Specialty takes a front-row seat

So what's so special about specialty? Turns out a whole hell of a lot, even if you're not turned on by dog sledding, or creative mechanics. There's something for everyone in the expanding universe of specialty offerings as both viewer and advertiser demand is growing exponentially.

So what’s so special about specialty? Turns out a whole hell of a lot, even if you’re not turned on by dog sledding, or creative mechanics. There’s something for everyone in the expanding universe of specialty offerings as both viewer and advertiser demand is growing exponentially.

While there’s not much change or innovation on the programming side, we are seeing a power shift in the media market to the world of the specialty services. And rightly so, says Dennis Dinga, VP director of broadcast buying, M2 Universal.

‘It’s basic economics. As specialty continues to grow in terms of audience share, and there’s an increase in dollars spent on specialty and decrease on conventional, [it stands to reason] that the specialties have more power to negotiate.’

Although specialty was the underdog in the media mix until around 2000, we’ve now seen – and this year in particular – marketers making their specialty buys a priority and nailing down deals in early May, well before the upfronts in June. Some media buyers predict that this is the new upfront scenario – specialty locking in money in the first three weeks of May.

‘It’s smart,’ says Dinga. ‘Agencies are looking to make their specialty commitments early to give them an idea of the efficiencies before they go after the top 10 on conventional.’

Of course, five years ago the network upfront was first and foremost and specialty deals were cut with whatever money was left over. This year, however, with specialty services taking a front-row seat, they are reportedly more aggressive than ever with rates – a trend that will likely continue as they become increasingly integral to the media mix.

Meanwhile, the top-ranking analog specialties this year have pretty much held their spots since last year, according to Nielsen Media Research (in the 2+ Non-French and French universe).

The following listing spotlights new offers from the top 10 English analog specialties and the top three French ones as they ranked in the 2004/05 broadcast year.


(Corus Entertainment)

Average-minute audience: 78,000

Target demo: 2-17

Major advertisers: Mattel, General Mills, Hasbro, Kraft Foods, Buena Vista

Fall highlights:

Unfabulous: A 13-year-old girl tries to get through her early teens with as little humiliation as possible. Starring Julia Roberts’ niece Emma Roberts.

Krypto the Superdog: In this Warner Bros. animated series, a nine-year-old boy befriends a dog with superpowers. The mutt originally belonged to Superman, before being launched into space.

Catscratch: Three irresponsible cats inherit millions from their elderly owner, who left them her house, her butler and her fortune in this animated misadventure. Featuring the voices of Wayne Knight (Seinfeld), Rob Paulsen (The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius) and Kevin McDonald (The Kids in the Hall).

Avatar: The Last Airbender: This animated series follows the journey of a 12-year-old boy torn between fulfilling his fate as the long-awaited Avatar and just wanting to be a regular kid.

Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Based on the popular Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi, this anime series follows the wacky animated adventures of the real-life Japanese pop stars.

G.M.I.: Ghost Masters Investigates: A live-action reality series where kids compete to become the ultimate Ghost Master by investigating paranormal activity.


(English Network) (Astral Media, Corus Entertainment, Cookie Jar Entertainment)

Average-minute audience: 68,000

Target demo: 6-11 (primary); 18-34 (secondary)

Major advertisers: Mattel, Hasbro, P&G, Buena Vista, Labatt, Virgin Mobile

Fall highlights:

Carl2: This half-hour series follows a slacker teen who accidentally generates his own clone after ranting about his life in his blog.

Delilah and Julius: In this half-hour program, two savvy teen spies travel the globe stopping covert plots for world domination, while dealing with normal teen issues.

The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: Two young kids become best friends with the Grim Reaper after beating him in an otherworldly limbo contest in this half-hour kid series.

Sons of Butcher: This new half-hour teen show follows the adventures of three butchers by day, rock stars by night.

The Wrong Coast: Targeted at adults, this series is an animated parody of a typical Hollywood magazine show.


(Bell Globemedia)

Average-minute audience: 78,000

Target demo: 25-54

Major advertisers: Canadian Tire, Toyota, General Motors, Hyundai, Ford, Molson, Mitsubishi, DaimlerChrysler, Wal-Mart, Gillette, P&G, Honda

Fall highlights:

Canada’s Worst Driver: Dangerous drivers on the road to rehab.

