Thursday, September 16, 2004  CHUM makes appearance before CRTC on Craig acquisitionCalling CHUM’s proposed acquisition of Craig Media one of the most important applications CHUM has ever presented to the CRTC, CHUM president and CEO Jay Switzer said, “This transaction represents an important milestone in CHUM Television’s development and evolution into a national independent system of local television stations…It will enable us to better amortize our programming costs, run our operations more efficiently and improve our ability to invest in Canadian priority programming and local programming. It will not, however, make us a national network in the eyes of major media buyers, who will still see our conventional services as a limited regional buy as opposed to a national buy.” Craig Media president and CEO Drew Craig stated at the September 9 hearing into CHUM’s acquisition of Craig, “Given the similarities between our two companies, the focus and commitment to alternative broadcasting, dedication to the communities we serve and the longstanding belief in the importance of diversity, I strongly believe that this transaction is the best possible for Craig Media, its employees and the Canadian broadcast system. I am confident that the Craig channels are going into good hands.”CHUM Ltd. has upped the amount of its proposed benefits package by $1 million, after recalculating it since Quebecor Inc. offered less than the anticipated price for the Toronto One station (CCR, Aug. 27/04). In its original application, CHUM proposed benefits of $20 million after valuing the sale at $192 million (the sale price minus the value of Toronto One and Craig’s Category 2 diginets). But since coming to an agreement with Quebecor, CHUM has altered the value of the transaction to $210 million and offered to increase its tangible benefits package by $1 million. The Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) called on the CRTC to include an additional $900,000 in benefits to cover the costs of Craig’s digital services.The CRTC panel examining the issue includes chair Charles Dalfen, vice-chair of broadcasting Andrée Wylie, vice-chair of telecommunications David Colville, regional commissioner for Quebec Andrée Noël and regional commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories Ronald Williams. The commission was particularly concerned about the integrity of the licensing process given that Craig’s Toronto One station and its diginets were being sold within the first licence term.The CHUM hearings followed the CRTC’s consideration of a planned radio asset swap between Astral Media and Corus Entertainment.Vidéotron phasing in 24 new channels, beginning this monthVidéotron ltée is adding 24 new channels and three high-definition (HD) services to its illico digital TV service over several weeks beginning September 7. The channels include three regional channels from Rogers Sportsnet (Ontario, West and Pacific), 15 more Galaxie music channels, three English-language specialty services (Fine Living, Discovery Kids and Talk TV), and three French-language specialty channels starting on September 30 (Mystère, Reseau Info Sport, and TFO). B4U, Alpha Punjabi added to Shaw Digital TV serviceThe South Asian channels B4U and Alpha Punjabi were added to Shaw Communications’ digital TV lineup on September 2. B4U is a movie channel devoted to Bollywood, and Alpha Punjabi offers programming on the Punjabi culture. B4U (on channel 137) and Alpha Punjabi (on channel 136) are available to Shaw digital TV customers in Vancouver, Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Ft. McMurray, Lloydminster and Medicine Hat for $14.95 per month for each channel on an à la carte basis, or together for $24.95 per month.Revenue growth robust for cable, wireless distributors, StatsCan figures indicateRevenue growth was robust in both cable, up 7.1%, and in wireless distribution, up 27.1% in 2003, largely as a result of higher revenue per subscriber, according to data released September 14 by Statistics Canada. Cable operators’ profit margin was 18.6%, up 2% from 2002, while wireless operators sustained losses before interest and taxes of 9.1% of their revenues, considerably less than the 26% loss incurred in 2002 and the 45.7% loss sustained in 2001, the bureau noted. Cable revenues were buoyed by the acquisition of more high-speed Internet customers. The cable industry during 2003 connected its two millionth customer to high-speed, and had almost 2.4 million high-speed customers signed up at the end of August 2003. The number of subscribers to the Internet by cable increased 26.1% from August 31, 2002 to August 31, 2003, compared with jumps of 35.4% in 2002 and 76.1% in 2001. But there continued to be an erosion in basic cable subscriptions, which declined 1.5% in 2003. The decrease was much less than the declines of 5.5% in 2001 and 4.7% in 2002. In contrast, the number of subscribers