement that 75% of programming from 8 to 10pm be ethnic to be removed, as well as another similar condition requiring that at least 50% of programming between 6pm and midnight be ethnic. Without those licence changes at minimum, Rogers says it will walk away from the deal.

“Without these changes to CJNT-TV’s licence our purchase of the station no longer has any strategic value to our broadcast group.”

If the CRTC doesn’t buy the two-station plan, Rogers may have a tough time convincing the CRTC to move forward with this change. The CRTC has already twice denied previous owners’ applications to have this condition removed.

It’s not clear at this point what Rogers would do as far as local ethnic programming in case CJNT remains an ethnic station under its control. But it would not air an English morning show if the station remains ethnic.

Finances

Rogers’s proposed five-year budget for an English-language CJNT shows it would lose between $6 million and $7 million each year as an English station, and in fact it would get worse rather than getting better. The largest expense, about half its total, would be for the acquisition of American programming. Less than half of that, about $3 million a year, would be spent on Canadian programming, including its local shows.

Under the second proposed scenario, where Rogers buys CJNT but it remains an ethnic station (relieved of its obligation to air 75% ethnic programming from 8 to 10pm), it would spend only about $1 million a year on Canadian programming and about $6-7 million on U.S. programs, but would lose slightly less money every year.

Technical parameters

No changes are being proposed to the technical setup of CJNT. It would remain on digital channel 49 (virtual channel 62.1), transmitting from a small tower on the roof of the CTV/TVA transmission building next to the Mount Royal tower, with 4 kilowatts effective radiated power.

Rogers proposes its licence for CJNT expire on Aug. 31, 2016, which is when CJNT’s current licence expires.

ICI

ICI (International Channel / Canal International) is a project of Mohammad Nowrouzzahrai and his family, who want to bring Montreal’s ethnic television station back to its roots. Nowrouzzahrai produced a Persian program for Télévision Ethnique du Québec, which was a public access cable channel and became an over-the-air broadcaster in 1997 as CJNT. It was sold to WIC in 1999, and became a Canwest station when Canwest bought WIC.

Mohammad’s son Sam, who worked for him in the TEQ days, runs the day-to-day operations at Mi-Cam Communications, a production company owned by his father which created programs for CJNT in its early days. According to the application, Sam Nowrouzzahrai, aka Sam Norouzi, would continue in this role at ICI.

Because the ICI project predates the announced sale of CJNT to Rogers, the plan does not consider Rogers’s involvement locally. And with the announcement that Rogers is buying CJNT, the plan doesn’t change much. But there’s an additional bonus for ICI, in that Rogers has proposed to use the tangible benefits package of $1 million (10% of the $10 million purchase price) to help fund the ICI station and offset its losses. This is additional money that ICI’s original plan hadn’t considered. (If the ICI station is denied, Rogers plans to put the money to other uses.)

Because it gets funding from Channel Zero, the ICI application is dependent on the sale of CJNT to Rogers. Otherwise, the two would both be ethnic stations competing with each other.

But the group behind ICI insists that it is not contingent on Rogers converting CJNT from an ethnic station into an English-language one. Though it admits that the business case becomes a lot tougher (particularly if it doesn’t get that $1 million in benefits money), it feels that it could continue while competing with CJNT. ICI’s plan does not involve OMNI programming, which CJNT currently airs a lot of as a Citytv affiliate.

Rogers, however, is less convinced that Montreal could support two ethnic TV stations:

“…we believe there is increased potential for brand confusion and audience fragmentation as a result of having two ethnic stations in the market. Based on the above, and given CJNT-TV’s financial history, it is not clear to RBL that there is room for two ethnic stations in the Montreal market.”

It’s hard to imagine the CRTC ruling in such a way that we get two ethnic stations, considering the precarious history of the existing one. If ICI is approved, expect Rogers to get its wish for a fully English station.

Ownership

The channel would be run by 4517466 Canada Inc., a company owned 90% by five members of the Nowrouzzahrai family (specifically, Mohammad Nowrouzzahrai, his wife and three children). Another 5% would be owned by Marie Griffiths, who used to own part of CJNT and is the controlling owner of Groupe CHCR, which runs Montreal ethnic radio stations CKDG (Mike FM) and CKIN-FM. The other 5% is “to be determined.”