On the Run: A high-stakes chase series, in which dedicated law enforcement agencies use innovative tactics to capture clever and dangerous fugitives.

Grizzly Man: The story of author and outdoorsman Timothy Treadwell, who after devoting years of study to the great bears presumed he could live safely among the grizzlies of the Alaskan wilderness – until he was killed and devoured by one of them.

Greatest Ever: This ‘top 10′ celebration of human achievements is a fast-paced, informative look at the marvels of modern technology.

MythBusters: A fun scientific detective series that tests, validates or debunks urban myths.


(Bell Globemedia)

Average-minute audience: 82,000

Target demo: 25-54

*National brands on the network include: Canadian Tire, WestJet, Standard Life

Fall highlights:

Bell Canadian Open: TSN and CTV have exclusive Canadian coverage of the 101st Bell Canadian Open with all four rounds available in high definition. TSN will televise the first two rounds on Sept. 8 and 9, while live coverage of the third and final rounds on Sept. 10 and 11 will be shared.

Degree Poker Championship: The first annual Canadian Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. TSN will televise the tournament nationally, airing six one-hour prime-time broadcasts from Sept. 15 to 24. Also available in HD.

TSN will have an comprehensive hockey broadcast schedule, including the NHL (if it goes) and International Hockey.


(Astral Media)

Average-minute audience: 63,000

Target demo: 8-14

Major advertisers: Mattel, Kellogg, Wendy’s, Warner Bros., Universal Studios and Disney.

Fall highlights:

Life with Derek: New siblings of a blended marriage star in this half-hour, live-action comedy show.

Naturally, Sadie: A half-hour, live-action comedy series that follows a 13-year-old aspiring naturalist.

Disney’s The Buzz on Maggie: An animated series about a fun-loving tween fly who devises ways to make her everyday life exciting.

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: A half-hour live-action series following the outrageous shenanigans of two 12-year-old boys who turn the upscale Boston hotel where they live into their own personal playground.

SPACE: The Imagination Station

(CHUM Television)

Average-minute audience: 42,000

Target demo: 25-54 (male skewed, early adopters)

*National brands on the network include: Toyota, Canadian Tire, Fido

Fall highlights:

Battlestar Galactica, the classic series: The original cult classic from the ’70s about a ragtag human fleet of survivors in search of a mythical planet called Earth.

Stargate Atlantis: This Stargate SG-1 spin-off follows a scientific/military team as they head on a mission to investigate the secrets of Atlantis.

Enterprise (all-new strip run): A prequel to the original Star Trek, this program follows the adventures of the Enterprise.

Shadow Hunter: A documentary series that looks at the world of the paranormal through the eyes of a charismatic ghost hunter.


(Alliance Atlantis Communications)

Average-minute audience: 59,000

Target demo: 18-49

Major advertisers: Mastercard, Toyota, Pfizer, Nestlé, Effem

Fall highlights:

Weeds: Business booms for a mom who decides to sell pot to her neighbours when her husband dies of a heart attack. Starring Mary Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins and Kevin Nealon.

The Grid: Follows a terrorist cell and a team of counter-terrorists who are charged with stopping it. Starring Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies.


(Alliance Atlantis Communications)

Average-minute audience: 56,000

Target demo: 25-54

Major advertisers: Volvo, Sears Canada, SC Johnson, Danone, Via Rail

Fall highlights:

Over There: This ensemble drama, created by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue), follows members of an Army unit sent to Iraq on their first tour of duty.

Band of Brothers: The epic 10-part miniseries from HBO chronicles the experiences of an elite rifle company during WWII. Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

Digging for the Truth: Host, explorer, and survival expert Josh Bernstein takes a fresh look at the world’s greatest ancient mysteries as he travels to some of the most intriguing locations in the world.

Full Throttle: Combining history, reality and renovation, this series heads out on the drag strip as classic cars are transformed into fine-tuned machines.

Bomber Boys: The story of a group of young men who volunteer to relive the war-time experiences of their grandfathers.

Things That Move: A look at how technological innovation and historical confluence has lead to the evolution of travel. Hosted by Jeff Douglas (who played Joe Canadian in the Molson Canadian ‘Rant’ spot).


