Category Archives: TV

CRTC renews all mandatory TV subscription orders

If the CRTC is trying to wean the broadcasting system off of free money, it hasn’t been showing it in the past couple of weeks as it has renewed mandatory distribution orders for most services that have that special status requiring all cable, satellite and IPTV subscribers to subscribe to those services.

Every service whose status was up for renewal on Aug. 31 was renewed, with three getting an increase in their per-subscriber fee and one getting a decrease. Overall, the total goes up by seven cents a month per subscriber.

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What to expect from CityNews Montreal, which launches Monday

Gazette photographer Dave Sidaway composes a photo of CityNews Montreal journalists Andrew Brennan, Akil Alleyne, Emily Campbell, Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed and Giordano Cescutti at the Citytv Montreal studio on Friday.

A handful of young journalists have been spending a couple of weeks rehearsing for the launch of Montreal’s fourth English-language daily evening local newscast. On Labour Day, ready or not, it goes live.

CityNews Montreal is part of the second half of five local City stations that have decided to join Toronto in having local news at 6 and 11pm. Rogers has determined that these evening newscasts are worth investing in as part of meeting their new requirements for “locally reflective news” established by the CRTC as of last year.

To get an idea what we can expect from this newscast, I watched the existing ones in Edmonton and Winnipeg, and talked with Dave Budge, VP of news and information at Rogers, plus briefly with Melanie Porco, supervising producer in Montreal.

The result is this Montreal Gazette story, published in Saturday’s paper. It explains how the anchorless newscast works. But for the TV and policy nerds, a few extra tidbits here.

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“Expert reacts” videos and accuracy in TV and movies

I’ve recently stumbled on a new trend in YouTube videos: experts taking popular movies and TV shows and reviewing scenes from them for accuracy. Wired and Vulture have done several of them, and some educational YouTube channels have found that they’re very popular with viewers.

I’ve watched dozens of them over the past few weeks, and many of them are fascinating, not only for people who like to nitpick about fiction as presented on screen, but because they demonstrate how hard it can be to get things right, and how great it is to see when they do.

If this kind of thing interests you as well, I’ve compiled the ones I’ve found below, grouped by topic. Enjoy.

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Major cable TV companies’ licences renewed: What the CRTC decided

On Aug. 2, the CRTC renewed the broadcasting licences of most of Canada’s major cable TV companies, including Videotron, Cogeco, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Eastlink, Telus, VMedia and Bell MTS.

Though it wasn’t technically a policy proceeding, the omnibus licence renewals allowed the commission to impose a bunch of de facto policies, or clarify existing ones, on everyone at the same time. (Licenses for Bell’s Fibe TV operations, Bell satellite TV, Shaw Direct and some other distributors weren’t part of this proceeding, and smaller distributors who are exempt from licensing aren’t affected.)

Here’s what was decided:

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Citytv to launch local evening newscasts in Montreal Sept. 3

More than a year after it was announced that Citytv is creating local evening newscasts in markets including Montreal, we finally have a launch date: Sept. 3.

On that date, CityNews launches newscasts at 6pm and 11pm in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

Rogers has also announced staffing for those newscasts. In Montreal, the anchorless newscasts will be staffed by the following reporters (bios from the press release):

  • Akil Alleyne – Alleyne is a graduate of Princeton University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he studied constitutional and international law. His previous experience includes stops at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as a Research and Program Associate; and CBC where he assisted with production, and writing.
  • Andrew Brennan – A newly-minted reporter with Breakfast Television Montreal, Brennan will continue to engage Montrealers with the local buzz on CityNews. For the last five years, Brennan has been a news anchor and reporter at CJAD 800. He graduated from Concordia University with a double-degree in Communication Studies and Journalism. (He announced his move last week.)
  • Emily Campbell – Campbell is an experienced video journalist, most recently having worked in reporting and as an anchor with CJAD 800 News and her work has appeared on CNN.
  • Giordano Cescutti – With a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Concordia University, Cescutti is a recipient of the Sportsnet Scholarship in Sports Journalism for excellence in journalism and sports reporting. His previous experience includes MAtv, Montreal Gazette and CJLO 1690AM, where he was co-host and producer of award-winning sports talk show The Starting Rotation.

They will work under Supervising Producer Melanie Porco, who has been with Citytv Montreal since its launch in 2013. Two people have also been hired to work behind the scenes with the newscast in Montreal, which will be directed out of a centralized control room in Vancouver.