Finances

The group would be financed by up to $1 million from Channel Zero’s Movieola subsidiary, as well as about $1 million in benefits from Rogers (over five years) that come from the tangible benefits package from its acquisition of CJNT.

The station would have an operating budget of about $3.5 million for each of its first seven years, with programming in the news, music/variety and entertainment magazine formats. There would also be about 14% of its programming budget spent on non-Canadian programs.

Its revenue, entirely through local advertising, would start around that level and eventually increase to $6.5 million by the end of its first seven-year licence term. The station would be profitable by the third year, and making almost $2 million in Year 7.

That sounds incredibly optimistic. To put it in perspective, according to the same application, the English stations combined received about $8 million a year in local advertising in the six years up to 2009, and $10 million in 2009-10. And CFCF currently has about 100 times the audience of CJNT.

Cooperative

According to the application, the station would operate as a producer’s cooperative. This means the producers of individual shows would be responsible for their own budgets, and for selling their own advertising. The application explains the structure this way:

Ici proposes a channel that will operate very much like a co-operative in that each of the individual language producers will be able to shape their program as their own business within the overall business structure that ici will create. Each of the producers will own the advertising inventory within their own programming and therefore be in a position to generate revenue through the sale of advertising to the community that they know best. The producer’s will in turn provide a share of these revenues to ici in exchange for the services which ici will provide.

This makes sense, in that the individual producers are closer to their communities than any central ad sales staff could be. But it also means that more of the risk would be on the shoulders of the individual producers. Many would probably end up producing their shows on a volunteer basis.

Programming

Proposed programming schedule for ICI (PDF)

Programming for ICI would originate from a small studio (74 square metres) on Christophe Colomb Ave. in Ahuntsic, at the home of Mi-Cam Communications.

The programming would be in 15 languages and directed to 18 ethnic groups, including:

  • Italian
  • Latino
  • Arab (including: Lebanese, Egyptian, Moroccan, Algerian)
  • Portuguese
  • Greek
  • Haitian
  • Polish
  • Armenian
  • Persian
  • Romanian
  • African (French)
  • Russian
  • German
  • Afghan
  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Chinese

The largest chunk of programming would be Italian (31%, including most of the weekday afternoon schedule), followed by Arabic (10%), Spanish (8%), Greek (3%) and Mandarin/Cantonese (2.5%).

Some of the programs previously produced for CJNT would find a new home on ICI. The application includes signed letters from hosts and staff of Chinese, Bangladesh, African and Egyptian programs that aired on CJNT, as well as potential producers of other programs, that are willing and excited to sign on to this project.

In all, the programming grid proposes 33 shows of half an hour or an hour in length, almost all of them locally-produced weekly shows. Shows appearing more often include a one-hour yoga show weekdays at 7am,, and a Hellenic show and a Greek show that would each be produced twice a week. Most shows would be repeated at least once on another day.

Monday and Thursday evenings, from 7pm to 11pm, the channel would air Teleritmo, which consists mainly of music videos in Spanish.

Despite the involvement of Rogers, which came after the original application for this station was submitted, there are no significant plans for OMNI programming on ICI, even if CJNT is stripped of its ethnic station status. “We do not envision OMNI programming being a significant portion of the ici schedule,” the application says.

Also unlike OMNI (and CJNT under Canwest, Channel Zero and as a Citytv affiliate), the ICI station would not air significant English-language programming during primetime (or at all, really). It says this is because of the way the industry has changed in the past decade. Rather than each station in a market acquiring programming, the large players (Bell, Rogers, Shaw) buy U.S. programs on a national basis, leaving little room for small broadcasters. So instead of trying to put some high-profit U.S. programs in primetime (and take advantage of simultaneous substitution to steal some ad revenue), the station is abandoning this practice and focusing entirely on ethnic programming. It does leave open the door to airing some U.S. programs, however, particularly those that are acquired by other independent stations like CHCH in Hamilton.

Though there are no definitive plans for programming synergies with Rogers, the application does expect Rogers and Ici to collaborate on national ethnic ad sales if CJNT becomes an English station.

