June 9, 2004  Bell Canada applies for two regional Class 1 cable licencesBCE Inc.-controlled Bell Canada has applied for two regional Class 1 cable licences for specific regions of Ontario and Quebec (Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2004-4). The Ontario licence would serve the markets of Toronto, Hamilton/Niagara, Oshawa, Kitchener, London, Windsor, Ottawa and the surrounding areas in each location; and the Quebec licence would serve Montreal, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Quebec City and surrounding areas. Bell proposes charging $22.94 for basic cable TV service. If granted the licences, Bell will build on its current VDSL technology, employed in multiple dwelling units in Montreal and Montreal, and use it to expand to other communities (CCR, Feb. 27/04). The CRTC has indicated that it will examine whether issuing new cable licences would provide Bell Canada with an undue competitive advantage that may be detrimental to the broadcasting industry. Written comments on the application are due July 15, and a public hearing on the matter will be held on August 9.Bell ExpressVu applies for VOD licenceDirect-to-home satellite TV distributor Bell ExpressVu has applied for a licence for an English-language, general interest video-on-demand service that would show feature films, children’s programming, archival TV programming and adult programming (Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2004-4). “ExpressVu considers VOD to be a useful adjunct to PPV (pay-per-view), particularly for the delivery of popular movie titles. Bell Canada, an affiliated company, has applied for a Class 1 cable licence. The issuance of this VOD licence will enable provision of such service to Bell’s cable customers, and allow ExpressVu to grow its PPV/VOD business while capturing the economic efficiencies of operating both businesses together,” reads ExpressVu’s VOD application made public June 8. Written comments on the application are due July 15, and a public hearing has been scheduled for August 9. TV broadcasting revenues top $5 billion for first time: StatsCanRevenues of the television broadcasting industry increased 8.8% to $5.2 billion in 2003 from the previous year, according to Statistics Canada figures released June 8. Revenues for private conventional TV rose 10.6% to $2.1 billion, the first double-digit gain since 1988, while those in specialty TV increased 11.9%. Revenues for public and non-commercial TV grew just 3.4%. Daniel April of Statistics Canada said the over-the-air figures were derived from a survey conducted by Statistics Canada in conjunction with the CRTC. The specialty TV figures come from the CRTC.CRTC proposes offering French-language broadcasters more advertising minutes in return for original dramaThe CRTC is proposing offering French-language broadcasters more advertising minutes in return for airing original French-Canadian TV drama to ensure that the genre remains healthy (Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-38). In a public notice released June 8, the commission suggests allowing three minutes of additional advertising for each hour of original high-cost 10-point drama with a budget of at least $800,000 per hour that is broadcast in peak time. The CRTC estimates that if the incentive had been in place in 2003-04, additional revenues of $380,000 to $525,000 would have been generated. Any other original 10-point French-language drama with a production budget under $800,000 per hour would earn the broadcaster two additional minutes of advertising. The CRTC estimates that if that incentive had been in place in 2003-04, it would have generated additional revenues of $200,000 to more than $2.5 million, depending upon the broadcaster.Original French-language drama produced without the help of the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) would earn an additional four minutes of advertising on top of the three or two minutes. “The commission expects broadcasters to work creatively with producers to ensure that the advertising revenue that broadcasters receive from the additional four minutes of advertising flows through to the production,” reads the CRTC notice.Since audiences generated for French-language TV drama is already higher than those for English-Canadian productions, the CRTC proposes limiting ads to a maximum of 14 minutes per hour, and that there be no carryover of advertising minutes from one year to the next. The commission notes that French-language viewers are not accustomed to the 14 to 16 minutes of advertising breaks resulting from simulcast U.S. programs by Canadian English-language stations, which currently fill the additional minutes with PSAs and ads for Canadian programming. The commission rejected requests by some Quebec broadcasters to extend the length of the peak viewing time. The CRTC notes that it has established the goal of increasing the viewing to Canadian drama on Canadian English-language services over a five-year period from the current industry average of 14% to 20%. But since Canadian French-language services already account for 52% of viewing to Canadian drama, “the commission does not find it necessary to consider incentives for increasing viewing to Canadian French-language drama,” the CRTC notes.As it did with its proposals for boosting English-language drama, the CRTC determined that for the French-language market, “additional regulatory requirements would be inappropriate at this time.” (CCR, May 6/04).