TTP Media seeks international investors for AM radio stations

Nicolas Tétrault appears in a video seeking investment in his company’s radio stations.

It’s been nine years since a pair of local businessmen came onto the scene and declared they wanted to change how commercial radio works in this city with an $81-million bid for Corus radio stations in Quebec that were being sold to Cogeco. Eight years since, with a third partner, they got a licence for a station on the clear channel of 940 AM. Seven years since they got a second licence for 600 AM. Three years since the first station went on the air. Two years since the second station joined it.

For all that time, we’ve been waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the Bell-Astral deal to conclude, in case they had to sell one of their stations (the transaction closed in 2013). Waiting for TTP Media to solve various technical problems with their transmission site. Waiting for them to build a studio and hire talent. Waiting for the launch of regular programming, that has been promised “soon” for three years.

As it stands, the French station, CFNV 940, has spoken word programming through an agreement with online radio station CNV. CFQR 600, the English station (no relation to the old CFQR-FM at 92.5), is still running an automated music playlist. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the owners.

But a few weeks ago, Nicolas Tétrault, one of the three partners, posted a video on LinkedIn apparently seeking foreign investment in the stations.

In the seven-minute video, Tétrault talks about the duopoly in commercial radio in Montreal, with Bell Media and Cogeco Media owning most of the market share here, how “extremely complicated” it is to enter the market when there is “no financing available for radio stations,” and how the company owns “millions of dollars of equipment” but has no debt.

“It is impossible to find financing in Quebec,” Tétrault said. “The banks, they don’t lend to media, private funds don’t lend, pensions … no funds are available.”

Tétrault’s invitation notes that foreign investors can own up to 30% of a broadcasting company, and he tags his post with the United States, United Kingdom, France, India, Israel and the Cayman Islands.

This is the first I’ve heard about TTP Media needing money. In its initial applications to the CRTC, the group said its partners were investing $4.5 million, added to a $21 million loan from James Edward Capital Corporation, to provide financing to launch the stations.

Two years ago, when I asked Rajiv Pancholy about finances, he reassured me that it wouldn’t be an issue because he has negotiated loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the past and “I have the credibility in Canada on Bay St. and Wall St.”

Tétrault might not have that kind of credibility though, since he just went through a personal bankruptcy. A judge discharged the bankruptcy trustee on Jan. 18.

Finally, it’s curious that Tétrault makes no mention of his other partner, Paul Tietolman, though he mentions Pancholy twice (using “partner” in the singular). Rumours abounded about a rift between Tietolman and his partners, which all three had denied. A change in ownership would require CRTC approval.

Neither Tétrault, Pancholy nor Tietolman responded to my requests for an interview.

TTP Media’s CRTC licences were renewed to 2023 for both the French and English stations.

9 thoughts on “TTP Media seeks international investors for AM radio stations

  1. MICHEL MATHIEU

    in canada a broadcast entities connot be owned by more than 20% foreing ownership the control of the compagny MUST BE CANADIAN ! SO…..IT DOES NOT LOOK GOOD for TTP media !

    Reply
  2. mediaman15

    This is too bad, such promise we had and finally getting some competition to the now complacent CJAD now getting most of its stories from CTV Montreal.

    Do they even have any location for studios? Staffing ideas and formats? Nobody foreign will invest blindly without getting solid info and plans first.

    Reply
  3. Dilbert

    … and the other shoe drops.

    “This is the first I’ve heard about TTP Media needing money”

    Steve, with all respect, that the stations were as late to air as possible, and have the minimum required content to maintain the license should be clues that there isn’t enough money to move the process forward. The entire radio empire probably runs off a single PC in the closet the transmitter site.

    “A change in ownership would require CRTC approval.”

    Yes it would. However, a lack of money (possibly all around) to buy the other parties out means it’s likely in a stalemate situation. It’s appears that Paul Tietolman may be in that weird situation of being effectively locked out by the partners (they control 66%, so not much he can do), they really don’t have to pay much attention to him. Paul Tietolman can’t just walk away and give up the asset (whatever it may be worth), so he is pretty much just locked down.

    “the group said its partners were investing $4.5 million, added to a $21 million loan from James Edward Capital Corporation, to provide financing to launch the stations.”

    None of this squares away with any other numbers kicking around. If the partners are equal in investment (as they would normally be) the suggestion would be that each put 1.5 million in the game up front. Yet, in the bankruptcy story, it is said the tax man is looking at “an investment that it estimates at between $500,000 and $700,000 in TTP Media”. That would be less than half of the equal share. So are the partners not all equally invested?

    As for the 21 million loan, it is was much more likely a loan guarantee, and normally would have a whole pile of milestones and goalpost clauses in it that would trigger it being available. There has been absolutely no indication that even the 4.5 million has been spent, let alone any further funds beyond that. The claim in the video is no debt, which again underlines that the 21 million dollar loan hasn’t been touched – or may not even exist anymore.

