MONTRÉAL - Rogers Communications in its $10.3 million proposal for Montréal’s CJNT-TV (Metro 14) says it has found the “optimal solution” that provides the city with a new English-language commercial TV station while also supporting a local plan for a new multilingual station. And even if the CRTC says no, it’s got a back-up plan to loosen CJNT’s current ethnic programming requirements.
Under Rogers’ optimal scenario the new station would be branded Citytv Montreal with programming and conditions of licence similar to the company's other Citytv stations. It’s also offering tangible benefits of $1.03 million, representing 10% of the total purchase price of CJNT-TV.
At the same time Rogers would also throw its weight behind a local application from the Nowrouzzahrai family for an over-the-air multilingual television station to serve the ethnocultural communities of Montréal. That station would be called ici (International Channel / Canal International) and air programming in 15 languages to 18 different cultures with a “minimum amount of mainstream programs.” The applicant, Mohammad Nowrouzzahrai, has been operating his production company Mi-Cam Communications Inc. in Montreal for more than 25 years producing third language programming, making him “uniquely qualified to offer locally relevant ethnic programming in the market” contends Rogers.
Rogers says it would use its experience as an ethnic broadcaster, to offer assistance to ici.
“We have discussed a variety of ways that we can work together to ensure ici has the resources required to establish and sustain a viable ethnic television service in Montréal,” said Rogers in its application.
Rogers pledged to provide ici with assistance that “potentially includes, but is not limited to, technical and engineering support, providing studio space to ethnic producers and supplying ici with Omni programming of national interest to help round out their programming schedule.”
ici in its separate, but aligned application is proposing to broadcast on channel 51 and originate its signal from a site on Mount Royal. Channel 51 was initially assigned to Canwest Global but became available when Shaw Media applied to Industry Canada to move Global to channel 15.
If the aligned proposals are dismissed, Rogers backup plan is to continue CJNT as an ethnic TV station, but only if it’s granted the “flexibility to offer Citytv programming in the 8 pm to 10 pm time period.”
“Our experience with the Omni stations is showing that the traditional model, with low-cost US strip programming in fringe prime time hours to support the provision of ethnic programming during other parts of the day, including the 8 pm to 10 pm weekday time period, is coming under tremendous pressure. It is becoming increasingly difficult for low-cost strip programming to attract the audiences needed to subsidize the provision of ethnic programming given this type of programming is widely available on a number of Category B services and over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix,” said Rogers.
It maintains however that the best solution would be to allow CJNT-TV to operate as an English-language commercial station because it would have a minimal impact on existing stations.
“Apart from the 15.5 hours of local programming we will provide each week, the remainder of our schedule will comprise programs that are already available in the market either off-air from U.S. stations or via distant signals delivered by BDUs. Citytv Montréal will therefore largely repatriate existing viewing, with little impact on the audiences of other stations in the market.”
To further support its argument Rogers pointed to findings of a Strategic Inc. study that found that the Montréal television advertising market is estimated to grow by $82 million over the next five years.
“On market growth alone, the forecast increases to CJNT-TV’s current sales volume can be easily absorbed. The profitability of the private television sector in the province of Quebec has been improving over the past 5 years. Operating margins have increased from 9.1% in 2007 to 14.2% in 2011, while PBIT margins have almost doubled, from 5.1% in 2007 to 10.0% in 2011. The Quebec private television PBIT margin is higher than in any other region in Canada.”
In addition, with stations already in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto, a new station in Montréal would make Rogers far more competitive with CTV and Global “in terms of programming and our ability to access network advertising revenues” stated Rogers in its application.
It contends that its current lack of national reach means that it can’t afford to bring in premium Canadian content or top U.S. programs. “Furthermore, we cannot exploit and amortize programming rights as effectively as larger networks such as CTV and Global.”
Citytv Montréal it wrote will offer “unique local programming, providing the type of content not available from the existing English-language stations in Montréal.” This will include a daily morning show Breakfast Television and a weekly sports show called Connected Montréal.
The applications are scheduled to be heard at a CRTC public hearing on November 7, 2012 in Gatineau.