The revised application also suggests news gathering resource sharing between ICI and Citytv, much like OMNI and City share resources in other markets, with the same visuals being used by both but with different reporters in different languages.

Master control would either be shared between Rogers and ICI, or if that doesn’t work, ICI says it is prepared to rent master control facilities from other broadcasters.

Conditions of licence

The ICI application proposes to replicate most of CJNT’s current conditions of licence, namely:

  • At least 60% ethnic programming between 6am and midnight
  • At least 60% ethnic programming between 6pm and midnight
  • At least 75% ethnic programming between 8pm and 10pm
  • At least 55% Canadian programming between 6am and midnight
  • At least 50% Canadian programming between 6pm and midnight
  • Ethnic programming directed at at least 18 ethnic groups and in at least 15 languages each month
  • 100% closed captioning of programming, including all advertising in English and French by Year 4
In addition, the station proposes, like CJNT, to have a minimum of 14 hours of local programming a week. The actual proposed programming grid would, in fact, be double this, not including repeats. Including repeats of local programming, more than half its broadcast day and almost all of primetime would be locally produced. If they could pull this off, it would put Montreal’s private English broadcasters to shame.

Proposed transmission pattern for “ICI” would be directional, with a triangular shape.

Transmitter

ICI would operate on Channel 47 (it had originally proposed Channel 51), with a transmitter on the Bell tower on Mount Royal (just west of the main CBC tower). That’s the same tower CFCF used when it was operating a temporary digital transmitter (also on Channel 51). Because the plan for this new station began before CFCF left that channel, they decided to move to Channel 47. Industry Canada also has a moratorium on issuing new broadcasting certificates for Channel 51.

The transmitter would put out a maximum 5,500 watts ERP at a height of 196 metres. This puts it about on par with CJNT’s current signal, for those wondering if they’d be able to capture it.

Unlike CJNT, which is carried by many distribution services, ICI expects it would not get satellite carriage, and so would rely solely on local cable systems (which are required by law to carry all local over-the-air stations). About two-thirds of Montreal’s English population and 80% of the francophone population either get cable or rely on over-the-air reception, according to the application’s estimates.

The CRTC is considering these two applications at a hearing to begin Nov. 7 in Gatineau. The deadline for comments is 8pm Eastern Time on Oct. 5. To submit an intervention, click here, choose Option 1, then choose “2012-0756-4: Rogers Broadcasting Limited” (for the CJNT application) and/or “2012-0175-6: 4517466 Canada Inc.” (for the ICI application).

Posted in Business, Media, Opinion

Branchez-Vous unplugged

I suppose it was kind of inevitable. The independent media company Branchez-Vous!, known for its boring-looking Web portal, its news service that cribs other news services, and other websites including Showbizz.net and Fanatique.ca, has been bought by Rogers Media for $25 million, pending approval from shareholders (though administrators with 76% of the stock have already agreed to the takeover).

As much as the media holdings are valuable, though, the acquisition’s main value seems to come from the advertising network used by bloggers and more mainstream sites like Le Devoir and Rue Frontenac.

Financially, the deal is pretty sweet for B-V. The 40-cents-per-share price is 242% of the company’s closing share price on Thursday and about double what the stock has been trading over the past six months at least.

But as much as I think the company is worth every penny of the asking price, I can’t help but feel a bit sad at the loss of one of the few truly independent media sources left in Quebec.

It’s not that I think Rogers is evil (okay, I do think Rogers is evil, but not more than its competitors) or that there will be some radical change to the way Branchez-Vous operates (they’ve already said all management and employees are staying). It’s that a decision that was made by a small management team might now have to go through focus groups to remove any chance that it might offend anyone or detract in some way from the company’s branding.

And even though the acquisition seems to be like a poodle eating a horse (Rogers’s holdings in francophone Quebec are pretty limited – Châtelaine, L’actualité and LOULOU, plus some lesser-known magazines and trade publications – and its web properties get about a quarter of the traffic of Branchez-Vous’s network), expect B-V to look more like Rogers by the end of this than Rogers looks like B-V.

Expect, for example, that Branchez-Vous freelancers are forced to sign Rogers Media’s draconian contracts, that would grant Rogers the ability to freely reuse B-V content in its magazines.