    My bet is this: One of the partners (the quiet one, I think) will finally come up with enough cash investors to buy the other two out for literal pennies on the dollar – or the entire mess will be sold onto a third party for about a similar amount. It might take most of the way to the next license renewal for it to happen, but that seems to be the end game here. The three current partners clearly are not working together, nor do any of them have the cash (or are willing to put in the cash) to move the stations forward from where they are. So it’s going to need either one of the three to buy the others out, or it needs to get sold on.

    Is there really any other solution?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      If the partners are equal in investment (as they would normally be) the suggestion would be that each put 1.5 million in the game up front. Yet, in the bankruptcy story, it is said the tax man is looking at “an investment that it estimates at between $500,000 and $700,000 in TTP Media”.

      There’s a difference between the amount of financing available and the amount of money actually invested.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        Pure investment is “money in”, the 21 million dollar loan guarantee was separate. They said there was 4.5 million in as equal partners, but Revenue Canada was only looking at less than half of that from Tétrault, according to what was in your other story.

        It only makes me ask the question if the partners were in equally, or if the majority of the money came from one of the three.

        Reply
  4. Eric

    Interesting ! Maybe this explains why the CNV programming was dropped on CFNV 940 somewhere last week and replaced by a 2 hours or so playlist that goes on again and again with the same songs and no station ID. I live in Quebec City and i was listening the station at night quite often before that happens…

    Reply
  5. Sheldon Harvey

    There are probably no comments here because most people who were eagerly waiting for something new and exciting to happen in Montreal radio probably have zero interest in these two stations after all the promises and no concrete results. So sad to think of what could have been.
    Stations/owners in the US in recent times who have looked for and received foreign investment have, in many cases, had the Chinese government come courting them. There are a few radio stations in the U.S. right now running 24 hour a day programming from China Radio International. Another one has Sputnik Radio, the former Voice of Russia/Radio Moscow. Yeah, we really need that on Montreal radio!

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    This doesn’t look good.
    Partnerships are always tough, and if somebody doesn’t agree. they want to get out.
    Not sure what has happened here. Asking for investors this way is a sign that something major is up.

    Getting investors involved with two AM stations is also a major problem.

    1 – AM stations have reception problems in metropolitan areas. And the sound quality is garbage.

    2 – AM stations are asking to get onto the FM band both in Canada & the US. Either as analogue translators or as a HD sub-channel with HD RADIO.

    3 – I had heard a podcast on Fybush last year about car companies talking about removing the AM band in their radios. This podcast concerned HD RADIO offering a solution of an all AM digital band. Of which WWFD-AM 820 had, and is currently broadcasting a HD Radio signal only. No analogue.

    TTP Media will have to come up with some sort of solution other than just AM stations. Even CJAD & CKGM can be heard on 107.3 with HD Radio.

    My feeling is that CFNV-AM will probably come under the control of CNV as they are currently providing programming.

    And, CFQR-AM who knows. Worst case, they shut it down. Or sell it to some broadcaster focusing on ethnic language programming.

    TTP Media should talk to one of the stations that has HD Radio on the FM Band, and rent a HD2 & HD3 position to get a better sound quality so that they can get better exposer for both CFNV and CFQR.

    But the options are very limited. No way that Cogeco will rent out a HD channel on 105.7. That will compete against their stations. Bell 107.3 is packed with 3 HD Channels. A HD 4 would only be a mono stream. And again, no way that Bell will rent out to a competitor.
    The only current option is CHAA 103.3. They have the space. Maybe they can use the revenue from renting out two HD streams to TTP Media.

    If a new investor comes into the picture, you can bet they’ll try to pick-up a FM station, and offer HD Radio. That’s the only way they can get all the stations on the FM Band when there is little to no space left in the FM Band in this market.

    On a side note. Remember when CJLO-AM wanted a low powered FM license to cover the downtown Concordia U buildings. The CHAA-FM signal covers that. The smart money would be to rent a HD channel from them, and that would get them on the FM Band. With a far superior sound, than any other student run station in this market.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      TTP Media should talk to one of the stations that has HD Radio on the FM Band, and rent a HD2 & HD3 position to get a better sound quality so that they can get better exposer for both CFNV and CFQR.

      Maybe. Or maybe they could get programming on their stations and then worry about signal issues.

      Remember when CJLO-AM wanted a low powered FM license to cover the downtown Concordia U buildings. The CHAA-FM signal covers that. The smart money would be to rent a HD channel from them, and that would get them on the FM Band.

      Since HD Radios are basically confined to cars these days, and very few students drive to class downtown in cars, getting on HD Radio would have limited use for CJLO.

      Reply

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