“The commission reiterates that high-cost drama programs regularly attract one million viewers and, generally, are still profitable for conventional French-language broadcasters. The purpose of this incentive is to add value to the broadcaster’s programming decision, not to make high-cost drama as profitable as other programming genres that may be broadcast during peak time,” notes the CRTC.Pelmorex wins court injunction against Star ChoiceThe Ontario Superior Court has granted Pelmorex a court injunction against Star Choice forcing the direct-to-home satellite TV distributor to return the Weather Network to its “Essentials” package. Customers would have to pay an extra $6.99 a month for the Pelmorex-owned Weather Network in the package to which Star Choice wanted to move the channel. The Weather Network had been carried as part of Star Choice’s basic service since January 1998. The two parties are to appear in court on June 16 to debate whether the injunction should be extended. The court order was issued after a decision unfavourable to Pelmorex was issued by the CRTC on June 4. The commission denied a request by Pelmorex for an order under section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act to prevent Star Choice from switching the Weather Network to a new package (Broadcasting Decision 2004-197). The commission stated it would issue reasons for the decision at a later date, and would conduct an inquiry into measures that may be required to ensure that negotiations between distributors and programmers are conducted in accordance with good commercial practices. CRTC turns down TSN, Talk TV, RDS on packaging change made by Star ChoiceThe CRTC has denied a request by TSN, Talk TV, and RDS that it issue an order under section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act, requiring Star Choice to continue distributing the services as currently packaged (Broadcasting Decision 2004-198). In a decision released June 4, the commission stated that the reasons for the decision would be issued at a later date. In a May 21 letter, the three specialty services told the CRTC that Star Choice intended to remove TSN from its “Sports” package, RDS from its “Actif” package, and add them to its “Essentials/Essentiels” package, its basic service offering. It also planned to remove Talk TV from its “Lifestyle” package and put it in its “FYI” package, which like the Lifestyle package is offered to subscribers on a discretionary basis. Star Choice made the packaging changes on May 25. Commissioner Andrée Noel dissented, stating that Star Choice had switched the channels, “thereby defying the commission’s authority to render a decision on the said request.” She further states, “…I do question the motives that would have Star Choice use brutal, not to say uncivilized, commercial practices in its dealings with the programming undertakings.”In conjunction with this proceeding, the CRTC announced that it would conduct a process to inquire into the measures that may be required to ensure that negotiations are conducted in accordance with good commercial practices.The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) on June 9 issued a media release, asking the CRTC to “put an end to Star Choice’s bullying tactics.” “The way Star Choice decided to change the offering of specialty services to consumers is unacceptable in any business environment,” said CAB president and CEO Glenn O’Farrell. “These changes cause needless disruption and confusion amongst viewers.”More Category 2 diginet applications under considerationThe CRTC will consider a number of licence applications for new Category 2 digital specialty TV channels at a public hearing on August 9 (Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2004-4). Ola Farm Hollywood Corp. has applied for a channel called People T.V., which will be devoted to Canadian contemporary Christian music video programs; The Natural Resources Television Channel for a bilingual service dedicated to the field of natural resources; Hola! Canadian Hispanic TV Network Inc. for a national ethnic Spanish-language specialty TV service; Arya Persian TV Network Inc. for a national Farsi-language specialty channel; and Golden Tunes Productions Inc. for a channel know as Venus TV that would focus on South Asian communities in Canada. Written comments on the applications are due July 15. Friends criticize Liberals for being silent on culture and broadcastingFriends of Canadian Broadcasting on June 3 denounced Paul Martin’s Liberal Party for ignoring culture and broadcasting in its platform released June 3. “This is the first Liberal Red Book to be silent on cultural issues for as long as we began covering broadcasting and culture in 1985,” said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison.Leafs TV to air 12 live games in 2004-05Leafs TV will have the exclusive broadcast rights to 12 Maple Leaf games in 2004-05, the Category 2 digital channel announced June 3. As well, for the third season, Leafs TV has exclusive coverage of all the team’s preseason games. CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada will broadcast 28 Leaf games. TSN acquired the rights to 40 Leaf games, and subleased 15 of them to Rogers Sportsnet. Executives at Leafs TV have said that the broadcast of live Leaf games should induce more Leaf fans to subscribe to the channel. “This is a great step forward in the evolution of Leafs TV,” said John Shannon, VP of programming and executive producer for Leafs TV and Raptors/NBA TV. “Live broadcasts are what all-sports television channels are all about and these games will complete what is already the best all-round Maple Leafs package available to our current and future subscribers.”Trailer Park Boys season four finale attracts record specialty TV audienceThe finale episode of season four of the Trailer Park Boys had a total of 688,000 viewers (2+), the highest audience for an episode of a Canadian-produced series in five years, Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. announced June 7. The show aired on Showcase on Sunday, May 30 at 9 p.m. and featured a guest appearance by singer Rita MacNeil. The episode ranked tenth among all episodes of Canadian dramatic series across all English Canadian national networks for the 2003-04 broadcast year. The fifth season, consisting of 10 episodes, will launch in early 2005.Wood Lake Cable to launch VoIPWood Lake Cable announced June 1 that it would be the first cable operator in Western Canada to launch a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. The service will