Tag Archives: Shaw Media

Corus buying Shaw Media is a big deal, but it’s not a Big Deal

The news broke as I was busy preparing for and going to the annual shareholders meeting of Cogeco: Shaw Media is being sold to Corus Entertainment for $2.65 billion. The people who own Teletoon and YTV will now also control Global TV, Showcase, Food Network and other channels.

But as huge as the purchase figure is, the deal itself is more of a corporate reorganization than a major media merger. Here’s why:

Corus was formed in 1999 as a Shaw spinoff company. Shaw put all its media assets in the Corus portfolio and created a separate, publicly-traded company. But through Corus and Shaw are publicly traded and have their own boards of directors, both are still under the control of the Shaw family.

For this reason, the CRTC considers that they’re related companies. That means they probably won’t oppose the deal. And it means Corus is probably not going to be asked to pay a tangible benefits package to secure the deal, so there won’t be millions of dollars going to various production funds or content development initiatives.

Here’s how the assets will break down once the deal is completed (assets changing hands in bold):

  • Shaw Communications:
    • Shaw Cablesystems
    • Shaw Direct satellite TV
    • Wind Mobile (once that transaction is complete)
    • Shomi (50%, with Rogers having the other half)
  • Corus Entertainment:
    • Global Television Network
    • Three CTV affiliates in Ontario
    • Specialty channels Action, BBC Canada (80%), DejaView, DIY Network, DTour, Food Network, FYI, Global News BC1, History, H2, HGTV, IFC, Lifetime, MovieTime, Crime + Investigation, National Geographic Channel (80%), Nat Geo Wild, Showcase, Slice
    • Kids specialty channels Disney Channel (fr/en), Disney Jr, Disney XD, Nickelodeon, Teletoon (fr/en), YTV, Cartoon Network, Treehouse
    • Specialty channels ABC Spark, CMT Canada, Cosmo TV, OWN Canada, Sundance Channel, W Movies, W Network, Historia, Séries+
    • Pay TV channels Movie Central and Encore Avenue (until Bell replaces them with a national Movie Network), including 50% stake in HBO Canada
    • Telelatino Network and its associated third-language channels
    • Production company Nelvana
    • 39 radio stations
    • Kids Can Press


There are some minor assets whose eventual owner is unclear right now (TV station CJBN in Kenora, Ont., is owned directly by Shaw and isn’t part of Shaw Media), but these are the basics. Notably, Shaw will have a 39% stake in Corus directly as a result of the stock portion of this purchase. That might make it easier down the road for Shaw to take over Corus and make it a real subsidiary.

Combined, Corus and Shaw have about a 35% share of viewing to English-language television in Canada, which is the same as Bell Media and about as much as the CRTC is comfortable giving any one group. Rogers and CBC have about 10% each, and the rest is everyone else.

What changes?

The big question is what changes as a result of this transaction. On one hand, the ultimate owner of these assets is the same. But on the other hand, because the companies are run separately, they haven’t taken advantage of centralization or things like collective bargaining with TV providers to get a better deal.

Practically, this will probably mean that:

  • Instead of ads for Shaw TV on Global, we’ll see more ads for YTV, Teletoon and OWN.
  • In markets where Corus will own both a Global TV station and a news-talk radio station (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto), there could be cross-promotion or even content partnerships of some sort. We could see a rationalization of news-gathering staff and people asked to report for both TV and radio.
  • Those three CTV affiliates in south/eastern Ontario (Peterborough, Oshawa and Kingston) will probably eventually become Global TV stations.
  • Maybe more programming aimed at children and families on Global TV.

Beyond that, the concentration of media ownership already happened (the biggest step was when Shaw acquired Canwest’s TV assets in 2010), and this is really only a minor step in that process.

Which is why despite a $2.65-billion transaction, my media ownership chart doesn’t change.

Shaw Media plans new national all-news channel called Global News 1

Buried deep within its 30,000-word submission to the CRTC as part of its Let’s Talk TV consultation process, Shaw Media dropped this little bombshell:

There are other means of fostering local programming through market-based innovations. Global News has been a market-leader in the adoption of news gathering and production practices that maximize efficiency while preserving local voices. Building on its leadership role as a local news service, Shaw will submit an application to the Commission for a new hybrid local/national, English-language, Category C specialty programming undertaking to be known as Global News 1, a service that will expand and diversify the amount of news and information-related programming in the Canadian broadcasting system. There is no specialty news service that currently provides such a service in this country, namely the provision of uniquely local reflection.

The submission provides no other details on this proposed service, including what exactly it means by “hybrid local/national”. I’ve asked to get more details, but everyone’s out of the office for Canada Day. (UPDATE: Canadian Press got an official no comment from Shaw.)

Category C is the category that the CRTC has established for all-news channels that compete directly with each other under common conditions of licence. CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, Sun News Network, RDI and LCN are all licensed under that category. (CP24, BNN and others are in a different category.)

Shaw Media already has a regional all-news channel, Global News BC 1, which operates in British Columbia, where Global has strong ratings and Shaw Cable is the dominant cable provider. It’s not clear if this new service would replace BC 1 or be complementary to it.

An application for such a channel would go through the regular CRTC process, which would take months at a minimum, so don’t expect this kind of channel on air this fall.

