Citytv cancels Breakfast Television Montreal

(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.

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.

I have more on the cuts in this story for the Montreal Gazette (focusing on the local angle) and this one for Cartt.ca (focusing on the national one).

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.

Heartbreak

The show’s cast stayed silent at first but eventually posted messages to fans on social media.

Co-host Joanne Vrakas:

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.

Weather and traffic presenter Catherine Verdon Diamond:

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.

Reporter and fill-in host Tina Tenneriello:

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.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also chimed in, saying she was saddened to learn of the cancellation:

15 thoughts on “Citytv cancels Breakfast Television Montreal

  1. mediaman15

    This is too bad, as for experience, this was an excellent spot for local content, especially local talent to promote themselves for a new CD or track,etc.
    But do you think it was also a problem of the frequent change or producers and associate producers?
    I know for a fact that calls were often not returned to publicists or emails not acknowledged.?

    As for Rogers, this actually shows they’re not committed to MTL.
    Their newscasts is a shamble with no anchor.and above all their signal is extremely weak,as being on OTA myself, they’re the only local I can’t get.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      But do you think it was also a problem of the frequent change or producers and associate producers?

      Not really, no. It’s a problem of this kind of show being expensive to produce and not getting enough local advertising when your average minute audience is below 10,000.

      Reply
  2. LaCon

    I definitely have to agree with Mediaman. Rogers does not care about Montreal. Rogers is a Toronto based company and primarily cares about its own market. Let’s face it, the Toronto market is way bigger than Montreal ,and companies like Rogers who is located there, will commit in utilizing way more resources. The English Montreal broadcasting market is the biggest joke through all of Canada’s major cities. Ottawa is even bigger and is even more competitive than Montreal (on the English side). Broadcasting programmers generally do not have a clue that each and every market is different and their programming guidelines must be adhered to and tailored to each market accordingly.

    You would think that Rogers would go head to head with Bell Media; matching their solid resources but no, they gave up. Yes, I agree that it is hard to sell advertising when your viewership is under 10,000 viewers, but programs takes time and solid backing. Advertisers like loyalty and this show had even more potential to grow and have their revenue increase along with the advertisers receiving more exposure, instead Rogers pulled the plug.

    I know that Rogers is not alone. Bell Media is notorious for letting people go. Recently, Bell let go many behind the scenes people at CTV. They let many people go after they acquired Astral Media in the summer of 2013, and as a result, many people were let go.

    Let’s face it, Media is certainly not what it used to be. I feel sorry for the many people who took journalism, and broadcasting courses; paying thousands of dollars knowing that possibly within 5 years or so, they will eventually be let go. Also media requires loyalty from their viewers and listeners. Look at what happened to Natacha and freeway Frank? One day they are doing the morning show, the next day, they are let go and on Virgin 96’s website, it was like they were never worked there! How despicable is that? Yet CEO’s of these media companies keep giving themselves bonuses along with their top executives and stockholders? Yet, they are wondering why less and less people are watching or listening to their stations? They do not deserve for us to tunein because these people believe in one thing – their bottom line – profit, profit, profit, cut, cut, cut. Dedication, loyalty, passion, and commitment mean absolutely nothing to Rogers, Bell, and any big huge organizations. Media can account to quite a lot of people getting on E.I or perhaps even welfare as jobs are getting more and more scarce! Governments (both Federal & provincial) should severely punish these companies on what they are doing. Yes, we live in a democracy but that does not mean that profits already being generated by these businesses that these top management should receive huge bonuses from the backs of their employees. This is not democracy – this is slavery!!

    Even if Rogers was able to cancel their BT Television show because since they are running local newscasts as well as the CRTC dropped the special condition of licence requiring a local morning show was deleted, Rogers seemed to be looking for a way out and now they have found a way out. Heaven forbid, Rogers would have continued with BT! Wow, what a back stabbing, bloodthirsty, and cut throat business plus they insult their respective markets and advertisers alike!

    Sincerely,

    Broadcaster!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The English Montreal broadcasting market is the biggest joke through all of Canada’s major cities. Ottawa is even bigger and is even more competitive than Montreal (on the English side).

      If you count only anglophones, Ottawa is about the same size as Montreal. And Ottawa has neither a City nor a Global station. Just CTV and CTV2.

      Yes, I agree that it is hard to sell advertising when your viewership is under 10,000 viewers, but programs takes time and solid backing.

      OK, but this show lasted six years. You can’t really say they didn’t give it time.

      Reply
  3. Dilbert

    CityTV has tried BT format in just about every market it is in, and has often cancelled or merged them after they figure out it’s just too expensive and not catching on. It’s very “toronto model” show, it works in some places and doesn’t work in others.

    More importantly, it’s a local show, which means it gets very little benefit from being part of the CityTV network, and instead they create shows that are unique to their local markets. It may work, it may not work, but no matter what, it’s relatively expensive for a time of the day where few people actually watch TV.

    For reference, it’s likely as many people are tuned to the TTP AM stations at that same time… that’s just up from watching a test pattern for most people.

    The thing is they produced a pretty good show all considered. But with only maybe 4k people an hour watching, it’s unlikely they would have ever made any money from it.

    I feel sorry for the people who lost their jobs. Rogers has once again shown that “minimum CRTC requirement” seems to be all they are putting out there for Montreal.

    Reply
  4. mediaman15

    At the end of the day, Elias Makos said it best when he congratulated his former associates with the resources they had.
    That’s a telling statement..
    And when you add the recent departures From the local Rogers outlet, it’s fair to say that it’s a shoestring operation.. thus people moving on to expand their skills and possibly some national advancement..
    Again it’s still too bad with BT having been all local, but then again, their guests and features were becoming a habit and very predictable, and neglected lots of other areas.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    The show was really terrible. It was filler, and gossip for three hours. Sorry, but I need info to get going for the day. They where not really providing it. And gossip pretending to be passed off as news won’t cut.

    But, I do feel bad about the people who have lost their jobs. Especially in this market. It’s really becoming brutal.

    And that horrific 6pm and 11pm news is just a waste of electricity.
    If they just concentrated on the morning show, and not spread themselves too thin, maybe BT-Montreal would have been worth tuning into.

    Also, a few people pointed out CJNT-TV’s very low power on its transmitter.
    Of all the things to fix that would appear as the easiest would be to triple the transmitter power on channel 62.1 But, they can’t even handle that.

    It seems that Rogers only wants simsub protection in this market. What a great business plan.
    Especially in an era where cord cutting is the new hip.

    Reply

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