Last fall, Citytv hired two reporters in Montreal in preparation for the new newscasts: Tina Tenneriello and Cora MacDonald. MacDonald left Citytv recently to join Global Montreal. (UPDATE July 20: Tenneriello is also gone. She’s leaving to host a web series about “inspiring people transforming their communities through social initiatives”)

As previously announced, the newscasts will be an hour long, at 6pm and 11pm, seven days a week.

When the announcement was made, the plan was to have the newscasts running in the winter. Rogers wouldn’t say what caused the delay, beyond this: “The fall launch is reflective of our commitment to ensuring we are delivering a gold standard of local news in these markets.”

In Vancouver, the staff is:

  • Ashley Burr, formerly of CKPG in Prince George, Alta.
  • Kyle Donaldson, producer and on-air personality with Breakfast Television Vancouver
  • Travis Prasad, formerly a news writer at CTV Vancouver
  • Isabelle Raghem, formerly of CHEK News and CHCH
  • Tom Walsh, Breakfast Television reporter since 2017
  • David Zura, formerly of Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver
  • Mary Cranston, Thor Diakow and Greg Harper, existing Breakfast Television Vancouver reporters

In Calgary, the newly announced staff is:

  • Kristen Fong, formerly of Global News Radio
  • Kendra Fowler, formerly of 660 News
  • Crystal Laderas, formerly of 660 News.
  • Michael Lumsden, reporter for Breakfast Television Calgary since 2017
  • Jonathan Mumam, formerly of 660 News
  • Brittany Rosen, formerly of CTV Regina

CityNews launched in Edmonton and Winnipeg last fall (those stations had dropped their Breakfast Television programs, so launching newscasts became a requirement to meet new local news quotas). Once the new newscasts are running, City will be able to meet its local programming and local news conditions of licence with just the evening newscasts, meaning Breakfast Television will no longer be required.

“There will be no changes to BT as a result of the launch of CityNews Montreal,” Rogers spokesperson Michelle Lomack tells me, repeating what has been said previously. But that could always change as the decline of ad revenue puts more pressure to cut costs.

Télé Inter-Rives proposes bringing over-the-air TV back to Îles-de-la-Madeleine

There’s not much clearer evidence of the declining industry of over-the-air television than the lack of demand for new TV stations in the country. With some exceptions (ICI in Montreal, for example), there haven’t been applications for new over-the-air stations in about 20 years. Instead, major networks like CBC, TVO and CTV have been shutting down transmitters en masse to save money.

So it’s a bit surprising that someone has submitted an application for a new transmitter, in one of the most remote places in the country: the Magdalen Islands (Îles-de-la-Madeleine), the archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that belongs to Quebec but is actually closer to all four Atlantic provinces than it is to the Quebec mainland.

The application comes from CHAU, the TVA affiliate in Carleton on the Gaspé peninsula. It’s owned by Télé Inter-Rives, which also operates affiliates of the three major French-language networks (Radio-Canada, TVA and V) in Rivière-du-Loup. In addition to its main transmitter in Carleton, CHAU operates 11 digital retransmitters in the Gaspé peninsula and northern New Brunswick. This would be the 12th transmitter, CHAU-DT-12.

(CHAU, like other independent broadcasters, made the investment to convert their over-the-air transmitters to digital even though they were not required to do so by the government’s digital transition plan because they served small communities.)

Proposed transmission pattern of CHAU-DT-12 in Îles-de-la-Madeleine

CHAU-DT-12 would be a 100-watt station, with a transmitter on Channel 12 in Cap-aux-Meules on the local transmission tower operated by GAD E?lectronique. CHAU puts the cost of the new transmission facility at $37,572. That’s about $3 for each of the region’s 12,000 or so residents.

Because it’s a retransmitter, CHAU-DT-12 wouldn’t be a local station for the islands, but CHAU says it wants to provide local programming, working with independent producers on the islands and doing reporting using technologies like Skype and FaceTime. CHAU says in its application that the residents of the islands have a lot in common with those of the Gaspé peninsula and Acadian communities in New Brunswick, including an interest in fishing.

It promises to devote at least 20 minutes a week to local news relevant to the islands.

The islands haven’t had an over-the-air television transmitter since CBC/Radio-Canada shut down its extensive network of analog TV rebroadcasters in 2012. Before they were shut down, they had two retransmitters of the Radio-Canada station in Montreal (CBIMT and CBIMT-1) and one retransmitter of CBC Montreal (CBMYT).

