Global Montreal's Morning News hasn't had the smoothest start. As a guinea pig for a new way of producing live TV, with local control-room staff using servers across the country, it has been plagued with technical problems, some so serious they have forced the show off the air a couple of times. Marketing for it hasn't been terribly overwhelming, and if it has been generating buzz it hasn't been for the best reasons.
Now comes confirmation that the show hasn't started resonating with viewers yet. BBM numbers for the first survey of Montreal TV viewers since the show went on the air estimate its audience at about 500 viewers, which is about as much as it had before the show went on the air, when it was showing things like repeats of the previous night's newscasts.
I break down ratings numbers for this story in Tuesday's Gazette.
It would be easy to have too much fun with this, to make jokes about the show's lack of impact (I've heard a few already). But it's not for lack of effort from those involved. Hosts Richard Dagenais and Camille Ross are trying hard to get comfortable in their new roles, deal with the technical issues and make the show work. Jessica Laventure has been trying to make her presence as entertaining and informative as possible. And the people behind the scenes are tearing their hair out juggling everything to put three hours a day of live television on the air. They all deserve better.
If anyone deserves blame for this, it's Global management and Shaw Media, which have put the bare minimum (one could argue even less than that) into the show in terms of resources. It's understaffed, underfunded, undermarketed, and so it should come as no surprise that it's underviewed.
This show is here to fulfill a commitment that Shaw made to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission when it bought Global TV in 2010. It promised to fund local morning shows in six markets, including $5 million for Montreal until 2017. That means no matter how badly the show is received, it will continue to be on air at least until then. So in a sense Global doesn't have to care about ratings, certainly not in the first few weeks.
But it should, for two reasons. First, Global News Senior VP Troy Reeb told me he wants the show to be self-sufficient. Not necessarily to be profitable with advertising, but to come close enough to breaking even that it's worth continuing the investment and building a viewer relationship. That won't happen if it continues to build a relationship as an unwatchable show with nothing to offer.
Second, we're now only a few months away from the launch of a competing local morning show on City TV. That show will launch with three times the staff, and you have to expect that the difference in quality will be noticeable almost instantly. If Global's morning show hasn't developed a strong connection with viewers by then, any morning viewing looking for a local alternative to Canada AM will switch to City instead.
Global: No comment
I tried to get comment from the three broadcasters for my story, but only heard back from one by deadline (though CBC did provide me with some data). It's funny how those with good ratings information are always the easiest to get in touch with.
When I finally got Global Montreal station manager Karen Macdonald on the phone on an unrelated matter, I asked her about the ratings, and whether she's disappointed in the numbers from the morning show. She said she doesn't believe the ratings, that she feels Montreal's English market does not have a large enough sample size, and she doesn't have anything more to say on the subject.
Global has had various theories for why ratings show them so far behind their competitors (though they acknowledge that they are behind). They feel they have a strong francophone audience, which is ignored by BBM. They feel that the diary system is biased toward CTV's self-marketing power that causes some people write down that they're watching CTV News when they're actually watching Global. BBM rejects the latter argument, saying diaries ask for network, channel number and program name, and survey takers are called if there is any discrepancy.
I can understand Global's frustration with the ratings. This isn't an easy market to crack. CTV had been the only private game in town from when it launched in 1961 to when Global opened in 1997. CFCF's audience is intensely loyal, which leads to high ratings which leads to larger budgets which leads to better quality which leads to higher ratings. Only an overwhelming infusion of money over a long period of time could seriously compete with that, and even Shaw isn't ready to spend that kind of cash.
At least with mornings, Global didn't have to compete with CTV here. It runs the national Canada AM show (though "national" might be exaggerating since western CTV markets have local morning shows). But viewers so far are still happy enough with that and haven't been switching. Shaw and Global need to do a lot more if they're serious about making this show a success and keeping it going past that five-year mark.
The rest of the ratings details don't show much difference from the last report. CTV Montreal's newscasts still dominate in every time slot by a wide margin. The weekday 6pm newscast has a 52.8% market share, compared to 4.5% at CBC and 1.5% at Global. In terms of actual viewers, that works out to 133,000 for CTV, 11,400 for CBC at 6, and 3,800 for Global.
The top-rated show overall in the market is CTV's 6pm newscast. The second-highest rated is the weekend 6pm newscast.
There has been some variation. CTV says its 6pm weeknight audience is up 11%, the 6pm weekend audience is up 7.4%, and its late-night audience is up 20.5%, while its noon newscast has dropped by 21%. GM Louis Douville told me that they would be looking at the noon show. Coincidentally the next day he told me that Paul Karwatsky is being moved off of it so he can co-anchor the 6pm newscast an anchor at 11:30pm while Catherine Sherriffs is on maternity leave.
At CBC, the 5pm evening newscast continues to make gains. The spring 2013 numbers show that in the English Montreal extended market, the show has 21,000 viewers at 5pm and the same at 5:30. Its share of the audience has more than doubled for both those periods since 2011. But the 6pm newscast, which has to compete with both CTV and Global, hasn't seen that kind of growth. It has only 11,000 viewers in the latest report, and only a 5% share, compared to a 16% share at 5pm.
And yet, when you watch the newscast, it's clear that they're trying to push viewers to tune in at 6. I can't count how many times I've heard "we'll bring you more on this story at six o'clock." But clearly viewers are switching channels at that time. You have to wonder why they don't just come out with their news at 5 and either kill the last half-hour or turn it into something else.
Unfortunately decisions like these are made in Toronto, so we won't be seeing any big changes unless they make sense on a national scale.
CBC's late-night newscast has 5,000 viewers, or a 4% share, same as it had in the fall.
The BBM measurement covers three weeks in February and March. The next measurement of diary markets like Montreal will take place in October and November, for publication in January 2014.