July 23, 2003  GlobalTV letting viewers influence direction of TV show via text messagingGlobalTV launched on July 21 what it is calling “North America’s first mobile service which allows viewers to impact television’s dramatic content” in conjunction with its Train 48 program (CCR, June 20/03). The mobile service for the show is accessed by text messaging “Global” (456225) with the word “Train.” Viewers receive storyline options and can vote on the direction in which the drama goes. Viewers can also send comments to cast members. The service, available from July 21 to September 2, is a collaboration between Global and Impact Mobile. “The ease of use and growing popularity of text messaging enable a new and innovative format for television programming. The mobile phone is an inexpensive and ubiquitous interactive television device. I expect more unique programming concepts based on text messaging as we head into 2004,” says Impact Mobile president Gary Schwartz. In its third-quarter financials released July 17, CanWest stated that Train 48, which debuted this summer, will return to Global for a full season.Rogers digital subscriber growth slows, basic customer losses triple in second quarterRogers Cable Inc. saw its basic cable subscriber base drop by 14,800 in its fiscal 2003 second quarter ended June 30, according to financial results released by parent company Rogers Communications Inc. last week. The number of customers lost in the quarter was more than triple the 4,800 lost in the same period a year earlier. But subscriber losses in the first six months of 2003 (15,400) are lower than the same period last year (23,300). Canada’s largest cableco added 25,400 net digital cable set-top boxes in service and 22,300 digital cable households in Q2, compared to 48,700 digital boxes and 46,100 added in the same period last year. At June 30, Rogers had a total of 518,900 digital boxes deployed in 456,900 digital households. Rogers said the higher level of digital subscriber additions last year reflects the initial launch of Incredible Rogers Bundles, which have been very popular among customers. Rogers increased its digital cable subscriber guidance for 2003. The cableco now expects to add in the range of 100,000 to 120,000 net digital households this year, up from its previous guidance of 90,000 to 110,000. That would give the cableco in the range of 501,500 to 521,500 digital households, representing growth 25% to 30%.CCTA cancels convention that had been rescheduled for September in TorontoThe Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA) has cancelled its 2003 Cable Summit, which had been rescheduled to September 23-24 (CCR, May 03/03). The CCTA says its members requested that the association not hold a 2003 event, and begin the new format for its convention in 2004. The CCTA Cable Summit was originally scheduled for April 27-29 but was postponed due to fears of SARS (CCR, April 25/03). There are no details on where or when the 2004 cable event will be held.CRTC grants administrative licence renewals to specialty channels, othersThe CRTC has granted administrative renewals from Sept. 1, 2003 to Feb. 29, 2004 to the licences of the specialty channels originally licensed in 1996 (Broadcasting Decision 2003-290). The licence renewal applications were considered at a public hearing that opened on May 26 (CCR, June 5/03, May 8/03, March 27/03). The commission will not have time to rule on the applications before the current licences expire. Also granted administrative renewals were the multipoint distribution system (MDS) distributors and several others.CRTC grants more administrative renewals to PPV undertakings, othersThe CRTC has granted administrative renewals from Sept. 1, 2003 to Aug. 31, 2004 to a number of pay-per-view undertakings, television stations, transitional digital radio programming undertakings, and cable distribution undertakings (Broadcasting Decision 2003-291). In another decision, more radio undertakings and others were also granted administrative renewals for the same time period (Broadcasting Decision 2003-292). As well, various other undertakings received administrative renewals from Sept. 1, 2003 to Nov. 30, 2003 (Broadcasting Decision 2003-293).CRTC turns down Novus end-user complaint against Bell ExpressVuThe CRTC has ruled that Bell ExpressVu LP did not contravene section 9 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations, following a complaint by Novus Entertainment with regard to access to a condominium in Vancouver (Broadcasting Decision 2003-275). Novus had argued that Bell ExpressVu’s access agreement with the condominium council of the Strata Plan building stated that only two providers of TV or audio service, including Bell ExpressVu, would be allowed to offer service within the multiple unit dwelling. The incumbent TV provider is Shaw Cable, which succeeded Rogers Cable. Novus argued that the access agreement created an environment whereby Bell ExpressVu was the sole alternative distributor to the building, in contravention of section 9 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations. But the CRTC, following a recently announced policy, ruled that the concept of end-user choice does not apply at the level of each individual occupant, but at the level of the condominium board.CRTC issues call for comments on CCTA’s proposal to bring more foreign third-language channels to CanadaThe CRTC is asking for comments on the Canadian Cable Television Association’s (CCTA) request