Edge to battle Much for alt crowd

While the animal nets growl at each other and Connect recruits young eyeballs from on and off the tube, another war is heating up TV land.

While the animal nets growl at each other and Connect recruits young eyeballs from on and off the tube, another war is heating up TV land.

This one will be touched off by Edge TV, a new category-two digital entry from Corus based on the popular Toronto-based ‘new music’ radio station Edge 102. For Canadians, the early September channel launch will mark the first real head-to-head competition for Moses Znaimer’s MuchMusic juggernaut.

Lori Rosenberg, VP and GM, Edge TV, says the new channel will target to the 18- to 34-year-old demographic and model itself after the existing Edge 102 brand. ‘We’re really working to develop an overall brand that caters to a certain lifestyle. It’s not gender specific, though it tends to favour males. The split for Edge 102 is 55/45 in favour of males, and we anticipate even more of a male skew, with a slight swing to a younger audience.’

Sound familiar?

Susan Arthur, marketing director at CHUM Television, admits the newcomer is a possible threat to Much’s reign, but she points out that as a category two-channel, Edge TV is not guaranteed carriage, so it’s difficult to assess the impact at this point. ‘All I can say is that we are going to watch things very very closely; monitor the marketplace, and monitor the carriage,’ says Arthur. ‘CHUM has launched several specialty channels, and has a track record in doing so for years, so we have expertise. But that doesn’t mean we’ve closed our eyes to the launch of Edge TV.’

Back at Edge, Rosenberg sees the new channel delivering on a very defined slice of the MuchMusic pie, rather than competing on all fronts. ‘Sure there’s a lot of overlap, but for us, it’s about the Edge brand,’ she says. ‘It’s not going to be all Britney all the time. In fact it’s going to be no Britney all the time.’

To foster that brand, Edge will focus on new-rock music videos from the likes of Rage Against the Machine, See Spot Run and Nine Inch Nails, along with related documentaries and concert footage. ‘We’re going for that kind of Behind The Music brand for some of the service, and then within the context of music videos we’re going to have a couple of different program formats: An all-requester and new-rock top 40 countdown. It’s about behind-the-scenes access, the very newest music to come on the scene. It’s like your cool older brother.’

Not surprisingly, Edge TV will mainly be marketed to viewers through its sister radio station, with promotions via the university and club circuits rounding out the plan. ‘We do have a budget, and there’s going to be a media buy, but definitely our focus is going to be at a grassroots level with like-minded organizations,’ says Rosenberg.

Meanwhile, MuchMusic will continue to leverage existing marketing tools to keep bleed to a minimum. In particular, the net will push high-profile sponsored event programming, such as the MTV Music Video Awards and the MuchMusic Video Awards, through on-air promos and a sweeps where the winners will fly off to see the MTV awards.

Other live event programming, such as a recent visit from boy band ‘NSync, will be pushed across CHUM holdings to maintain top-of-mind status among kid and teen viewers.

As well, every two years MuchMusic does a VJ search, and the search for the next Bradford Howe will begin in earnest this November. A sponsor is already signed up, and the umbrella strategy is to provide access to viewers at a local level across Canada. The tour will hit retail outlets at five to seven cities, with the three-month campaign supported by radio.

As for the overall threat Edge TV poses to MuchMusic, Arthur says: ‘I suppose any broadcast launch or new channel launch is a threat to any of the CHUM television properties, in terms of there being a finite marketing dollar pie out there. So it’s our job to provide advertisers with things over and above traditional media purchases. We have a 15-year history of doing that – that’s what we pride ourselves on.’