TORONTO – Suddenly, Canadian conventional TV is fixed.
Two years after CTV threatened its loss-making A Channel network with closure during a hard-fought battle for retransmission fees, the secondary network is getting a second chance as CTV Two.
At the height of the industry food fight, CTV and unlikely ally Global Television fended off opposition from cable and satellite TV operators to urge the CRTC to introduce so-called fees-for-carriage to avoid a slide by Canadian conventional TV into oblivion.
Two years later, CTV and Global Television are both owned by deep-pocketed TV carriers, and CTV-parent Bell Media is extending its main CTV brand to the A Channel network so it can better resonate with audiences and advertisers.
“As we stated to the CRTC, we are committed to the viability of the A stations,” Bell Media president Kevin Crull said Monday, echoing a recent commitment at license renewal hearings to keep programming the secondary A network.
And the future of the newly-rebranded CTV Two network, as other private broadcasters here, will hinge on its U.S. network programming.
The As already air top-rated shows like American Idol, Criminal Minds and Mike & Molly.
But Bell Media programmers, who are to unveil the Fall 2011 campaigns for CTV and CTV Two on Thursday in Toronto, hinted the As will no longer air CTV’s sloppy seconds.
Bell Media confirmed it spent heavily at the recent Los Angeles Screenings, in part to bolster the secondary A Channel network.
CTV Two will include eight rookie U.S. shows this Fall, seven in simulcast to appeal to advertisers, and one “monster acquisition to anchor the schedule,” Bell Media added, expected to be the U.S. version of The X Factor, whose Canadian rights CTV owns.
And Bell Media is taking aim with its CTV Two rebrand at third-place broadcaster Rogers Media, which is to unveil the primetime schedule for its Citytv stations on Monday afternoon in Toronto.
Bell Media programmers insist the A Channel, despite its laggard performance in primetime, still bests Citytv lineup.
“A delivered nearly 40 broadcasts with more than one million viewers this season, led by Top 20 programs such as American Idol and Dancing With The Stars, compared to just 20 for Citytv,” the broadcaster said Monday.
Retooling a loss-making channel with a more popular TV brand is a well-worn strategy of Canadian broadcasters.
Then Canwest Global Communications Corp. in 2007 attempted to revive its CH network by renaming it E! and loading it with library and new shows from the Comcast Entertainment Group.
The costly rebrand of the Canadian over-the-air network soured and E! Entertainment Television last year pacted with CTV, this time to rebrand its Star! cable channel as E! Canada.