And next time there’s a labour conflict involving a media company (as was the case with Rue Frontenac), expect them to think a lot harder before deciding to take sides.

Most of all, a company that already took itself far too seriously will now do so even more.

But I guess it could have been worse. They could have been bought by Quebecor.

Posted in Opinion, TV

Community lacking in community TV

The CRTC will be holding a hearing this month about community television, and at least one group is hoping they will close loopholes (or even just curb abuses that aren’t even loopholes) that allow cable companies to use these channels as promotional arms.

The CRTC requires cable companies to devote 5% of their gross revenues to Canadian programming. Of that, 2% must go to a community channel, kind of like those “cable access channels” we hear about in the U.S.

Even though it’s a very small fraction of their money, the cable companies decided they would put it to good use. Instead of just giving it over to an independent community broadcaster, they’d run their own community networks. Rogers uses the moniker RogersTV. With Videotron, it’s VOX. Shaw TV, TVCogeco, you get the idea.

The problem with having the cable companies in control is that this can lead to abuses. Rogers is being accused of having too much advertising. Others of not keeping proper records (which, admittedly, is a chronic problem for many low-budget broadcasters).

But the biggest problem seems to be that the programming itself isn’t fulfilling its mandate:

The CRTC audits found that Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, and Persona all classified staff-produced news and other programming-even MTV promos in one instance-as “access programming”. Some Eastlink systems reported no access programming at all.

“The CRTC’s data show that Canada’s ‘community’ channels have become promotional tools for cable companies,” said Catherine Edwards, spokesperson for CACTUS.

A look at VOX, Videotron’s community channel, and you can see what they mean. A show devoted to TVA’s Star Académie. A show put together by a (former) Quebecor-owned weekly newspaper. Quebecor personalities are all over the schedule.

Sure, there’s the “Mise à jour [city name here]“, and the half hour where they show traffic cameras. But I don’t see much access here, nor do they make obvious how someone could get involved.

Perhaps the era of community television is over. We no longer need cable access when we have Internet access. People can just put their videos on YouTube. (Ratings certainly suggest that, with market shares of 0.1 and 0.2%.)

But until the CRTC makes that determination, cable companies should start playing by the rules – the spirit as well as the letter.

UPDATE (May 15): La Presse’s Marc Cassivi also thinks Vox isn’t doing what it should as far as community programming.

Posted in Media, Technology

Rogers’s half-assed quality control

Last fall, I was asked to participate in a beta test of Rogers On Demand Online, a video streaming website for Rogers customers only. It has since launched and anyone who subscribes to Rogers Cable or Rogers Wireless can watch videos on the site. My review pointed out the disappointing video library, which included mostly Rogers-owned stuff like Citytv and a few specialty networks that didn’t really excite me (and are also unavailable unless you subscribe to the channel with Rogers Cable).

A couple of weeks ago I was on the site watching the one series that’s worth my attention – the West Wing through its Warner Brothers channel – when I noticed the video was a bit dark.

Make that very dark. I could barely make out what was going on in many scenes. Adjustments to my screen’s brightness were futile. So I clicked on the “feedback” link on the video and said that it was too dark.

This is the email I got back:

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Posted in TV

Massive cuts at CityTV, but Rogers doesn’t care

Anne Mroczkowski

The axe fell Tuesday at CityTV. Everyone found out yesterday that long-time Toronto anchor Anne Mroczkowski and about 60 others have lost their jobs in a new round of cutbacks at Canada’s fourth-largest English broadcast network, which will also result in a lot of local programming being cancelled.

Coverage at the National Post, Toronto Sun, Toronto StarFinancial Post, Canadian Press, Globe and Mail, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and all the usual Toronto blogs. Eye has a timeline of City cuts. Breakfast Television’s Kevin Frankish has a video of remaining employees talking about how much it sucks.

The irony in this is that CityTV is owned by Rogers, which is part of that Stop the TV Tax campaign by the cable and satellite companies against fee for carriage. Rogers has argued through it and appearances in front of the CRTC that local television doesn’t need the extra funding and that it is committed to local television without government funding.