This channel, like CTV and CBC, would undoubtedly rely on sharing resources with the newsrooms of local television stations. Global’s TV network has stations in Vancouver, Kelowna, B.C., Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Saint John, N.B., and Halifax, with an affiliate in Thunder Bay. Shaw also owns CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ont., which doesn’t brand itself as a Global station.

Add in the resources of Global National, The West Block and other national news programs, and this kind of channel makes sense, though it might be a bit western-focused (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). If it’s similar to BC 1, we could see a mix of national and local news presented on screen 24/7 along with local weather and other graphics.

(Hat tip to this Channel Canada forum post, which first spotted the paragraph in the submission.)

UPDATE (July 4): This story has gotten its first mainstream attention now that Canadian Press has spotted it. That story is being picked up by CTV, HuffPost, Toronto Star, Financial Post, La Presse and others.

Shaw Media to rebrand Twist, Mystery channels

As part of its fall upfront presentation to advertisers, Shaw Media announced on Wednesday that it is launching two new specialty channels before the end of the year. Though what the press release doesn’t say is that these are actually rebrands of existing channels.

Twist becomes FYI

Twist TV, a lifestyle channel whose schedule includes reality shows like Till Debt Do Us Part, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and I don’t know how many shows devoted to weddings and bride-ness, will be rebranded FYI this fall. FYI is “geared towards a younger, upscale audience” and “offers contemporary lifestyle programs” aimed at millenials. “FYI hosts a hub of modern lifestyle programming featuring health and wellness and food and fashion.”

FYI will effectively be a Canadian version of an American channel by the same name. A&E Networks is rebranding its Bio channel to FYI as of July 8. The U.S. channel has already announced what some of its new shows will be. The list includes Epic Meal Empire, a half-hour 16-episode show starring Montreal’s Epic Meal Time. (I don’t know if this will be considered a Canadian program.)

The U.S. rebrand also brings up the question of what happens to Biography Channel Canada, owned by Rogers, which shares branding with the U.S. version, and gets shows like Gangsters: America’s Most Evil, Mobsters, Women Behind Bars, Celebrity Close Calls, Celebrity Ghost Stories and My Ghost Story from its U.S. counterpart. Without a supply of fresh content, it too could be headed toward a rebrand.

Twist began as Discovery Health Canada in 2001. When the U.S. network turned into the Oprah Winfrey Network 10 years later, the Canadian Channel was morphed into Twist. (Corus rebranded a different channel, Viva (formerly CLT) into OWN Canada.)

The history of the channel means FYI remains tied to Discovery Health’s CRTC licence conditions, which requires it to air programming “devoted entirely to useful, practical, reliable and entertaining programming related to health, wellness and medicine.”

Whether Twist and FYI fit into this definition depends, I guess, on your definition of “wellness”. If reality shows about getting married or fashion or home renovations qualify, then I guess so.

FYI will also be bound by other licence conditions, limiting the amount of sports, drama, comedy, movie and music video programming combined to 10% of the schedule. There’s no limit on the number of reality shows, formal or informal educational shows, or entertainment magazine programs.

FYI must also ensure that at least half its schedule (and half its primetime schedule) is Canadian programs.

According to CRTC figures, Twist made $1.76 million in ad revenue in 2012-13, had 2.2 million subscribers and had a 60 per cent pre-tax profit margin, employing a staff of 10. It’s clearly not in financial trouble, though I guess Shaw believes it can boost those ad figures by targetting a younger audience.

Mystery becomes Crime + Investigation

The other rebrand seems less dramatic on the surface, but involves a much bigger change in programming. Mystery, the channel whose schedule is half Law & Order reruns (plus whatever shows Shaw owns that it can pretend fit into this category), will become “Crime + Investigation” in December.

“Crime + Investigation strives to engage viewers’ minds and crime solving skills, drawing the audience into investigations by offering a behind-the-scenes look at gripping, unforgettable crime stories,” reads the press release.

This is also a case of a Canadian channel copying a U.S. brand. Crime & Investigation is also owned by A&E. Its programming features reality shows following law enforcement and investigators.

If “CI” follows the U.S. version, this will mean dropping most of its drama reruns and replacing them with justice reality shows. And that would make it very similar to Investigation Discovery, formerly Court TV Canada, a Bell-owned channel that’s doing the same thing.

First licensed in 2000 as “13th Street”, Mystery is “devoted to mystery and suspense programming. The service will nurture and encourage short-form Canadian mysteries. It will provide a wide assortment of genre-specific programs including movies, television series, short films and documentaries that will focus exclusively on the delivery of entertaining programming on suspense, espionage and classic mysteries.”

Whether law and order reality shows fit into this definition is a matter of interpretation. The channel has limits on comedy, professional sports and music video programming, but is otherwise free to air what it wishes as long as it fits the nature of service.

Mystery was co-owned with Quebecor until 2012, when Shaw bought it out. As part of that deal, Shaw promised the CRTC to devote some funding to scripted dramas and other so-called programs of national interest until 2017. The dramas wouldn’t have much of a home on the new channel, but that money could also be spent on long-form documentaries.

In the latest CRTC financial numbers, Mystery had $6.5 million a year in advertising revenue in 2012-13, a staff of 11, about 2 million subscribers (growing steadily over the past five years) and a very healthy 47 per cent profit margin.