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It's as much a ritual in Quebec as poutine, Celine Dion and the Bonhomme Carnaval. Too bad Quebec's stunningly successful morning news program isn't likely to translate in the rest of Canada.

It’s as much a ritual in Quebec as poutine, Celine Dion and the Bonhomme Carnaval. Too bad Quebec’s stunningly successful morning news program isn’t likely to translate in the rest of Canada.

Indeed, no other morning show in the country boasts the kind of market penetration enjoyed by TVA’s Salut, Bonjour!, a staggering 62.4% of the weekday morning-show market in Quebec, according to Micro BBM 2003 A2+. Surely it is the envy of its counterparts across the rest of the country which compete eyeball for eyeball with one another as well as specialty channels and morning shows south of the border.

‘It’s really a phenomenon that you don’t see anywhere else in Canada,” explains Toronto-based Vicki Blake, director of Astral Media Mix. ‘It really can’t be replicated.”

Market watchers say its success is truly a function of Quebec’s unique culture. Quebecers not only like to see themselves reflected in their arts and entertainment, but the province has cultivated its own star system over the past three decades.

It may be difficult to envision Canada AM’s Lisa LaFlamme as a star in her own right. But in Quebec, Salut, Bonjour’s host of nearly 20 years, Guy Mongrain, has celebrity status.

TVA’s EVP of broadcasting operations, René Bourdages, practically giggles when asked to explain the secret of the show’s success. ‘It’s about proximity and quality. They are the most important things,” the Montreal-based executive says, adding that the show’s personalities are often out in the community. He says that what also differentiates Salut, Bonjour! from other shows in Canada is that it is truly a show for the whole family.

Company research shows that the entire family is watching the program – broadcast between six and nine each weekday morning – on television sets throughout the home. The show’s high ratings can also be explained by the fact that Quebecers watch at least two more hours of television each week and that the specialty channels have yet to penetrate the local market in a big way.

Carol Cummings, Montreal-based manager, broadcast negotiations for Media Experts, says that another differentiating factor is that Quebecers’ viewing habits are markedly different. While morning show viewers in the rest of the country tend to watch shows like Canada AM as they would listen to radio, Salut, Bonjour’s audience is more likely to sit in front of the television for a much longer period of time.

Segments on the show tend to be longer, adds Toronto-based Theresa Treutler, SVP and broadcast investment director at Starcom Worldwide. While other news shows are full of quick news, weather and sports hits, Salut, Bonjour’s pace is leisurely by comparison.

Treutler believes there are other social and cultural factors at play. For example, commuting times in Montreal are much shorter than in Toronto, giving viewers more opportunity to watch shows like Salut, Bonjour!

Still, the show’s success can’t all be chalked up to Quebec’s distinct culture. Other networks, like SRC, have tried in vain to duplicate its success. SRC launched its own morning show a few years ago but hasn’t managed to put a dint in Salut, Bonjour’s audience numbers.

‘It’s very hard for the other guys,’ TVA’s Bourdages says, referring to SRC’s efforts. ‘The energy just isn’t the same. What can I say? We are a ritual for Quebecers.”

However, Marketel’s Gagnon says TVA will get a run for its money this fall when TQS launches its morning show featuring other popular Quebec personalities. ‘They are definitely going to steal share away,’ says Gagnon. ‘It’s going to be a real fight.’