Monthly Archives: June 2014

CTV News Montreal set gets refresh with video walls

New video monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side.

New video monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side.

If you’ve been watching CTV News Montreal this week — and ratings data suggest you probably have — you may have noticed something new: monitors installed behind the anchor desk on either side of the cityscape background (and, in fact, cutting it off a bit). It’s the first really noticeable refresh of the set since the new studio was inaugurated three years ago.

The purpose is mainly to have graphics to show behind anchors in close-up shots, a cooler version of the over-the-shoulder graphic.

A behind-the-shoulder graphic, with no green-screen required

A behind-the-shoulder graphic, with no green-screen required

“We added these over the weekend in the hope of making the set look a little more contemporary,” explains Dave Maynard, CTV Montreal’s Manager of Operations and Production. “When we built the set in 2011 (yes almost 3 years now), I remember looking at the twin set of nine monitors on either side of the anchors and thinking ‘damn, I should have budgeted for monitor walls.'”

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CJAD’s Aaron Rand Show wins national RTDNA Award for Lac-Mégantic coverage

Aaron Rand

Aaron Rand has cemented his reputation as a reformed music DJ/morning funny man turned serious talk radio host after his show won the national Peter Gzowski Award for a news information radio program from RTDNA Canada (formerly the Radio and Television News Directors’ Association) for its coverage of the Lac-Mégantic disaster last year. It’s among the highest honours that a show like this can receive from peers.

The Peter Gzowski Award goes to a radio station “which, in the opinion of the judges, displays overall excellence in the content and presentation of a regularly scheduled news information program which is not a daily newscast.”

CJAD is the only Montreal winner in either the radio or television category to bring home a national RTDNA Canada award from the ceremony giving them out this weekend.

Aaron Rand was sent to Lac-Mégantic after the disaster, in which a runaway train derailed in the city and killed 47 people. The broadcast of July 9, from the Polyvalente Montignac school, was submitted for the award.

Needless to say the station is very proud of the award. “We worked very hard to tell the story the way it needed to be told,” Program Director Chris Bury is quoted as eloquently saying in the Bell Media press release. “The Lac-Mégantic broadcasts were challenging from every point of view, but we were convinced our hosts, producers, and reporters needed to be there.”

The station plans to send Rand back to Lac-Mégantic for the first anniversary of the disaster, probably for a week of shows.

Radio ratings: Best book ever for TSN Radio 690

We're number one! ... Well, number five, but who's counting?

We’re number one! … Well, number five, but who’s counting?

The ratings for March, April and May in Montreal were released by BBM Canada last week. And in general they show no real difference from the previous report that came out in March. On the English side, CJAD remains the most popular station by share of listening hours, followed by The Beat, Virgin, CHOM, CBC Radio One, TSN Radio 690 and everyone else.

But while TSN 690 remains in last place among the five commercial stations, its ratings are the best it’s ever seen with 364,000 listeners a week, a 5.2% market share overall (up from 3.6% in the spring) and a 7.7% market share among adults 25-54, up 36% from last winter.

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Bob Babinski resigns as City Montreal Executive Producer

Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.

Bob Babinski was hired at City Montreal a year and a half ago.

16 months after being hired as the first man in charge of City TV’s new station in Montreal, Bob Babinski is leaving. He announced the news on Twitter on Saturday:

I spoke with him shortly after that post, and you can read his reasons in this story, which should appear in Monday’s Gazette.

The decision was announced to staff at the station on Friday, just after the broadcast of Breakfast Television. This was by design, Babinski told me, “to have the least impact on staff.”

Babinski said it was “a difficult day yesterday.”

While he said he’d been thinking about it for a while, as one does for decisions like his, he called his bosses to make it official earlier this week, the same week those bosses were busy with Rogers’s upfront presentations, giving advertisers a taste of what is to come for the fall season.

I talked with Babinski on Tuesday at the Montreal satellite event for the upfront, and he said nothing about wanting to leave. He explained that he didn’t want word to leak out before making the announcement to his staff. That announcement, which shocked everyone, was made in the presence of Jordan Schwartz, Rogers Media’s VP of in-house production and Babinski’s boss, who is visiting to help tweak the morning show a bit. (The first minor tweaks to the format should be apparent on Monday’s show.)

Schwartz tweeted this somewhat cryptic message just before midnight on Friday night:

And this more direct one on Saturday:

Schwartz told me later that he was sad to see Babinski go, but “in my head I always expected this day. I didn’t know if he’d want to stay for the day-to-day-to-day.”

There was the thought of whether there was something Rogers could do to make Babinski happier in his position, Schwartz said, but “I heard it in his voice that it was the right call.”

Schwartz said “I thought that he was a gentleman in the timing that he picked,” because it’s at the beginning of summer and gives them time to find someone new before the fall.

Manuel Fonseca, the managing producer of local programming at City Vancouver, takes over as interim executive producer in Montreal until they find a permanent replacement. Schwartz didn’t want to put a timeline on that, but said he’ll look for someone “as soon as possible.”

“I need a change”

So why is Babinski leaving? Simply put, “I need a change,” he said, emphasizing that the decision was entirely his and to the disappointment of his superiors.

Babinski said the first year and a half was about hiring new talent, setting up a TV station from scratch, and developing a new show. As we enter the second seasons of Montreal Connected and Breakfast Television, his job is becoming more administrative, doing things like coordinating content from the network. “While that’s extremely important, that stuff is less close to my heart,” he said.