“In today’s difficult environment for over-the-air television in Canada, the project to extend CHAU’s signal to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine represents an investment that is unexpected but achievable thanks to technical possibilities that reduce installation and operational costs,” the application reads.

The CRTC is accepting comments about CHAU’s application until July 5. Comments can be filed here. Note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record.

CRTC report has fundamental but very vague suggestions to change our broadcasting system

One day before the deadline set by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, the CRTC on Thursday released a report into the broadcasting system that proposes major, fundamental changes to how broadcasting is regulated in this country. (The condensed backgrounder is here.)

Unfortunately, that report is also quite vague, even on the parts that should be specific.

It’s not the CRTC’s fault, really, because that’s not really its purpose. The original order issued back in September by Joly is just as vague, seeking a report on “the distribution model or models of programming that are likely to exist in the future; how and through whom Canadians will access that programming; the extent to which these models will ensure a vibrant domestic market that is capable of supporting the continued creation, production and distribution of Canadian programming, in both official languages, including original entertainment and information programming.”

In terms of assessing programming distribution models, the report is pretty clear, but is also repeating a lot of stuff we already know: conventional television and radio are mature industries and have no way to go but down, online audio and video streaming services are catching on with the population, and Internet delivery of content means more Canadians are getting that content directly from foreign sources who don’t have to contribute to Canadian content or answer to the CRTC.

What’s new is what the commission proposes to do about it, but that’s where the data and charts go out the window and we’re left with vague, obvious suggestions and what often sounds like one unnamed person’s opinion.

But let’s go through them and look at the issues in a bit more detail:

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Corus abandons plan to sell Séries+ and Historia to Bell after Competition Bureau says no

Updated with Corus calling off the deal.

Corus and Bell have dropped their plans for Bell to acquire Corus’s ownership of French-language specialty channels Séries+ and Historia days after Corus announced the Commissioner of Competition has decided not to approve the $200-million purchase.

Reasons weren’t given — the bureau itself has not released a statement, but a spokesperson points out to Cartt.ca that their agreement with Bell is that it wouldn’t try to acquire them within 10 years. Five years ago, when Bell sought to purchase Astral Media (which at the time co-owned Séries+ and Historia with Shaw), the bureau came to an agreement to approve that sale, under various conditions that included the sale of those two channels. To allow Bell to re-buy those channels now would mean that the bureau does not take its own demands seriously.

The fact that Bell would have more than half the subscription revenue of French-language television in Canada might also have something to do with it.

The sale had gone through a CRTC process and was awaiting a decision. Now that process will be abandoned.

Bell Media decides Daily Planet and InnerSpace aren’t worth the cost anymore

We’re getting into upfront season in Canadian television — the time of year when the networks set their fall schedules and present teasers to advertisers to try to drum up excitement for the coming season.

It’s also the time when we find out what’s not coming back. This week, Bell Media told staff that it’s pulling the plug on on daily news magazine shows on two of its most popular specialty channels: Daily Planet on Discovery Channel and InnerSpace on Space.

Daily Planet was born @discovery.ca in 1995, and has been with Discovery since its launch. It was hosted for the longest time by Jay Ingram, and now by Dan Riskin and Ziya Tong. The hour-long daily series includes several documentary segments visiting factories, builders and scientists doing cool stuff. Its final show is June 5.

InnerSpace, hosted by Ajay Fry, Teddy Wilson and Morgan Hoffman, originally started as HypaSpace in 2002, though that was itself the natural progression of short-form videos about sci-fi news that had been on the channel in various forms through the years. Even as InnerSpace, the show was a bit of a hype machine for sci-fi shows that aired on Space or other Bell Media channels. (They were also responsible for the Orphan Black after shows.) But there were segments on comic books, interviews with authors and a lot of other segments that showed a staff that cared about what they were doing. Its final show was May 23.

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TVA to buy Évasion and Zeste, eliminating another independent TV broadcaster

The number of independent commercial television broadcasters in French Canada can be counted on one hand, and soon that number will decline even further as Bell and Quebecor gobble up whatever they don’t already own.

As Bell’s proposed purchase of Corus’s Historia and Séries+ awaits CRTC approval, TVA announced Tuesday it has agreed to purchase Serdy Media’s specialty channels Évasion and Zeste for $24 million.

The transaction requires CRTC approval, and we’ll learn more when that application is posted. Generally the purchase of TV assets requires a tangible benefits package of 10% of the value of the transaction, which means at least $2.4 million going to production funds or other independent initiatives that benefit the broadcasting system.