to the TV services of satellite and wireless cable operators continued to climb in 2003, although at a slower pace than previously. There were 2.2 million subscribers to wireless TV operators’ services on August 31, 2003, up 9.2% from the previous year. The market share of wireless TV services reached 22.5% in 2003.Canadian Heritage provides $326,855 in funding to Northern Native Broadcasting, TerraceCanadian Heritage announced September 10 that it would give $326,855 in funding to Northern Native Broadcasting, Terrace (NNBT). NNBT broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, reaching more than 60,000 Aboriginal people in British Columbia. The government funding, provided through its Northern Native Broadcast Access Program, will help defray the costs of producing 20 hours of weekly radio programming in a local indigenous language.Webcam footage from reality TV show Occupation double provided to Vidéotron Internet subscribersFor the second year, footage from 32 backstage webcams on the show Occupation double will be available to Vidéotron ltée’s high-speed Internet and extreme high-speed Internet subscribers free of charge from September 16 until November 18. The reality TV show, which airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m., features 12 singles searching for their soul mate. Six guys living next door to six girls get to know each other through a series of shared activities.CTV to give sneak preview of new Canadian drama following Idol finaleCTV Inc. has announced that it will broadcast a sneak preview of its new Canadian drama series Instant Star, after the finale of Canadian Idol next week. A one-hour preview of Instant Star aired Wednesday, September 15 at 9 p.m. The drama, about a 15-year-old girl who wins an enormously popular singer-songwriter contest and must cope with the demands of fame, will also be aired in high-definition. The series is produced by Toronto-based Epitome Pictures in association with CTV. The 13-part, 30-minute series is expected to make a mid-season launch on CTV. The drama is still in principal photography, but the first two episodes will be delivered by September 15. “We think that the Idol audience is a natural fit for this stunt and we’re looking forward to showcasing the series in a way that will create excitement for its midseason launch,” said CTV president of programming Susanne Boyce.Study on the penetration of cable television services in multi-dwelling units in Quebec and Ontario available free onlineThe study, Penetration of Cable Television Services in Multi-Dwelling Unites in Quebec and Ontario, is available free on Decima Reports’ web site at: http://www.decima.com/publishing/Reports/CableTVINMDUS.pdf.75% of Canadians believe phone companies could offer good or better cable service: Solutions Research GroupThree in four Canadians believe that their phone company would do as good a job or better than cable companies in offering TV services, according to a trend research series conducted by Toronto-based research firm Solutions Research Group. The report, Fast Forward, also found that Bell has an edge in terms of perceived credibility in customer satisfaction. Bell ExpressVu and Bell Mobility are ranked number one in satisfaction in their respective categories, while Bell local service satisfaction ratings are in the top-three along with two other regional local phone companies. In the Internet category, Rogers high-speed is ranked as number one in satisfaction, the report notes. It also found that perceived credibility and overall satisfaction ratings for Shaw and TELUS are very close, but that Shaw has an edge in the Internet category as its high-speed service ranks number one in customer satisfaction. The research is based on telephone interviews with 1,605 Canadians in May 2004.Star Choice inks deal with AOL Canada Inc. to offer DTH customers Internet accessStar Choice Communications Inc. in conjunction with AOL Canada Inc. is offering its direct-to-home satellite TV customers an unlimited accelerated dial-up Internet access service for $16.95 a month. The Internet service, Netscape Online Accelerated Internet, automatically compresses, optimizes and streamlines Internet content and email over dialup connections using a 56K modem. Star Choice customers will also get a built-in pop-up advertising blocker, two email boxes, spam filtering and free customer support with the service. “We are very excited about the opportunity to provide our customers with a differentiated Internet service solution, at an affordable price,” said Star Choice president Michael Abram in a September 9 media release. “Our customers will find the service to be very customer friendly, fast, and convenient.”Telefilm sets October 13 as deadline for support to visible minority, Aboriginal TV producersTelefilm Canada has announced that the deadline for the second edition of its Spark Plug program is October 