to add 15 non-Canadian, mostly third-language, foreign services to the list of services that distributors can carry on a digital basis only (Broadcasting Public Notice 2003-36). The association notes that the addition of more foreign channels would have the following three key benefits: provide multicultural communities with increased viewing choices; help repatriate customers from the black and grey markets; and drive digital penetration (CCR, April 25/03). Comments are due by August 11, and the CCTA has until September 11 to respond to any comments received.EBITDA up at CanWest’s Canadian broadcasting operations in Q3EBITDA at CanWest Global Communications Corp.’s Canadian broadcasting operations was up 10% to $83 million in the third quarter ended May 31 from the same period a year earlier, the company stated in financials released July 17. Global said that TV revenues declined slightly in the quarter because two Canadian teams advanced to later rounds of this year’s NHL playoffs and due to the war in Iraq. But it noted that Global Television continued to have four of the top 10 shows in Toronto, and three of the top 10 in Vancouver. Survivor VI was the top-rated show in Toronto, and other Global shows making the top 10 were Friends, Will and Grace, and the Simpsons. Leonard Asper, president and CEO of CanWest, stated in a media release, “We remain encouraged by the sustained, improving trend that has been evident over the past several quarters, as advertising markets for both television and newspapers rebound, and revenue and cost synergies begin to manifest themselves.” The company also noted that upfront ad sales for the first quarter of 2004, and the launch of the new television season, have been significantly stronger than in recent years. Also, Global announced July 9 that it had sold its stake in European broadcaster SBS Broadcasting S.A. to a U.S. institutional investor for $44.1 million. The money will be used to reduce corporate debt.Strong performance by TV and radio leads Astral to continued profitsAstral Media Inc.’s pay TV subscribers increased by 13.7% year-over-year and advertising revenue grew 38% in the third quarter ended May 31, according to financials released July 23 by the Montreal-based company. EBITDA was up 36% to $36.3 million in the third quarter compared to $26.7 million for the same quarter a year earlier.Global launches new morning news show in TorontoGlobal Television Network launched a new morning news show in Toronto on July 14. The show airs weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and is anchored by Global News personalities Alan Carter and Christine Crosbie.Bell ExpressVu satellite service being used to deliver Internet connectivity on VIA Rail trainsThe free Internet access available via mobile wireless local area network (WLAN) in select VIA Rail trains uses Bell ExpressVu LP’s satellite service, according to a media release. The service is an extension of Bell Canada’s AccessZone Wi-Fi hotspot pilot service. This is the first time in North America that mobile WLAN connectivity, using combined satellite and wireless networks, will be available within a moving passenger train car. The Internet is transmitted down to trains from Bell ExpressVu’s Internet satellite service to onboard equipment and then to the end-user’s WLAN-enabled device, Bell Canada explained in a July 9 media release. Alliance Atlantis renews distribution deal with Artisan EntertainmentAlliance Atlantis Communications Inc. has renewed its distribution deal with Artisan Entertainment until March 31, 2007, it was announced July 16. Alliance Atlantis has the Canadian rights to upcoming Artisan product for theatrical, home entertainment and TV release under the deal. The original partnership dates back to 1998.Canadian culture needs to be promoted, Foreign Affairs document summarizesCanadian culture and values have a place in the trade field, according to A Dialogue on Foreign Policy – Report to Canadians, a report released late last month by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The 22-page report is a summary of comments made by citizens across the country participating in nationwide consultations on their concerns, priorities and expectations for Canada in trade matters (CCR, March 27/03). “Many participants recognize the value of cultural diplomacy to Canada’s international relations, and say that awareness of Canadian artists around the world can open doors to many new opportunities of long-term benefit to Canadians,” reads the report.Canadian independent film and video fund awards support, despite budget cutsThe Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund (CIFVF) has awarded a total of about $1.5 million in grants to film and video producers, despite a budget cut of $250,000 from Canadian Heritage. The national private-sector non-profit organization also said that it has been informed that the government would cut its budget by that amount or 14% of its current budget every year until the end of its Contributions Agreement expires in March 2005. As a result of this year’s budget cut, seven projects that were destined to receive funding were left out in the cold, and six others had their funding reduced. “Cuts such as these severely curtail the operation of an already small fund and restrict the CIFVF’s ability to respond to the needs of Canadian producers who want to help Canadians explore and understand the world they live in,” the organization stated. Satellite TV distributor