(Updated with social media posts from on-air talent)
Breakfast Television Montreal is no more. Staff were informed just after Thursday’s show that it was their last one.
Eight jobs will be lost as a result of the cancellation. It leaves 41 Rogers Media employees in Montreal — 21 at CityNews and OMNI, and 20 in sales.
“This decision was very difficult, but at the end of the day, the show was not sustainable,” an emailed statement quoted Colette Watson, SVP of Television & Broadcast Operations, Rogers Media, as saying. “We remain deeply committed to the local market in Montreal and are redirecting resources to our news presence in Montreal at CityNews and OMNI Television with Italian news and the launch of a national third-language newscast next year in support of our OMNI 9(1)(h) licence. We recognize and thank all employees who worked at BT Montreal over the years for their incredible work and commitment and making mornings brighter for our viewers.”
BT Montreal had just celebrated its sixth anniversary.
Happy 6th birthday BT! (This was right before I almost dropped the cake).
— Chantal Desjardins (@ChantalOnAir) August 25, 2019
At the same time, Rogers Media is making changes in Calgary and Vancouver. The morning shows there will be “reimagined” and “refreshed” with more national lifestyle and entertainment segments produced out of Toronto. This has resulted in 11 cuts in Calgary, including producer Ian Busby and meteorologist Andrew Schultz, and four more in Vancouver.
Because Citytv Montreal meets its local programming requirements with its local newscasts launched last year, and because in its last licence renewal in 2017 the special condition of licence requiring a local morning show was deleted, BT was no longer a requirement for regulatory purposes.
BT Montreal was hosted by Joanne Vrakas and Derick Fage, with Catherine Verdon Diamond on weather and traffic. (Verdon Diamond had been on leave with swollen vocal cords.) It also provided work for fill-in hosts like Chantal Desjardins and Natasha Gargiulo.
BT also had a large staff behind the scenes (especially when compared to its competitor at Global), who are now looking for work.
According to Numeris ratings, the show had about 4,700 viewers on average this year. Rogers says it will replace BT with daytime talk show Cityline, a repeat of the previous night’s CityNews broadcast, and other Citytv programming.
According to CRTC data, the six stations that make up the Citytv network (excluding City Saskatchewan) spent $22.5 million in 2017-18 on news programming, and received $31 million in local advertising revenue. The network overall had a $3 million operating profit, or a razor-thin 1.6% profit margin. Even with $5.4 million in transfers from Rogers Cable for local news, its PBIT was in the red.
The show’s cast stayed silent at first but eventually posted messages to fans on social media.
The bosses and some of the faces may have changed but everybody at BT always believed we were doing something important. Something worthwhile for Montreal throughout.
BT felt like my baby, something I helped shape and develop into what it became.
Something we built from nothing has not only gone, but disappeared so this is obviously not easy.
Although I am heartbroken to see the show come to an end, I will forever cherish the crazy and amazing moments I had with my second family. Montreal … you truly welcomed me with open arms, and I thank you for that. … I am so heartbroken to see this show come to an end and will miss my BT family tremendously, but I truly believe that this is the closing of one chapter for me, and the beginning of another.
A job where we got to laugh, smile & have this much fun. How lucky we were. It’s been tough to find the right words to describe how I feel about Breakfast Television Montreal getting canceled. The last 2 years have been an incredible opportunity to give inspiring people a voice and work with THE BEST team in the biz; they taught me SO much. BT was unique and important for the anglophone community in Montreal.
Former colleagues have also posted sympathetic messages about the cut.
To my friends at Breakfast Television Montreal, I am so sad to hear the news today. What you accomplished, with those resources, is nothing short of astounding. Montreal media is losing a really vibrant part of the landscape. Love you guys.
— Elias Makos?? ? (@eliasmakos) September 5, 2019
— Laura Casella (@La_Casella) September 5, 2019
Absolutely devastated to hear about my former colleagues losing their jobs today. @BTCityNewsMTL was a damn good morning show. The BT team is so talented and full of life, such a shame. Everyone else: you should be worried about your democracy if you keep losing local content. https://t.co/MvBYLxBeC3
— Emily Campbell (@ECampbellCTV) September 5, 2019
Today was an awful day for Montreal's media landscape with the loss of Breakfast Television. The friends I made there made it worth waking up at 2am every day, and the work the team did was nothing short of amazing. You're all in my heart, and my DMs for any job postings.
— Andrew Brennan (@ABrennanCTV) September 5, 2019
This sucks. I remember all the positive energy in the office when BT launched back in 2013 with @BobBabinski. Wishing @joannevrakas @DerickFage @CVDmtl and all the hard workers behind the camera best of luck moving forward. https://t.co/zlaZFk3cYt
— Sean Coleman (@SColemanUFA) September 5, 2019
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also chimed in, saying she was saddened to learn of the cancellation:
— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) September 5, 2019