13, 2004. The program is intended to provide increased support for visible minority and Aboriginal TV producers. The three-year program was developed in conjunction with Canadian Heritage. Information on the second edition of the program is available at http://www.telefilm.gc.ca/03/311.asp?doc_id229&fond_id5.Far Side of the Moon is Canada’s OSCAR nominationTelefilm Canada has announced that Robert Lepage’s La Face cache de la lune (Far Side of the Moon) has been submitted as Canada’s representative for the OSCAR for best foreign-language film.Shaw kicks off seventh season of NFL Sunday TicketShaw Communications kicked off the seventh season of NFL Sunday Ticket on September 12. The package is available for $24.99 per month and includes access to over 250 football games throughout the 17-week NFL season and a lineup of 14 games to choose from every Sunday. Individual games can be purchased for $9.99 each. Shaw digital TV customers who order the package before September 30 will be entered in a draw for a trip for two to the NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu in February.CTV launches Idol store on webCTV Inc. has launched an online store that offers a variety of Idol clothing, including hats, jerseys, black beanie toques and other Idol accessories, such as light-up pens, autograph books and CD holders. A limited number of shirts will be autographed after the finale show on September 16 and sold to fans on a first-come, first-serve basis. The web store is located at www.idol.ctv.ca. CTV hopes to capitalize on the popularity of the reality-based TV show by generating merchandise sales as well as ratings.Niagara Motel film begins principal photographyPrincipal photography began this month on a new Canada-United Kingdom coproduction, Niagara Motel, which is being directed by Gary Yates (Seven Times Lucky) and filmed by British cinematographer Ian Wilson (The Crying Game). The feature film is about people in crisis, whose lives crisscross at a rundown motel in the tourist Mecca of Niagara Falls. Bernie Zukerman of Indian Grove Productions, Michael Purpas of Muse Entertainment Enterprises, Phyllis Laing of Buffalo Gal Pictures and Terry Potter of Niagara Productions Ltd. Mongrel Media and Christal Films of Canada are producing the film, and Soda Pictures of the U.K. will distribute the movie. International sales are by the U.K.’s Park Entertainment.INTERNATIONALTri-Vision praises FCC decision, hopes it will lead to more V-chip encodingToronto-based Tri-Vision International Ltd. is praising the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to require broadcasters to identify education and information (E/I) programming for children in analog and digital by displaying an E/I symbol throughout the show. The FCC notes that a common on-air identifier will help parents and other interested parties locate programming for the child audience. Tri-Vision hopes that it is the first step to regulating V-chip technology. “The first step in analog deployment of the V-chip was to display on-screen ratings icons at the beginning of a program,” V-chip inventor Tim Collings was quoted in a September 13 Tri-Vision media release. “This latest move by the FCC to require display of on-screen symbols throughout E/I programs paves the way to (potentially) encoding E/I symbols for use with the V-chip. Encoding E/I program would make it much easier to help parents find this type of programming for their children.” The FCC order also increases the amount of children’s television programming in digital, requiring at least three hours of it per week on the broadcaster’s main channels. The new guidelines will become effective after a one-year phase-in period. Tri-Vision licenses patented v-chip technology globally.Visual, audio entertainment over the network is focus of developmentDelivering video and audio entertainment over multimedia networks is the main focus of production development, and media networking will drive the home networking semiconductor market over the next five years, according to a report released September 13 by research firm In-Stat/MDR. Entertainment servers in the home will also drive demand for network-oriented media processing engines, which In-Stat/MDR says will reach $700 million by 2008. The report, Home Network IC 2004: Media Networking Boosts A Strong Market, includes forecasts for home networking ICs and revenues.15% of all Internet households in U.S. connected to stereo or TV: Parks AssociatesMore than 15% of all Internet households in the United States have a stereo or TV connected to their home computer, according to a new study by Parks Associates. The study, Digital Media Adapters and Receivers: Analysis and Forecasts, found that 75% of households with PC connections play music on their computer through a stereo, and over 40% have viewed digital photos on their TV. The study was based on an Internet survey of over 4,000 households.