So, in the middle of summer, he’s leaving and will go back to being a freelancer.

He won’t be entirely disconnected from Rogers, he said. Without giving too many details, he said he will be working with the company to produce programming related to hockey, as Rogers begins finding ways to recoup that $5.2-billion investment in NHL rights over 12 years. It will definitely be an off-air role, though. The former CBC sportscaster says his on-air days are behind him.

Babinski also told me he plans to go back to pursuing his “basic passion” of training others to be better broadcasters. He wants to expand the stuff he’s been doing there and apply it to other industries, helping corporate executives become better public speakers, for example. Again, not too many details because he doesn’t want to tip his hand before it’s all figured out.

He remains in his job until Friday, June 13. He’ll be spending his last week doing his job as usual, and preparing files for a transition to a new boss.

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NFL will push local CTV newscasts to 7:30pm Sundays this fall

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.

Shaw Media to rebrand Twist, Mystery channels

As part of its fall upfront presentation to advertisers, Shaw Media announced on Wednesday that it is launching two new specialty channels before the end of the year. Though what the press release doesn’t say is that these are actually rebrands of existing channels.

Twist becomes FYI

Twist TV, a lifestyle channel whose schedule includes reality shows like Till Debt Do Us Part, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and I don’t know how many shows devoted to weddings and bride-ness, will be rebranded FYI this fall. FYI is “geared towards a younger, upscale audience” and “offers contemporary lifestyle programs” aimed at millenials. “FYI hosts a hub of modern lifestyle programming featuring health and wellness and food and fashion.”

FYI will effectively be a Canadian version of an American channel by the same name. A&E Networks is rebranding its Bio channel to FYI as of July 8. The U.S. channel has already announced what some of its new shows will be. The list includes Epic Meal Empire, a half-hour 16-episode show starring Montreal’s Epic Meal Time. (I don’t know if this will be considered a Canadian program.)

The U.S. rebrand also brings up the question of what happens to Biography Channel Canada, owned by Rogers, which shares branding with the U.S. version, and gets shows like Gangsters: America’s Most Evil, Mobsters, Women Behind Bars, Celebrity Close Calls, Celebrity Ghost Stories and My Ghost Story from its U.S. counterpart. Without a supply of fresh content, it too could be headed toward a rebrand.

Twist began as Discovery Health Canada in 2001. When the U.S. network turned into the Oprah Winfrey Network 10 years later, the Canadian Channel was morphed into Twist. (Corus rebranded a different channel, Viva (formerly CLT) into OWN Canada.)

The history of the channel means FYI remains tied to Discovery Health’s CRTC licence conditions, which requires it to air programming “devoted entirely to useful, practical, reliable and entertaining programming related to health, wellness and medicine.”

Whether Twist and FYI fit into this definition depends, I guess, on your definition of “wellness”. If reality shows about getting married or fashion or home renovations qualify, then I guess so.

FYI will also be bound by other licence conditions, limiting the amount of sports, drama, comedy, movie and music video programming combined to 10% of the schedule. There’s no limit on the number of reality shows, formal or informal educational shows, or entertainment magazine programs.

FYI must also ensure that at least half its schedule (and half its primetime schedule) is Canadian programs.

According to CRTC figures, Twist made $1.76 million in ad revenue in 2012-13, had 2.2 million subscribers and had a 60 per cent pre-tax profit margin, employing a staff of 10. It’s clearly not in financial trouble, though I guess Shaw believes it can boost those ad figures by targetting a younger audience.

Mystery becomes Crime + Investigation

The other rebrand seems less dramatic on the surface, but involves a much bigger change in programming. Mystery, the channel whose schedule is half Law & Order reruns (plus whatever shows Shaw owns that it can pretend fit into this category), will become “Crime + Investigation” in December.

“Crime + Investigation strives to engage viewers’ minds and crime solving skills, drawing the audience into investigations by offering a behind-the-scenes look at gripping, unforgettable crime stories,” reads the press release.

This is also a case of a Canadian channel copying a U.S. brand. Crime & Investigation is also owned by A&E. Its programming features reality shows following law enforcement and investigators.

If “CI” follows the U.S. version, this will mean dropping most of its drama reruns and replacing them with justice reality shows. And that would make it very similar to Investigation Discovery, formerly Court TV Canada, a Bell-owned channel that’s doing the same thing.

First licensed in 2000 as “13th Street”, Mystery is “devoted to mystery and suspense programming. The service will nurture and encourage short-form Canadian mysteries. It will provide a wide assortment of genre-specific programs including movies, television series, short films and documentaries that will focus exclusively on the delivery of entertaining programming on suspense, espionage and classic mysteries.”

Whether law and order reality shows fit into this definition is a matter of interpretation. The channel has limits on comedy, professional sports and music video programming, but is otherwise free to air what it wishes as long as it fits the nature of service.

Mystery was co-owned with Quebecor until 2012, when Shaw bought it out. As part of that deal, Shaw promised the CRTC to devote some funding to scripted dramas and other so-called programs of national interest until 2017. The dramas wouldn’t have much of a home on the new channel, but that money could also be spent on long-form documentaries.

In the latest CRTC financial numbers, Mystery had $6.5 million a year in advertising revenue in 2012-13, a staff of 11, about 2 million subscribers (growing steadily over the past five years) and a very healthy 47 per cent profit margin.