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Waiting for CHUM

Regional buyers wait for CHUM to spruce up A-Channels as Radio-Canada makes a play for Montreal

With buyers still reeling from last year’s aggressive rates, numerous program changes and cancellations, it’s going to take a lot more than hype and hoopla to arouse excitement about the new fall TV season. And, say buyers, broadcasters had better approach the 2004/05 buying with much more realistic ad rates and audience forecasts.

Demand is expected to be softer than last year and even if rate hikes are in the low to mid single digits, many buyers say they will increase the amount of specialty TV they buy in order to deliver the campaign weights they need to meet client objectives and budgets.

But despite prophesies about the ascendancy of cable in markets across the country, this year’s upfront is still mainly a seesaw battle between CTV and Global. Five years ago it was Global’s game, but today, CTV holds the majority of the top-10 and top-20 program slots in most regions. (For details on fall plans at Global and CTV, see ‘A more civilized affair’ on page 6.)

The other big buzz is about CHUM’s acquisition of Craig Media, although no visible results of this are expected until early 2005. (The CRTC hearing is expected in September.) Buyers in Ontario and Alberta speculate that better programming – and better ratings – will result from the deal. The successful Citytv format is expected to revitalize the A-Channels in Calgary, Edmonton, and Manitoba and even the sale of Craig’s Toronto 1 station is expected to net better programming for regional buyers.

Toronto: T1 in limbo pending sale

Buyers in this market are hoping fledgling Toronto 1 will get a much-needed resuscitation from new ownership now that CHUM’s pending purchase of Craig Media puts it into play. But as of press time, it looks like they’ll have to be patient – for the time being the station seems to be in limbo.

Programming-wise the only changes announced at press time were that Toronto 1 is losing Emmy award-winning daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show to a higher bid from CHUM, but has brought in some competition (of sorts) via The Tony Danza Show.

Toronto 1′s prime-time focus this fall will be ‘Prime Ticket Movie,’ a schedule of back-to-back movies running 8 p.m. to midnight every Monday through Friday.

Helena Shelton, VP broadcast operations, MBS/The Media Company, says with CHUM already owning Citytv, CP24 and the New VR in the market, T1 will be sold for sure. Rumours on the street peg Quebecor (which owns Sun Media) and the Toronto Star as potential suitors.

Meanwhile, CHUM will be running DeGeneres on its Citytv and NewNet stations. Other U.S. acquisitions at CHUM include America’s Next Top Model, Jack & Bobby, Battlestar Galactica (a remake of the popular 1978 series) and Life As We Know It (see ‘The Shows,’ beginning on page 23, for a full description of all fall shows by network). A new Canadian series, The Collector, runs on the Space channel this summer before hitting the City stations in the fall.

Last, but not least, Rogers-owned Omni 1 and Omni 2 (the latter now entering its third year on air), are getting program facelifts this fall including strip programming of Friends and a Law & Order/Law & Order: SVU combo.

Steve Aronovitch, broadcast investment manager at Starcom Worldwide, says the Omni stations offer consistent audience delivery, even without top programming, and you know what you’re getting. Toronto 1′s performance on the other hand was disappointing, particularly when buyers were looking to the new station to bring more avails to the market.

Overall, CFTO (CTV) is the market leader, he says, followed by Global. Citytv, CBC and CH are on the next tier, in close proximity to each other.

Specifically, according to Nielsen Media Research, the Toronto shares are: CFTO (CTV) 9.7%; Global 7.6%; Citytv 5.6%; CBLT (CBC) 4.4%; and CH 3.6% (adults 25 to 54, September 2003 through April 2004).

Aronovitch believes CTV is doing the best programming job right now and it doesn’t have a lot of work to do on its fall schedule. Strong franchise programming such as Law & Order, C.S.I., and American/Canadian Idol has the network delivering consistently on adult demos. It has also made some inroads against younger adults with Idol and The O.C.

Montreal: Radio-Canada on the rise

Radio-Canada Television is preparing to launch the biggest push in its three-year repositioning this fall when it unveils a new look, a new image, and an unprecedented 17 new programs. Buyers say this is Radio-Canada’s year to regain a solid second place spot behind TVA – and to widen the distance between it and TQS.

Carol Cummings, senior television buyer for Media Experts of Montreal and Toronto, says the door is open for R-C to reclaim second place and it doesn’t look like TQS will be putting up much of a fight.

TQS has not added anything new to its schedule for fall, and is apparently not bringing back its reality hit of last year, Loft Story.

‘Radio-Canada is realizing what works for them and what doesn’t. They’re not trying to go up against TVA or TQS; they’re carving their own niche and their own viewers in the market. They’re smart to do that,’ says Cummings.

Melody Daly, AOR broadcast supervisor for Marketel Media in Montreal, says TVA is bringing back hits such as reality shows Occupation Double and Star Académie. It is also launching four new prime-time shows, which will include more reality.

Daly says Thursday nights will be interesting since TVA’s Occupation Double will go head-to-head with Les Bougon on R-C. She expects one of them to move.

