Diginets in review

The Biography Channel
With an already-established following, the Biography Channel has a great chance of survival.

Review panel:

Joanne Fulford is broadcast

supervisor at Toronto-based agency Ammirati Puris.

Sherry O’Neil is VP, director of broadcast buying at Toronto-based OMD Canada.

Gavin Pedlar is media supervisor at OMD Canada.

The Biography Channel

With an already-established following, the Biography Channel has a great chance of survival.

It includes a mix of documentaries and movies, followed by the bios of the Canadian and international personalities who appeared in them. Theme nights further niche the station, but at the same time add structure for its viewers. As expected, the programming quality is solid and several of my ‘biography junkie’ friends are just thrilled. There were no surprises, from the preliminary presentations to the final product, which always makes media buyers and advertisers more at ease.

Initial thoughts are that the station will skew older, slightly female, but no direct advertiser fit comes to mind – leaving a great opportunity for the channel to sell based on theme night sponsorships. JF

Discovery Health Channel

Backed by the established and respected Discovery brand, Discovery Health entered the TV universe with high expectations – which were definitely satisfied. With programming similar in content to the successful TLC (The Learning Channel), Discovery Health already has a defined path to follow: air the proven reality-type medical shows that appeal to 25- to 54-year-olds.

Titles like Condition Critical and Medical Wonders will keep Discovery Health on the air and help it gain a strong, loyal following. Health-related issues have become front-line for Canadians, and now we have a station that deals with those topics and more. JF

ESPN Classic

The programming varies from milestone sporting events, such as a Super Bowl game won in the last seconds, to sporting events which marked social or political watersheds, such as the 1972 Canada Cup.

A high frequency of the same ads is apparent, although this channel is certainly not the worst offender of the new diginets. At least a spot is more likely to air within the same hour or two, rather than in consecutive commercial breaks. Interestingly enough, credit card and delivery company ads enjoyed a higher presence than sporting product advertisers.

ESPN Classic shares a common feature with most diginets in its heavy promotion of sister stations. Not only was TSN featured, but CTV, Comedy and CTV Newsnet as well.

This one is likely to survive, with the appropriate packaging by the cable companies. Continued advertising support will likely be derived from TSN advertisers, so the question is: will it grow at the expense of the main station, or its competition? SO & GP


CHUM’s FashionTelevisionChannel has a strong base with its homegrown FashionTelevision show. The station will also source new programming dealing with how to become a model and cover some of the larger fashion shows globally.

Participation of the French-language partner, Quebec’s TVA, in program production will be important to give it broader scope and appeal nationally.

FashionTelevision is one of those truly niche stations that should be able to survive without the benefit of credible audience data in the short term. Cosmetics, perfume and skin care products all seem to be a natural fit, never mind the retail sector. SO & GP


CHUM’s MuchVibe derives its programming from sister station MuchMusic. It airs mostly videos, focusing on the urban music styles of hip hop, reggae and R&B. Programs appearing on the schedule include concerts, awards shows and live properties from MuchMusic that appeal to loyalists of the music genre.

Advertising is limited by the truly niche nature of the station. It’s not uncommon to see the same advertiser in consecutive commercial breaks – in some cases, within the same break. Record companies are the major players on this station, using it almost as a posting board for upcoming release dates. Quite a few government-based agencies also run spots on the station at a fairly high frequency.

A small base of advertisers consists of locally-owned Toronto businesses (salons, food outlets, etc.), that don’t let the fact that the station is national dissuade them from airing spots (in large part due to the minimal cost).

It will be tough for this one to survive based on subscription, unless all the music channels are packaged together. In that case, MTV could be Vibe’s closest ally. SO & GP


CanWest Global’s Mystery Channel programming turned out to be no great mystery at all. Many of the programs, such as Murder, She Wrote, have already run on Global – and Prime – in the past.

Given Prime’s success over the last 18 months, we expect to see Mystery showing a continuing strong performance. However, until quantifiable audience measurement is available, Mystery’s broad appeal may prove to be a deterrent for many paid advertisers, as we don’t have the ‘niche/environment rationale’ to justify the purchase.

Advertising on the station seems to be quite varied, compared with some of the other new diginets. The frequency in which you see the same advertiser is relatively low, and the list of advertisers is extensive, relatively speaking. This may be in part due to no-charge spots aired for Global’s conventional advertisers.

The advertisers range from car companies to packaged goods to clothing outlets, as well as infomercial-type ads such as call-to-action lawyer spots. As on all of the diginets, self promotion of the corporate properties is ubiquitous.

In terms of costing, the going rate for a rotational spot on the network is $10 per 30 seconds. But due to the lack of independent numbers for all digital services right now, we would not recommend any of our clients spending more than $7 to $8. As time passes and quantifiable data becomes available, the cost structure will fluctuate to become more indicative of the station’s performance. SO & GP

SexTV: The Channel

If current top 20 specialty program rankings are any indication of viewing habits for adults 18+ (the list includes Red Shoe Diaries, Sex and the City, Sunday Night Sex Show, Queer as Folk, etc.), then SexTV will definitely grab viewers.

The station is exactly what one would expect – a station dedicated to sex, with people not only talking about it, but doing it. Although the daytime stars are usually ‘fully clothed,’ their nighttime counterparts bare all. While the curiosity factor will drive channel surfers to some self-explanatory shows such as Strip Poker and Guilty Pleasures, it will be interesting to see how far current standards can be pushed.

From an advertiser/purchaser standpoint though, the programming could be viewed as somewhat offensive. A 24-hour rotation schedule should probably be avoided – unless you’re a condom advertiser. JF