Bell Media to shut down Fashion Television and Book Television on Feb. 22

The cull of zombie specialty channels, many of which trace their origins to a boom around 20 years ago, finally reached Bell Media, which has advised the CRTC it will shut down Fashion Television and Book Television as of Feb. 22.

The CRTC on Thursday responded by revoking the licences of Book Television and Fashion Television Channel as of that date.

Bell’s letters to the commission don’t provide any reasoning for the shutdowns, other than saying they will “cease operations.” But the business model for such channels has collapsed in recent years, as people adopt more custom TV packages and drop channels with no original content, like Cosmo, BBC Canada, G4 and many other similar channels.

According to financial statistics submitted to the CRTC, Book Television had lost more than half its revenue between 2015 and 2019 as the number of subscribers dropped and subscription fees dropped even more. It still had a healthy 40% profit margin, but with less than a million dollars in profit.

Similarly, Fashion had less than a quarter the total revenue in 2019 it had in 2015, and fewer than half the subscribers.

Neither channel has had any original programming in years and Bell has spent virtually no effort at all trying to promote them. Both reported spending $0 in Canadian programming in 2018-19. Book’s current programming is reruns of legal dramas JAG and Matlock, plus CTV shows The Amazing Race Canada, Cardinal, 19-2, Transplant and Saving Hope. Fashion’s is even more pointless, with reruns of Cash Cab, Comedy Now and Amazing Race Canada, none of which are known for having anything to do with fashion.

Both channels were originally licensed to CHUM in 2000, as part of a big wave of licences for new digital specialty channels, and were acquired by Bell when CTV acquired CHUM and Bell bought CTV.

Who’s next?

Rogers killed G4 in 2017 and Viceland in 2018, while Corus killed Cosmo and IFC in 2019 and Bell got rid of Comedy Gold in 2017, so the big guys have cut off the low-hanging fruit already. But there remain a bunch of channels that don’t have much original programming that could be on the chopping block in the coming years, including Rogers’ OLN, Bell’s Discovery Science or MTV2, Corus’s Slice or DIY and Quebecor’s AddikTV or Moi&Cie, plus a bunch of channels owned by smaller companies.

9 thoughts on “Bell Media to shut down Fashion Television and Book Television on Feb. 22

  1. Nigel Spencer

    Didn’t even know they had a book tv. Too bad!
    Fashion tv—who cares!
    Though with fewer platforms, etc., maybe the ceeb can think about some real, uncensored television for a change.
    ROC certainly needs it.

    Reply
  2. Deborah Bee

    The CRTC needs to be more vigilant about what Canadian broadcasters are airing on their various channels. It seems some of these broadcasters get a license to air a certain genre of television only to then start airing American programs that have nothing to do with what the license was for.

    CMT which was originally for Country Music, with emphasized Canadian content, now has changed into a comedy channel that airs: Three’s Company, Everybody Loves Raymond and Frasier, amount other American comedy shows.

    T+E originally meant Travel + Escape, now it broadcast shows like Riverdale, Charmed, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Paranormal Caught on Camera, etc. All of these, or at least the majority of them are American shows.

    The bottom line is that Canadian broadcasters get licensees with the idea of investing very little money in Canadian content, and with the eagerness to repurpose the network, to show foreign content, after a respectable amount of time.

    There’s way too many channels showing the same thing. It’s about time the CRTC pulled the plug or tighten the reins on this behaviour.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      That train passed long ago. The CRTC no longer imposes genre exclusivity and for the most part does not care what type of programming a channel airs (except for news and sports). So you can be called CMT and broadcast sitcoms, or be called Book Television and broadcast reality show reruns. The flip side is that if someone else wants to start up a book-based channel, they’re free to do so.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    If you look at the American & Canadian content on any of the specialty channels owned by Bell, Rogers, or Corus respectively, you’ll see cross pollination all over the place, which amounts, more or less, to a type of time-shifting of sorts for the the same new or reran shows.

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  4. Marc

    Remember when Fashion Television used to be a weekly program hosted by Jeanne Becker and not a channel unto itself?

    Reply
  5. Dilbert

    Part of the reasons these channels came into existence was Canadian to foreign packages on cable. In order to meet an arbitrary figure, cable companies were required to offer up significant numbers of Canadian channels to offset American stations and networks. Many of these channels ended up with tons of ghost subscribers, people who might never watch the channel. They were only subscribed because they wanted access to the given American service.

    Money grubbers at all levels figured out that this was meal time, and all dove in. What nobody had figured out up front was that all of this wasn’t going to be adding enough new money into the system to pay for original programming for all of these channels. Most of them quickly figured out that they could re-run the same programs on different channels, The main network (such as Global) was buying ads on their owned channels, and their owned channels were buying content from Global. Circular motion of money, not profitable but certainly pumps up the activity in the companies.

    The CRTC put a stick in their wheels by basically allowing consumers to get out of the package trap, and the subscriber numbers have quickly dwindled. It’s no longer needed, so they go.

    Reply
  6. Darren

    U can even add NBCSN too, but with the NHL rights coming up established ones like ESPN/ABC, Fox/FS!, TNT/TBS, and CBS might bid too. Premier League and Nascar rights might move to both USA and Peacock respectively.

    Reply

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