Évasion is profitable, with almost $10 million in subscription revenue, $2.6 million in ad revenue and $10 million in expenses in the year ending Aug. 31, 2016. But in 2015 and 2016 it lost bout 5% of subscribers a year. Zeste does not have full financial information published by the CRTC, but had $6.6 million in revenue and $3.8 million in Canadian programming expenses in 2016, which suggests a similar level of profitability.

This is yet another step in the consolidation of French-language television in Canada in two hands: Bell and Quebecor. Each is bulking up to compete with the other, convincing the CRTC that their purchases are necessary because the other has gotten bigger. If the Corus and Serdy sales go through, it would leave only V, children’s channels, non-profit services, some local stations and a handful of others (MétéoMédia and Frissons TV) not controlled by the two giants.

Here’s what Canada’s French-language television landscape looks like:

Quebecor (Groupe TVA):

  • TVA
  • addikTV
  • Casa
  • LCN
  • Moi & Cie
  • Prise 2
  • TVA Sports
  • Yoopa

Bell Media (*former Astral channels):

  • Canal D*
  • Canal Vie*
  • Cinépop*
  • Investigation
  • RDS
  • RDS Info
  • Super Écran*
  • Vrak*
  • Z*

Corus:

  • Historia (pending sale to Bell)
  • Séries+ (pending sale to Bell)
  • Chaîne Disney
  • Télétoon

Groupe Serdy:

  • Évasion (pending sale to TVA)
  • Zeste (pending sale to TVA)

V Média:

  • V
  • MusiquePlus
  • MAX

Independent for-profits:

  • DHX Media: Télémagino
  • Frissons TV
  • Pelmorex: MétéoMédia
  • RNC Media (regional affiliates)
  • Télé Inter-Rives (regional affiliates)
  • TéléMag (Quebec City)

Radio-Canada:

  • ICI Radio-Canada télé
  • ICI ARTV
  • ICI Explora
  • ICI RDI

Other public and non-profit broadcasters:

  • AMI Télé
  • Canal Savoir
  • CPAC
  • Télé-Québec
  • TFO
  • TV5/Unis
  • Community channels

Global Montreal splits evening news in two

Global Montreal this week made a small change to its weekday schedule, swapping the second half-hour of its evening newscast with Global National. So as of this week, the evening news works like this:

  • 5:30: Local news
  • 6:00: Global National
  • 6:30: Local news
  • 7:00: ET Canada

As far as I can tell, this is the only Global station to do this so far. Okay, there are some counterexamples in the comments.

I watched three of the five newscasts this week to see how the new format works. The two newscasts are virtually identical, with the same stories (sometimes repackaged differently), same weather segments (literally the same prerecorded segments played again for the second newscast), and same stories taken from other Global stations to fill the schedule.

A typical 5:30 or 6:30 newscast comes down to roughly this:

  • A minute-long intro
  • 10-12 minutes of local news (four packaged or live reports, plus 2-5 briefs)
  • A minute-long weather segment (pretaped with the weather presenter in Toronto)
  • Commercial break
  • One or two stories from another Global station or a U.S. news source
  • Commercial break
  • A three-minute weather segment
  • Closing market numbers
  • Teaser to a local story being discussed on Facebook
  • Commercial break
  • More briefs, a promo for Morning News, and either a promo for Global National (during the 5:30 newscast) or a two-minute ET Canada promo that doubles as entertainment news (during the 6:30)

On average:

  • 12m15s local news
  • 3 min non-local news
  • 4m15s weather
  • 15 sec business
  • 2m30s promos, bumpers and other filler

There’s no duplication with Global National, so this new schedule means you can sit down for an hour starting at 5:30, or an hour starting at 6. It also means that people who get home after 6pm can still catch a local newscast (though CTV’s newscast does a top stories recap at the top of the half-hour).

The Global Montreal news team has also expanded by two, hiring away Kalina Laframboise from CBC as a web producer and Cora MacDonald from City as a photojournalist. MacDonald had been hired at City Montreal for their new newscast, but that hasn’t even launched yet. No news about it has been announced.

Eight proposals to replace OMNI

Updated April 20 with a clarification from Rogers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has released eight applications for national ethnic television services, and set a hearing for Oct. 15 to discuss which of them would be the best candidate to replace OMNI.

Last year, the commission caved to OMNI’s demand that it be given mandatory subscription fees from all television subscribers, under the threat of surrendering the licence and leaving the country without a multilingual TV service offering newscasts. But in giving in, the CRTC also set a limit of three years (until Aug. 31, 2020) and said that it would ask other broadcasters if they had better proposals for such a mandatory ethnic service, and consider them at a future hearing.

