BBC Two. ESPN2. CBC Radio 2. TSN2. And now Bell Media has added another broadcaster to the list of brands whose names literally scream out “second-rate stuff goes here”: A Channel/ATV will become CTV Two, they announced on Monday.
Of course, A Channel is a second-rate channel, carrying mostly American programming that CTV has the rights to but can’t fit into the main network’s schedule. And I wasn’t exactly crazy about the /A\ branding either, particularly because of how ungoogleable it was.
A poll apparently told Bell that CTV’s brand is the most trusted media brand in Canada, and so it has decided to use that brand to maximum effect. It can’t turn A Channel stations into CTV stations directly (most are too close to existing CTV stations), so it’ll impose its brand and add a number to it because they can’t think of anything better to name it.
Another change will be rebranding the newscasts as “CTV News” – so they’ll be indistinguishable from CTV newscasts in all the other markets. Whether viewers of the local stations want this is, of course, irrelevant. The decision comes from the top, using the same logic that killed the Pulse News brand in Montreal.
CTV seems to be implying that it will put more effort into the network than it has in the past, giving it higher-profile shows instead of third-rate crap. It promises “one monster acquisition to anchor the schedule” – which I guess means that they’re going to give the network a single hit show and otherwise keep the relationship between the two networks unchanged.
Using A as the sloppy-seconds network is the main reason it has never been profitable. And it will probably remain that way. But part of Bell’s deal with the CRTC when it purchased CTV’s assets was a commitment to keep the unprofitable A Channel stations running for another three years. So we’ll see this experiment continue whether or not it’s successful.
There may not be a lot of money for newscasts or original programming for the A stations, but apparently there’s plenty of money to keep rebranding this network every few years. Hopefully whoever came up with the stupid name and cheap logo didn’t get paid too much.
UPDATE (June 2): The announcement of CTV Two programming for this fall contains little of interest. Certainly no “monster acquisition” I can see.
This post has been updated. See below.
I feel bad for the people at three television stations: CKX-TV in Brandon, Man., CHWI-TV in Wheatley (Windsor), Ont., and CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont.
It turns out CTV isn’t quite done with the cutbacks at its secondary broadcast network. After announcing it wouldn’t renew licenses for two southern Ontario stations, the axe has come down on 118 jobs at other stations across the network, including 34 in Ottawa/Pembroke, 18 in Victoria, 24 in Barrie, Ont., and more (42 by my math) in London, representing about 28% of the workforce.
As a result, various local programming is being cancelled. Barrie and London are cutting their morning programs, and like Global Quebec will be re-running their nightly newscasts in the morning.
In Victoria, the morning show will be replaced by “cameras … in the C-FAX 1070 radio station starting tomorrow to broadcast its morning show from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.”
In Ottawa, it’s the reverse. The evening and weekend newscasts will be cancelled.
They can do this and still keep their broadcasting licenses because of a loophole in the CRTC’s local programming rules. It says stations have to air a certain minimum amount of locally-produced programming every week, but it doesn’t say that it has to produce that much, so stations can get away with producing an hour and a half of news and replaying it at 6am, and that counts as three hours of programming.
A Channel has never really made money. And since its acquisition by CTV it’s basically been a dumping ground for second-rate U.S. shows that won’t fit on the main network’s schedule. (The irony is that CTV never wanted the network. They were more interested in acquiring CHUM’s specialty channels and would offload A Channel onto Rogers. But the CRTC intervened and said they had to give away Citytv instead. Had this not happened, we might be looking at massive layoffs at Citytv right now.)
The union has issued a news release blaming CTV for turning its back on small communities, while also drinking its Kool-Aid that the whole problem is because cable companies are making money and not handing it over to CTV (as opposed to, say, CTV spending millions to acquire U.S. programming that could be spent on original programming).
UPDATE (March 12): the Ottawa Citizen looks inside the cuts at A Channel in Ottawa.
UPDATE (May 1): SOLD!
And so it begins. CTV announced today it is not applying for license renewals for two small-market ‘A’ network stations: CKNX-TV in Wingham, Ont., and CHWI-TV in Wheatley, Ont. (which serves Windsor).
This comes a week after CTV said it would not renew the license of CKX-TV in Brandon, which is actually a CBC affiliate and carriest mostly CBC programming in primetime.
A whackload of broadcast stations from CTV and Global have licenses up for renewal this year. Not only is the media meltdown hurting their bottom lines (or, more accurately, their creditors) and the world economic crisis making it worse, but with a forced switchover to digital broadcasting in 2011, this is the ideal time to decide to throw in the towel for small-market stations rather than start investing in new transmitters.
In its press release, CTV implicitly blames the CRTC’s decision to turn down their money-grab for their decision to shut down the station. It also sounds like the network hopes this will prompt the CRTC to change its mind.
CTV-owned stations in southern Ontario: CTV (blue), A (green) and the two stations being shut down (red)
Local news is expected to be taken up by London’s A station and Kitchener’s CTV station. It’s unclear if the transmitters themselves would be shut down or converted into rebroadcasters.
It remains to be seen if similar fates will hit Canwest’s E! secondary network, which still doesn’t have a buyer.
More coverage from CP, CBC, Canwest, Windsor Star, London Free Press, Reuters and the Globe and Mail.
A's new logo
CTV announced yesterday that its “A channel” network, which is a collection of broadcast stations mainly in Ontario, would be renamed simply “A” and would feature a new look and new logo (right), as well as a new website: atv.ca.
The website address demonstrates the main problem with this new name: It’s just a stupid letter. Like CBC’s Bold and Documentary networks (sorry, “bold” and “documentary”) and Canwest’s “E!” entertainment network, their names are confusing, and their website addresses non-intuitive.
But the biggest problem is that “A” is ungoogleable. You simply can’t own a letter in Google. So if people want to find “A” online, they have to guess what its real name is. ATV? A Channel? A Network? Two of those won’t work either in Google.
So people will just keep calling it A Channel to avoid confusion. Which makes the name change kind of pointless.