Monthly Archives: June 2013

CTV Montreal newscast goes HD on Monday

Before (click to enlarge)

Before (click to enlarge)

After (click to enlarge)

After (click to enlarge)

Some of you have been waiting for this for years, cursing, complaining, being sarcastic or otherwise criticizing as the months go by. On Monday, CTV Montreal’s newscasts finally switch to high definition.

The station has spent the past few months converting the last piece of its big puzzle, the control room, to high definition. In fact, the transition has required the creation of a second control room as the first one has continued operating. Studio cameras, field cameras and editing suites have been in HD for quite some time, requiring an awkward HD-to-SD conversion, which goes back to HD for air.

The final switches will happen over the weekend, which means the weekend newscasts will move to the newsroom, the same place they were done from in the summer of 2011 when the station rebuilt its studios.

Among the changes happening over the weekend, a wall being moved about two feet to make room for a wider (16:9) chroma key wall used for weather.

Monday’s noon newscast will be the first in HD.

CTV Montreal has been slower than its competitors to make the transition. Publicly and privately, people in charge have admitted that there’s little competitive pressure to make the very expensive switch. Even with black bars beside a squarish image, CTV Montreal far outdoes competing newscasts from CBC and Global in the ratings.

Montreal is about the middle of the pack for CTV in the transition in major markets. Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver have already switched.

New control room means five retirements

The new control room will be run by OverDrive, an automated control room system by Canadian company Ross Video. The new automation will reduce the number of people needed in the control room, though CTV Montreal is keeping a lot of control in human hands.

Five jobs will be lost when the transition to the automated system is complete. All five, says Operations Manager Dave Maynard, are voluntary retirees. They include CTV Montreal union local president Doug Kelly.

“To get that point took a helluva lot of work, but the end result is that we have a positive, even enthusiastic work environment that welcomes this automation system,” Maynard said.

The automation system will be phased in, starting with the late-night newscast. A week later, the noon newscast will be produced with OverDrive. The 6pm newscast will switch to the automation system on June 22.

Dave Maynard on CTV set

CTV Montreal Operations Manager Dave Maynard

The transition will be of personal significance for Maynard. He won’t be directing under the OverDrive system, and is giving up his director’s seat in the control room in order to focus full-time on his job as operations manager for the station. His last newscast as a director will be at 6pm on June 21.

“I will hang up my director’s hat (or socks) and never tell another joke into Mits’ earpiece ever again,” he said.

Don’t worry. He still has her email address.

Alexandre Despatie, Joanne Vrakas named hosts of City Montreal’s Breakfast Television

Alexandre Despatie and Joanne Vrakas (Photo: Rogers Media)

Alexandre Despatie and Joanne Vrakas (Photo: Rogers Media)

Hours ahead of their Upfront presentation to advertisers, City Montreal has named the two people who will host Breakfast Television when it launches in August: Alexandre Despatie, the former world champion diver who announced his retirement from competitive diving only two days ago, and Joanne Vrakas, the radio and TV personality whose previous job was a TV reporter for CBC Montreal.

You can read more about the announcement in this story in The Gazette, which includes excerpts of an interview with Despatie and Vrakas.

The announcement of Despatie in particular has been enough to capture the interest of French-language media in Quebec, who could normally not care less about local English-language television. Brief stories in HuffPost Quebec, 98.5fm, Hollywood PQ, Agence QMI, and an interview with Rogers-owned L’Actualité. Also in English, a story from Canadian Press that will get posted everywhere, and one from J-Source.

(UPDATE: More from the Journal de Montréal and TVA Sports, and an interview with Pénélope McQuade)

The two hosts have been doing the rounds at Breakfast Televisions across the country this morning, which is a bit odd because people who watch those shows won’t be watching BT Montreal. Here’s their interview with Winnipeg and Toronto, the latter of which is ridiculously labelled an “exclusive.”

Joining Vrakas and Despatie will be Wilder Weir, the co-host of Montreal Connected. Weir will be a roving “Live Eye” host.