(Corus Entertainment)

Average-minute audience: 45,000

Target demo: women 25-54

Major advertisers: Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Nestlé, Sears, HBC, L’Oreal, PepsiCo

Fall highlights:

Between the Sheets: A half-hour series featuring stories about Canadians who want to inject some fun into their sex lives.

Save Us From Our House!: A fast-paced new series that brings a relationship counsellor, contractor and designer to the rescue of families suffering in their space.

Fat Actress: Actress Kirstie Alley plays a fictional version of herself – a successful star whose weight gain has become the bane of her existence – as she tries to find work and true love in unforgiving Hollywood. With cameos by John Travolta, Kid Rock and King of Queens’ Leah Remini.

Once and Again: This critically acclaimed drama series from a few years ago focuses on the challenging relationship between a divorced man and a soon-to-be divorced woman, both with kids, both with careers. Starring Sela Ward and Billy Campbell.


(Rogers Communications)

Average-minute audience: 49,000

Target demo: 25-54

*National brands on the network include: Toyota, WestJet

Poker Hour: A revolving door of poker events will be aired in this weekly Saturday night slot.

FUEL: This daily hour hosts a bevy of action sport programs including Props

Road Fools, Skate Maps, and 54321 Weekly.

Coverage of Major League Baseball World Series, MLB divisionals and American and National League championships.



(French network) (Astral Media, Corus Entertainment, Cookie Jar Entertainment)

Average-minute audience: 34,000

Target demo: 18-34 (primary target); 6-11 (secondary target)

Major advertisers: P&G, Molson, Bell, Sony Pictures

Fall highlights:

Carl2: See English network description

Star ou boucher: See English network for Sons of Butcher description

Station X: This new half-hour, multi-media teen series follows a group of six young artists, musicians and filmmakers who share a loft in a large dynamic Canadian city. Musical guests include Bif Naked, Sam Roberts, Monster Magnet, Mathew Good and The Frenetics.



Average-minute audience: 30,000

Target demo: 18+

Major advertisers: Bio-Actif, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, ING Direct, Toyota Canada, Banque Nationale, Nissan, Lakota, Volkswagen

Fall highlights:

Ushuaïa Nature: Star ecologist and explorer Nicolas Hulot travels around the world in search of the most significant landscapes.

La part des choses: Host Bernard Drainville offers interviews and debates on politics, society and the economy.

30 Millions d’amis: One of the longest-running TV programs in France, this weekly magazine deals with all aspects of relationships between man and animal.

Michaëlle: A series of hour-long interviews featuring renowned journalist Michaëlle Jean and guests who have made contributions to science,

social development, culture and philosophy.

Capital Actions: This daily program offers interviews with senior managers and respected financial analysts, commenting on the latest economic news.


(Astral Media, Alliance Atlantis)

Average-minute audience: 8,000

Target demo: women 25-54

Major advertisers: Toyota, Canadian Tire, Reckitt Benckiser, Procter & Gamble

Fall highlights:

Nos Vies Secretes (The Secret Life Of Us): This award-winning Australian romantic series focuses on the friendship of eight 20-year olds living in the same building in Melbourne. Lots of nudity, drugs and homosexuality.

New York 911 (Third Watch): This drama series follows the adventures of police officers, ambulance attendants and firefighters working in a crime-infested NYC.

La Vie Après La Vie (Dead Like Me): A dramatic comedy series that follows the afterlife of an 18-year-old woman who is killed by a falling toilet seat from the Mir space station.

Hotel du Pacifique (North Shore): This romantic series follows the trials of two ex-lovers who unexpectedly find themselves working together at a resort hotel in Hawaii.

Cold Case: This popular crime drama produced by Jerry Bruckheimer follows the only woman detective on the crime squad in Philadelphia, who investigates old murders.

Porté Disparu (1-800 Missing): A woman with psychic abilities teams with a skeptical detective to track down missing persons.

Sue Thomas: L’Oeil du FBI (Sue Thomas: FB Eye): A deaf woman becomes an FBI agent and her handicap makes her so observant that she notices clues that others overlook.

Demain à la une (Early Edition): Every day a man receives a newspaper from the following day and has 24 hours to change how things turn out.


François en Série: In this comedy, a man finds the various aspects of his personality brought to life in human form.

*Observed by reporter on these networks on June 9/05.