Canadian b'casters rebalance in tough times

Cutting costs, adjusting to changing market conditions

TORONTO -- Recovery from the recession by a battered Canadian media sector continued this week with a series of delicate rebalancing acts.

Edward Rogers, the son of the late Ted Rogers, is to become deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, Canada's largest cable TV and wireless phone operator, as it reorganizes its business units to cut costs and adjust to changing market conditions.

Rogers, controlling shareholder of the media group, moves from head of the cable unit to oversee mergers and acquisitions as the company merges its cable TV, internet and wireless phone businesses.

"The historical lines are being blurred," Rogers Communications CEO Nadir Mohamed said of a media convergence typified by young people increasingly using mobile phones to surf the Internet and view video content.

"The changes are very much in sync with where the market is going," he added in a media conference call.

Elsewhere, satellite radio operator Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings, the Canadian licensee of the U.S.-based XM Satellite Radio service, said it repurchased $9 million in 12.75% senior notes due 2014 for $3.2 million to save costs and reduce long-term debt.

And Canadian media group CTVglobemedia has renegotiated certain of its debt obligations to remain onside with lenders as its main CTV network continues to face a TV ad slump.

The move follows CTVglobemedia last month selling its remaining 7.7% stake in Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan to pay down debt amassed in better times to fund acquisitions (HR, August 20).

CTVglobemedia and rival Canwest Global Communications Corp. has also been selling off or closing small-market TV stations to further reduce operating costs.

The two networks' climb out of the recession includes negotiating with cable and satellite TV operators to be compensated for carriage of their local TV station signals as part of a media industry bailout ordered by the CRTC, Canada's broadcast regulator.

And Indie broadcaster S-VOX on Wednesday said general manager Terry Mahoney and general sales manager Gary Milne were leaving Joy 10, the Surrey, British Columbia-based over-the-air TV station, to ensure its "financial sustainability."

Managers at Joytv 10 will now report directly to S-VOX in Toronto.

And rival broadcaster Corus Entertainment said it is eyeing two profitable cable channels, Food Network Canada and HGTV Canada, should current owner Canwest Global Communications Corp. sell them in the coming months to pay down its debt load.

John Cassaday, CEO of Corus Entertainment, told an investors conference that the two cable channels were appealing when Canwest Global acquired them in 2007, and remain so today.

"Those assets that were of interest to us then are still interesting to us today, specifically Food, which we have a 20% interest in, and HGTV," Cassaday said.