Star Choice Communications Inc. contributed $747,012 to the fund.WIFT-T launches feature film incubator programWomen in Film and Television – Toronto has launched the Feature Film Incubator, a national two-part award designed to support market-driven feature films and develop the next generation of Canadian talent. Part one of the fund, the development incubator, will fund up to six candidates to work one-on-one with a leading story editor over three months. The second part, the financing incubator, will give up to six emerging feature film producers the chance to work with a panel of industry experts in an intensive two-day packaging workshop. Applications for the development incubator program are due by July 28, and for the financing incubator by October 20. The program is being presented in conjunction with Telefilm Canada and the Ontario Media Development Corp.Geminis asking for fan participationThe Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which organizes the annual Gemini Awards, is asking the public to submit a three-minute video for consideration to present an award. Tape submissions are due by October 3. Viewers are also asked to vote for their choice for Favourite Comedian. Votes can be cast at www.geminiawards.ca. The 18th Annual Gemini Awards, a salute to the best in Canadian TV programming, runs Oct. 18-20, 2003.Vidéotron Internet subscribers to receive faster file transfer speedsVidéotron ltée will increase the file transfer speeds on its high-speed Internet access service by 94.4% to 350 kbps from 180 kbps, the cableco announced July 17. Downloads will remain at 3.1 Mbps, far faster than competitive services, it says.CRTC tells incumbent telephone companies to offer high-speed Internet services to competitorsThe CRTC has ruled that incumbent telephone companies must provide their retail high-speed Internet services to residential customers of competitors upon request. In Telecom Decision 2003-49, the CRTC tells the incumbents – Bell Canada, Aliant Telecom, SaskTel and Telus – to remove restrictions in their rules that make their high-speed Internet services available only to their own residential telephone customers. The commission has directed the Manitoba telco, MTS Communications Inc., to show why it should not be subject to the same rules.Internet service providers struggling to remain competitive: StatsCanEvent though revenues have been increasing, a larger jump in expenses is making it difficult for Internet service providers (ISPs) to survive, according to figures released July 15 by Statistics Canada. About 45% of ISPs surveyed reported a loss in 2001, the federal government agency reported. Operating revenues rose 27% to $1.27 billion in 2001, while operating expenses surged 36% to $1.55 billion. ISPs reported five principal obstacles to growth: competition, cost-related impediments, delays in obtaining facilities from suppliers, access to financing, and access to markets.INTERNATIONAL NEWSPublic opposition to FCC media ownership change increases: PewKnowledge of and opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to loosen cross-ownership restrictions has increased since February, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Over half of the 1,201 adults responding to a nationwide poll conducted from June 10-July 2 said the decision would have a negative impact on the country, up 34% from February. Meanwhile, FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on July 15 called on the FCC to change an anomaly in its media ownership rules that allows greater concentration in small markets. “In an apparent blunder, the FCC’s new rules count Minot, North Dakota, as if it had more TV stations than Detroit, Michigan. Many small markets are now considered among the largest in the country. I’m asking my colleagues to reconsider the rule changes so we can fix this anomaly before new mergers take place that let a single owner dominate the media in many smaller towns,” Adelstein said in a media release. Politicians have also become involved in the issue. The House of Representatives defeated an amendment late on July 22 that would have nullified the looser broadcast ownership rules approved by the FCC on June 2. For more about the vote, which was defeated, click here.Nielsen tightening rules for use of its ratings dataNielsen Media Research is looking to change its agreements so third parties will be restricted in how they can use its TV ratings data and demographic information, according to TelevisionWeek. High cable rates in U.S. under attack from Senator, FCC commissionerU.S. Senator John McCain and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Michael Copps are decrying rising cable rates south of the border, according to the Rocky Mountain News. “The cable industry has risen to new heights in their apparent willingness and ability to gorge the American consumer,” said McCain in a statement. He chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he says will look at the issue. Copps said that the FCC needs to do a better job of tracking rate increases and should even conduct mini audits to ensure the accuracy of data submitted by cablecos. Cable television rates in the U.S. increased an average of 8.2% nationwide last year, a figure that is much higher than the nation’s 1.5% chief inflation gauge, the consumer price index. In the five years ended July 2002, cable rates rose at an average annual rate of 7.1%, compared to an annual gain of about 2.3% in the consumer price index.