49th Media: not dead yet

Kevin Shea's 49th Media is primed for battle and ready to reapply to the CRTC for permission to sell Canadian ads on such U.S. cable channels as CNN and A&E.

Kevin Shea’s 49th Media is primed for battle and ready to reapply to the CRTC for permission to sell Canadian ads on such U.S. cable channels as CNN and A&E.

The Toronto company’s first proposal, submitted last summer, received a peremptory dismissal in November for being incomplete and lacking permission or support from the U.S. broadcasters whose U.S. advertising it proposes to replace with Canadian ads.

Shea, president and CEO of 49th, says the CRTC has been notified that the company plans to pursue the application. He will resubmit sometime in the first quarter of this year.

‘We were surprised at the abruptness of the commission’s decision, but I think we knew from the outset that this would not be easy,’ says Shea. ‘It’s an innovative idea and one that is clearly worth the dance. Sometimes it takes more time to move innovation.’

The CRTC decision was not unanimous and included a lengthy dissenting opinion from Commissioner Stuart Langford who felt public interest would be best served if the application had proceeded to public hearing so the issues raised by the proposal could be analyzed and evaluated.

The application is for a licence to operate a satellite relay distribution undertaking (SRDU) that would downlink the satellite feed of five top U.S. cable channels, insert national Canadian advertising, and then uplink back to the satellite for program delivery to Canadian cable and satellite broadcast distributors. The channels involved are already distributed in Canada: CNN, TBS, TLC, A&E, and Spike (formerly TNN).

Shea says that 49th Media’s first submission did include letters from Discovery Communications (TLC), A&E Television Networks and Turner Broadcasting System (CNN and TBS) that indicated their support if the CRTC granted the licence.

The company estimates the venture would generate $230 million during the first seven-year term of the licence, 25% of which would go to the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) to help compensate for government cutbacks.

The 49th Media plan is supported by those in the broadcast production sector as well as the Association of Canadian Advertisers, which sees it as an opportunity for Canuck advertisers to reach the large Canadian audiences that watch the popular U.S. channels.