TQS: a counterprogramming strategy

Francois LaganiereVice-President Marketing and SalesTelevision Quatre Saisons, MontrealQ. How, from a marketing perspective, are you preparing for the arrival of new specialty services?A. The introduction of new specialty services is not as critical in French Quebec as in the rest of...

Francois Laganiere

Vice-President Marketing and Sales

Television Quatre Saisons, Montreal

Q. How, from a marketing perspective, are you preparing for the arrival of new specialty services?

A. The introduction of new specialty services is not as critical in French Quebec as in the rest of the country, if only because of the language barrier.

But as the saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ Quatre Saisons is an active partner in two of the specialty services before the [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission].

One is Chapiteau, a pay-tv service, in which we are participating with tva, Radio-Canada and Cogeco.

Supporting news net

We are also actively supporting the French all-news network, which is sponsored by Radio-Canada, but, again, it is a joint proposal by most French broadcasters in Quebec.

From a sales point of view, the best way for Quatre Saisons to achieve our business goals is to keep doing what we are doing: to focus on our 18-49 positioning, in keeping with our mission statement, which is to reflect the modern North American milieu in which Quebec as a society functions.

Q. Let’s talk about programming. What are you doing to give tqs an identity?

A. We have been doing two things. One is to create our own stars. We have not hired and do not lure away talent from the competition. We build our own on-air people.


In terms of news format, we have an in-depth local news format. We have developed a quicker way of gathering news and broadcasting news. We are more eager to get local news, because that’s all we carry, to speak of.

In terms of movies, we carry only North American movies, either Canadian, Quebec or u.s., but, for the most part, u.s. We carry three a day, 21 a week.

Prime titles

We have access to prime titles. This year so far, we’ve run Silence of the Lambs, Robin Hood. Later this year, we will run Total Recall, Rain Man, and so on. We are very serious about this.

We carry game shows that appeal to a somewhat more urban audience, for instance, Family Feud, in French, Guerre des clans.

Another way of differentiating Quatre Saisons is that we tend to counterprogram by running traditional formats at different times of the day. For instance, we do our late afternoon news at five [p.m.] to 6 [p.m.], not 6 [p.m.] to 7 [p.m.,] and then we follow with a game show, whereas the competition has traditionally done the opposite. We carry Sonia Benezra, a live talk show, at 6:30, when the competition is doing news.

Problems, opportunities

Being No. 3 in the marketplace provides us problems and opportunities. We try to take more risks, we think we are more innovative.

We are surely more cost-conscious because we don’t have the resources the competition has. We are a younger team, not only on air, but internally as well, in terms of age and tenure.

We like to compare ourselves to [Toronto's] Citytv, if only for an English audience, to which Citytv means something.

Q. How are you communicating your brand identity to your viewers?

A. The way we communicate our positioning is via our own air waves, which is, first and foremost, the best advertising medium we have.

We complement that with tv listings, newspaper and, to a certain degree, radio advertising.


Movies represent the core of our primetime schedule, and we support our titles very heavily. But there’s nothing new, and certainly not in light of the arrival of new services.

Our slogan is ‘Au coeur de l’Action,’ which translates as ‘In the heart of the action’, or ‘Where the action is.’

Q. How are you communicating your brand identity to media buyers and advertisers?

A. We do it on a more personal basis than the competition. We do not create a big event and invite our clients. We do it one on one. I go to each individual agency.

Sense of magic

At Quatre Saisons, because we are new, we have tried to bring back to the market the sense of magic, excitement and newness that has made television what it has become. I’d like to think we do it with flair.

I have an agency background, so I recall how it was. Television is fun, exciting, not boring. So whenever we do a video presentation for the fall, and in the merchandising items we have developed, we try to come up with something that is new, different, has some style.

Q. What new marketing tools, such as corporate sponsorships, are you using to help in your branding efforts?

A. We’re not – for one reason. Three and a half years ago, tqs nearly folded. We have been rebuilding from scratch.

Who we are

These are the kinds of things you do when you have covered your bases. And we are still in the process of covering our bases. But this is something we may anticipate doing next year. It would certainly support our Au Coeur de l’action theme, because it would be an actual demonstration of who we are.