Full-motion teleshopping Canadian style

The crtc has cleared the way for full-motion all-infomercial channels in Canada.But given the conditions the regulator has attached to its decision, it seems unlikely this long-form advertising will bear more than a passing resemblance to its American cousin, or let...

The crtc has cleared the way for full-motion all-infomercial channels in Canada.

But given the conditions the regulator has attached to its decision, it seems unlikely this long-form advertising will bear more than a passing resemblance to its American cousin, or let loose a flood of u.s.-produced creative product here.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission’s Jan. 26 decision exempts operators of new ‘teleshopping’ programming from the need to hold a broadcast licence if they meet certain criteria.

Key to the licence exemption are the stipulations that programming originates in Canada and the service makes predominant use of Canadian creative and other resources; that it is provided free to cable subscribers, and that every 30 minutes there is a clear and prominent written and oral announcement that the programming is intended to sell or promote goods and services.

Bill Allen, director of crtc public affairs, agrees infomercial channels in Canada will be appreciably different from those operating in the u.s.

‘It’s the evolution of a new kind of animal,’ Allen says.

He says that is because not only do infomercial programmers have to meet licence exemption criteria, they also have to comply with the Broadcast Act,.

That means, he says, infomercials cannot use those types of programming considered in broadcast categories one to 12.

These include news, drama, children’s programming, variety shows, sports and educational programs.

For example, an infomercial programmer could not broadcast a hockey game between the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary and use the breaks between periods to promote or sell goods or services.

Allen says the prohibition on categories one to 12 will tax the imagination of infomercial programmers, but he adds it is necessary to prevent them from becoming general broadcasters.

Manny Salonin, manager of marketing integration for the personal computer division of IBM Canada, does not believe the Canadian content rules attached to the crtc decision will deter u.s.-owned multinationals from using Canadian infomercial channels.

Salonin says if u.s. multinationals want to appear on Canadian infomercial channels, but avoid the costs of making two versions of the same advertising, they can produce their infomercials here.

He says in many marketing areas, IBM Canada is more progressive than its u.s. parent company, noting ibm in the u.s. has not yet run an infomercial there, but IBM Canada has tried with some success to sell a line of pcs direct from tv.

John Gustavson, Canadian Direct Marketing Association president and chief executive officer, calls the crtc decision ‘just astounding.’

The crtc’s demand for programming originated in Canada and the predominant use of Canadian resources leaves Gustavson unperturbed.

He says the price of an infomercial channel in Canada will be Canadian programming.

And given the market potential, that price appears well worth paying.

Gustavson says the Home Shopping Network in the u.s. sold US$2.2 (C$3 billion) billion worth of goods and services last year.

He says there is some indication that the Canadian home shopping market will be worth C$300 million a year in sales alone.

Figures compiled by Business Week magazine in 1993 show the u.s. infomercial market was worth about US$800 million that year.

Somewhat confusingly, the crtc has lumped home shopping and infomercials together, calling them ‘teleshopping.’

A home shopping channel in Canada or the u.s. works exactly as it name suggests. A viewer tunes in and sees the item for sale displayed on screen.

In Canada, until now, this has meant a still photograph and a voiceover.

In the u.s., where there has been full-motion for some time, the item is either demonstrated or modeled and described by on-air hosts.

Infomercials, or long-form advertising as they are sometimes known, typically run 30 minutes and mix advertising with entertainment or information.

Until the crtc decision, full-motion video was not allowed, so Canadian infomercials for Canadian viewers were sequences of stop-motion stills with a voiceover.

Ed du Domaine, president and ceo of the Canadian Home Shopping Network, says his Rogers-owned channel intends to go to full-motion soon and make refinements to it along the way.

Du Domaine says no decision has been made by the media conglomerate about a move to an infomercial channel.