‘Although there are no big wows this year,’ says Daly, ‘we think it’s Radio-Canada’s year to move up. It’s theirs to lose.’

Jerome Leys, director of sales, Toronto, for Radio-Canada Television, says promotions on-air and in other media will feature a new look and a new theme, ‘Invest in Quality Time,’ to convey the concept of programming that appeals to a wider audience and brings families together.

Leys says the weekend schedule illustrates its new direction, with live variety shows every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, each with a different spin on how they bring all the singing, dancing and comedy together.

This schedule will run from September through March 2005, with full 26-week runs for prime-time shows like last year’s hit, Les Bougon, a comedy about an outrageous welfare family that draws an average of two million viewers each week.

A big bonus for Radio-Canada, says Leys, is it gets to promote its 17 new programs during the Olympics this August and the popular World Cup Hockey that follows shortly after.

However, La Soirée du hockey, the 52-year-old sister broadcast to Hockey Night in Canada, will no longer be shown on R-C. The net cites ‘economic and strategic reasons.’

Vancouver: Rates drive buyers away

Television ad rates continue to be a big issue in the Vancouver market where regional and local advertisers are at the mercy of conventional broadcasters because, other than Sportsnet, there are no regional specialty feeds.

Rick Sanderson, media director, TBWA Vancouver, says the region is just starting to recover from a slow three-year period, and conventional stations have priced a lot of advertisers right out of the market.

‘Our major advertisers won’t be walking away anytime soon, however I have heard from other media directors that some clients have gone beyond the point of just questioning the value of TV. They’ve just packed it up and said ‘enough’ – and are spending the dollars in other media. I think that will temper how rates will go up.’

David Stanger, president of the DSA Media Network (with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Regina), says CTV and Global probably account for 60% to 70% of the TV buys in the Vancouver market, leaving the others to duke it out for the remaining 30%.

The CHUM stations – Citytv Vancouver and the New VI out of Victoria – continue to be an important element in a Vancouver TV buy. After CTV and Global, Citytv has the most first-run programs and salable ratings against younger demographics.

He says M Channel, the ethnic station that entered the market last year, isn’t generating any salable ratings aside from a few strip programs.

Global is still leading in news, says Stanger, but when you look at the top-20 shows, CTV is making significant inroads, making the picture of where CTV and Global actually stand a bit fuzzy.

Global’s news hour in Vancouver does phenomenally well and overall, Nielsen Media Research numbers put Global at 12.4% vs. CTV at 6.5% (followed by CBC, CHEK (a.k.a. CH Victoria), City, and the New VI). But the prime-time picture, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., has the nets going head to head with Global at 11.8% and CTV at 10.9%, followed by CBC, City, CHEK, and the New VI.

Jim Rusnack, GM of CTV British Columbia, says the CTV schedule as a whole has been working well and the station’s numbers for local programming, particularly the news, are closing the gap.

‘On the Nielsen numbers, we feel very comfortable with our progress. We’ve got a great on-air team, we’re there every day with more live news trucks, now the first and only dedicated newsgathering helicopter – I think we have all the elements to keep building our numbers.’

Calgary/Edmonton: Waiting for CHUM

Not surprisingly, the big buzz in Calgary and Edmonton is about CHUM’s bid to acquire Craig Media and how it will impact the A-Channels. Although a conversion to Citytv formats can’t be expected until the CRTC approves the deal, buyers say no matter how minute, any influence CHUM programmers have had over Craig’s fall 2004 program selection will be a big change for the better. (CHUM is hoping to implement a new variation on the existing City format around January 2005, if all goes well with the approval.)

Meanwhile, A-Channel has dug into its production fund for three TV movies: Emmy-Award winning The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie with James Caan and Gena Rowlands; eco-terrorism flick Anthrax; and Don’t Call Me Tonto, with former Baywatch-er David Hasselhoff.

Andrew McFallon, principal of Anderson McFallon Communications in Calgary, says he’s just looking for some rating points. He says A-Channel has consistently been fourth in the market behind CTV, Global and CBC.

‘You really have to talk yourself into including Craig on a lot of buys because A-Channel just doesn’t deliver any points. It’s a little tough to swallow when they’re trying to sell you something that pulled a 0.3 rating in the last two ratings books. You can’t continue to sell stuff on that basis.’

Luke Moore, VP at MacLaren McCann in Calgary and director of western regional for M2 Universal, agrees that A-Channel’s attractive rates have allowed local advertisers to move into TV advertising, but with the majority of viewing going to CTV and Global, audiences have been minuscule.

Moore says demand for TV inventory from national advertisers has consistently left a very limited supply in the area, so a Citytv format could perhaps provide opportunities for both national and regional clients – as long as rates don’t skyrocket.

He says ad rates for Global and CTV have already forced local advertisers out of television and into radio.

Kathy Shapka, VP and media director for DDB Canada in Edmonton, says the sale of Craig to CHUM doesn’t really solve the supply problem for regional advertisers, it’s just replacing one with the other and making it more expensive.

‘I think we’re going to be a very supplier-controlled market. I think the market costs are going to go up – because CHUM isn’t exactly known for low pricing.’