With the cuts at City, and more importantly the cuts to programming at all City stations, we can formally call bullshit on that claim. Rogers doesn’t oppose fee for carriage because it believes that’s what’s best for City, it opposes fee for carriage because its cable business is more important to it than its TV business.

And so Rogers continues to sabotage its TV stations for its own benefit, and people like Anne Mroczkowski pay the price.

Posted in Media, Opinion, Technology, TV

Rogers On Demand Online: Meh.

Homepage of Rogers On Demand Online

Homepage of Rogers On Demand Online

A few days ago, I got an email from a social media marketing guy at Rogers, inviting me to participate in a sneak preview of the Rogers On Demand Online service being launched on Monday (see coverage of that at Digital Home, Paid Content, Mediacaster).

It’s being called a “Canadian Hulu”, which is like saying CTV’s video portal is a Canadian Hulu, except that CTV doesn’t charge to watch its content.

I can’t imagine why Rogers would want me participating in this. I guess they cast a wide net and don’t read this blog, because otherwise they’d know I don’t think very highly of Canada’s telecom companies, and most of my reviews are negative ones.

This one is no exception.

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Posted in Opinion, TV

Battle of the fee-for-carriage misinformation campaigns

The battle for “fee for carriage” – forcing cable and satellite TV providers to hand over money to over-the-air broadcasters – is getting ugly.

A few weeks after CTV got Global and the CBC to join its “Save Local TV” campaign (now rebranded “Local TV Matters“), Bell (which owns the largest satellite TV provider) and Rogers (which owns Rogers Cable) have launched the counter-campaign Stop the TV Tax. Both websites feature “facts” pages with incredibly misleading arguments and statistics about the business model of television, and both are racing against the clock to get people to support their side in upcoming CRTC hearings on the fee for carriage issue.

Notably absent from either side is Quebecor, which owns the TVA television network (and Sun TV station in Toronto) but also the Videotron cable service. CityTV, the other notable absence on the broadcaster side, is owned by Rogers, which has clearly picked the other side in this debate.

The “TV tax” website has prompted CTVGlobeMedia to respond by calling it “misinformation”, while in the same release saying that cable companies are charging Canadians for conventional television, which is demonstrably false.

While CTV et al’s claims are suspect, the Rogers and Bell throw up some doozies of their own, including fantom quotes saying incorrectly that this is a “one time” fee. Except nobody said fee for carriage would be a one-time fee, and the website provides no source for this supposed quote. They also claim that conventional broadcasters had profits of $400 million last year, but the CRTC put that number at only $8 million (down from over $100 million) when it released statistical data in February. (UPDATE Oct. 6: I asked the Stop the TV Tax people about this, and they pointed to a Canwest quarterly report and an opinion piece about CTV, neither of which break down profit by conventional vs. specialty channels, and on Global’s side the operating profit for its non-Alliance-Atlantis TV network – which still includes a half-dozen cable channels like MovieTime and TVtropolis – was about $40 million)

When it comes to choosing between greedy broadcasters and greedy cable and satellite companies, most informed Canadians would prefer to choose neither. These slick (and expensive) lobbying campaigns – just think of how much they’re spending to lobby the CRTC directly if they’re spending this much on us – only reinforces the fact that both sides have plenty of money to spare.

Posted in Business, Montreal, Opinion, Photos

Rogers reverse graffiti ads are a ridiculous waste

A worker pressure-washes the sidewalk through a Rogers ad template

A worker pressure-washes the sidewalk through a Rogers ad template

The other night, leaving work just after midnight, I noticed a pair of guys with a truck doing some cleaning. It’s not uncommon for graffiti removal pressure-washing to take place late at night downtown, since that’s when pedestrian and other traffic is at its lowest.

But I noticed something odd: They were spraying a board of some sort.

The Rogers template up close

The Rogers template up close

Getting a closer look, I saw it was an ad for Rogers, and put two and two together: these guys were part of some guerilla marketing campaign for Rogers, engaging in “reverse graffiti

Now, reverse graffiti is not a new concept. It’s been used before to great effect artistically, and it’s been usurped by corporate forces too. So despite what the marketing genius behind this thinks, there’s no new ground being broken here.

But that’s not what bothers me.

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