On Tuesday, the CRTC released eight applications, seven for TV services (including OMNI’s proposal for renewing its status) and one for an ethnic described video guide. Each makes proposals for multilingual programming including national newscasts and proposes a mandatory monthly fee.

I analyzed the nearly 200 documents submitted for the eight applications and below present an analysis of the applicants, proposals and programming:

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Sportsnet keeps Jets playoff games off CBC

The Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s team. Or at least the CBC’s.

That much has been made abundantly clear this season. Every Saturday night, if the Leafs are playing, they’re on CBC (except when CBC was broadcasting the Olympics). With a market that encompasses a third of Canada’s population, it makes sense that this team would get more attention, but the one-sidedness has been particularly striking.

Habs fans too cheap to pay for Sportsnet have been complaining the past couple of seasons that Canadiens games on Hockey Night in Canada have been punted to Sportsnet rather than broadcast on free TV channels CBC or City. Sportsnet has admitted this was done mainly to drive subscriptions to Sportsnet.

And as the NHL playoffs begin tonight, and CBC devoting its entire primetime schedule to hockey, it seems they’re doing it again, this time to the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets and Leafs are the only two Canadian teams to make the playoffs, and even though their games both start at 7pm ET (6pm in Winnipeg, but in the playoffs you need to be either an early game or a late game), not a single one of the up to 14 games involving the two teams overlap — they’re all scheduled on different nights.

But there won’t be any Jets games on CBC, at least not until Game 5 and likely not until next round at the earliest. Instead, all Leafs games will be broadcast on CBC but all Jets games are on Sportsnet. And while the Jets are on Sportsnet, CBC viewers will get to watch the all-American Philadelphia-Pittsburgh series instead. Even those in Winnipeg.

I asked Sportsnet about the decision, and this was the response I got:

As you can imagine, there are numerous factors taken into consideration when coordinating the broadcast schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case, with two series featuring Canadian teams in the first round, the decision was made that Sportsnet and CBC would each have the opportunity to broadcast one of those two series. Winnipeg is a key priority for Sportsnet and Sportsnet is thrilled to be broadcasting the entire Jets series to Canadians from coast-to-coast.

In other words, the Jets are on Sportsnet because Sportsnet wanted a Canadian series. Which sounds reasonable (similar to how CBC and TSN split playoff series before the Sportsnet/NHL deal) until you remember that Sportsnet controls the CBC broadcast as well.

So why keep the Jets off CBC during a time when lots of casual fans might tune in, and Sportsnet is looking to maximize ratings?

Because of money. Of the 82 regular-season Jets games, 60 are on TSN3. Casual Jets fans in Manitoba don’t have much incentive to subscribe to Sportsnet if they’re not otherwise interested in sports. So Sportsnet is hoping to drive subscriptions from those potential fans, even if it means many fans just won’t watch the games and they’ll lose potential ad revenue.

But, of course, that logic doesn’t apply to the Leafs. The Leafs are so popular that ad revenue is more important than subscription revenue. So the Leafs get CBC.

On one hand, Manitoba Jets fans should just subscribe to Sportsnet (it’s available over-the-top for $25 a month). On the other hand, this definitely does feel like a middle finger to a market that has had to suffer for a long time, and hasn’t seen a playoff game win in more than 20 years.

TVA Sports, by the way, is also not giving priority to the Jets. Of the first four matches, three will be broadcast on TVA Sports 2 because of conflicts with Flyers-Penguins or Capitals-Blue Jackets.

The NHL playoffs begin Wednesday with the Jets and Wild playing at 7pm on Sportsnet. The Leafs and Bruins play Game 1 on Thursday at 7pm on CBC. For channel assignments for these and other series, see sportsnet.ca/schedule.

Yet another “Ways to fix the Canadian Screen Awards” post

I watched Sunday’s Canadian Screen Awards. Not because I was really excited by it, but because I felt some sort of civic (and professional) duty to do so.

I’ve seen several of these, so I know what to expect. Hosts trying their best with not very good comedic material. Nominees and winners that most of the audience is unfamiliar with. Quebec movie stars feeling like fish out of water in this very English Canada environment. And overall a gala and broadcast that tries to be like the Oscars or the Emmys or even the Screen Actors Guild Awards but with much fewer resources.

The budget issue won’t change unless the CSAs become as big a spectacle as the American awards shows, and we’re pretty far from that.

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