be called NetCall VoIP and will be offered over the cableco’s entire operating area in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. NetCall VoIP is being offered in conjunction with Galaxy Telecom of Vancouver. Radio-Canada drops La Soirée du Hockey in QuebecThe Canadian Broadcasting Corp./Radio-Canada won’t broadcast the hockey games of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturdays in the province of Quebec next year. Two years ago, CTV Inc.’s French-language sports network RDS outbid Radio-Canada for the broadcast rights to the games (CCR, June 7/02). But after a public backlash and a push from then-Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps, Radio-Canada came to an agreement with RDS to broadcast important Canadiens games so that they would be available to people without cable or satellite TV (CCR, July 24/02). But Radio-Canada has refused to air the games next year unless it receives a share of the advertising dollars. Negotiations between RDS and Radio-Canada have failed, and the public broadcaster is apparently planning other programming for Saturday night. The public broadcaster, however, will continue to air the Canadiens games to Francophones living outside of Quebec. CTV unveils 2004-05 lineup, including new shows CSI: New York, Dr. VegasCTV unveiled its 2004-05 lineup on June 7, announcing that it has secured the Canadian rights to new shows such as CSI: New York, Dr. Vegas, Desperate Housewives, The Benefactor, and Wife Swap. Premiering later in the season will be Athens, Commando Nanny, Grey’s Anatomy, Kevin Hill, Medium, Law and Order: Trial by Jury, Related By Family, Veronica Mars, and Canadian dramas Instant Star and Robson Arms. CTV stated that it was planning a 52-week schedule of first-run programming, including the return of the top 20 performers. Last year, CTV capture 16 of television’s top 20 most-watched TV programs, and finished number one in prime time in four key demographics (total viewers, adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54). CHUM Ltd. announces 2004-05 fall seasonAmerica’s Next Top Model, Jack & Bobby, Battlestar Galactica, Summerland, Life As We Know It, The 4400, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the weekday strip of Sex and The City are new acquisitions made by CHUM Ltd. for its 2004-05 broadcast schedule. Returning programs include The Bachelor, Smallville, 7th Heaven, Monk and Everwood, and E! True Hollywood Story. CHUM is also adding several new in-house programs to its fall schedule, including Starville and Starstruck.“Our program schedules are based on consistency and building hits, so we are delighted to have picked up proven performers like The Ellen DeGeneres Show and renewed the programs that have done so well for us such as 7th Heaven and Everwood,” said Ellen Baine, VP of programming at CHUM Television. “We are also excited about our new acquisitions which are all ideal fits with our strong national brands.”CHUM Television released its fall lineup on June 2, the same day it announced its upcoming programming for its specialty TV channels Space: The Imagination Station, Bravo, BookTelevision and Canadian Learning Television.CBC moves Coronation Street to prime time as lead-in for Canadian showsThe Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will move the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street to prime time four nights a week this fall as a lead-in to some new Canadian programming. The new TV shows include Making the Cut, a reality TV-based show that follows some amateur hockey players hopeful of making the National Hockey League, and The Greatest Canadian, an interactive biographical series aimed at determining who is the greatest Canadian. The CBC’s performing arts show will return on Thursday evenings. Other new Canadian series include H20, a political thriller starring Paul Gross, and The Tommy Douglas Project, a prequel to the mini-series on Pierre Trudeau.The new shows will be introduced following coverage of the Olympics in August and the World Cup of Hockey in September and early October.Rogers announced $250 million equity issuanceRogers Communications Inc. announced June 9 an equity issuance that could net it $250 million. It is expected that the prospectus will be filed in all provinces of Canada on or before June 11. The net proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.Alliance Atlantis announces net debt of $370 million in first quarterAlliance Atlantis Communications Inc. announced that it had a net debt of $370 million, compared in the first quarter ended March 31, compared to $373 million in the previous quarter and $538 million in the same quarter a year earlier. The company had revenues of $212 million in the quarter compared to $226 million in the prior year’s quarter.The company’s broadcasting division recorded a 13% increase in revenues. “Our broadcast channels continued to deliver very strong results in the first quarter,” said Alliance Atlantis president Michael MacMillan. “In advertising revenues, our specialty channels continued to go from strength to strength, up from the prior year’s period of 23%. At the same time, our subscriber base and associated revenue stream continued to grow as part of our ongoing marketing efforts with our cable and satellite partners.” The strong performance by the broadcasting division was driven in part by the launch of successful shows, such as season four of Trailer Park Boys on Showcase.The financial results were publicly released after three aborted releases by the company (CCR, May 21/04). Look, UBS sign services agreementLook Communications Inc. has concluded a services agreement with its largest shareholder, Unique Broadband Systems Inc. Under the deal, UBS will provide Look with a wide range of services, including establishing and updating Look’s strategic plan; monitoring and, where appropriate, renegotiating Look’s service provider arrangements; providing wide-ranging technical support; and supplementing Look’s back-office services.