Breakfast Television hosts Joanne Vrakas, Wilder Weir and Alexandre Despatie are shown off to advertisers on Thursday evening.

Breakfast Television hosts Joanne Vrakas, Wilder Weir and Alexandre Despatie are shown off to advertisers on Thursday evening.

Jeffrey Feldman, who has been a Montreal-based producer for eTalk and Fashion Television, had previously been announced as supervising producer for the morning show. Also previously announced is Elias Makos, formerly CTV Montreal’s tech columnist, who is now City’s New Media Producer. He will appear daily on Breakfast Television.

CRTC’s Wireless Code vs. Quebec’s Bill 60

On Monday morning, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued its final Wireless Code, a set of rules all wireless service providers in Canada have to abide by. I was curious how this code compares to the rules the Quebec government put into place in 2009 that similarly protect consumers in cellphone (and other) service contracts.

The result is this story in The Gazette, which appears in Wednesday’s paper. It lists point by point the provisions of both. In general, they’re very similar in terms of how cancellation fees are calculated, how major elements of contracts can’t be changed unilaterally, and how renewals are done. Bill 60 also includes a prohibition on late-payment fees or additional fees for pay-as-you-go services. But most of the advantage for the consumer is in the CRTC’s code, which specifically deals with wireless service. It includes a de facto two-year maximum on contracts, a 15-day trial period, a right to unlock phones, notification of data roaming and caps on data overage and data roaming fees.

You can read the CRTC’s decision here setting the Wireless Code into place and explaining its reasoning. Quebec’s Bill 60 became law in 2009, and the text of it is here (PDF).

The Wireless Code comes into effect with contracts signed on or after Dec. 2, though providers can start applying the new rules to new contracts as soon as they’re drawn up. Since it’s not really in their interest for people to wait, I would expect the code’s provisions to be in new contracts by the major wireless companies before then.

If your main concern is contract length, by the way, you can go ahead and sign now. As of two years from now, all contracts must comply with the code, which means in two years you won’t have a cancellation fee, even if your contract right now says you will.

How will this be paid for?

The big question now is how these changes (particularly contract length) will be reflected in the marketplace. Having phones subsidized over two years instead of three will mean one of three things:

  1. Higher prices for new handsets. I’m guessing this is the most likely option. Instead of getting, say, a $360 subsidy on a phone, which works out to $10 a month for 36 months, the subsidy might only be $240, which means the phone will be $120 more expensive. Expect fewer $0 smartphones.
  2. Higher monthly rates. If subsidies are done over two years instead of three, then they have to be 50% higher on a monthly basis. So that $10 a month subsidy now has to be $15 a month if the total subsidy is the same. But in my experience there hasn’t been much flexibility in monthly pricing based on device subsidy, and monthly fees have much more competitive pressure than initial handset cost. Prices might inch up slowly, but only if all the major providers agree their profit margin at the lower price is unsustainable.
  3. Lower profits. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. But wireless providers make decisions all the time that result in lower profits, hoping that they might result in higher profits down the road. Acquiring new customers has a large price to it (beyond just the phone subsidy), but if you can lock them in for three years or longer, you’ll make much of that money back. Reducing the contract to two years will mean less time to recoup this acquisition cost. We may see an effect on the bottom line here.

Because, in two years from now, all contracts will have to have zero-fee cancellation after two years, expect new handset costs to go up quickly. Which means even though it sounds like it might be a good idea to wait until December, now might actually be the best time to get a new phone.

Quebecor’s new STM bus shelter: cool, slick, but is it useful?

Quebecor out-of-home VP Claude Foisy demonstrates the new interactive screen

Quebecor out-of-home VP Claude Foisy demonstrates the new interactive screen

When Claude Foisy walked up to the big ad screen and it changed, I have to admit I thought that was pretty cool.

It didn’t transform into a helicopter or anything, it just displayed a menu.

This is the new Abribus, introduced by Quebecor and the STM on Tuesday morning at a rather fancy press conference.

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