Everything about Industry News, eh?

Canada missing out on golden age of TV?

From John Doyle of the Globe and Mail:

Where is Canada in the golden age of TV?
There’s a prevailing sentiment in the culture that we’re more than a decade into a new Golden Age of television. The starting point was the arrival of The Sopranos in 1999 and the most recent marker in the ongoing evolution of excellent TV was the series finale of Breaking Bad. What has Canada contributed to this? Pretty much nothing. Look at the last 14 years of Canadian TV and what you see is almost complete creative failure. Continue reading.

The Minor Leagues (aka Bell versus The Blogger)

I’ve been working with some new contributors for this site and had an email exchange with one about my philosophy of coverage — probably the first time I’ve put it down so concisely (no, I know, it’s not that concise, and neither is this post) :

I want friendly interviews, not contentious, and honest but fair reviews — but I don’t mind an edge and I love a strong point of view, and I stay away from fangirl/boy gushing. If you hate or love a show you’re reviewing feel free to say so strongly — but make a case for your position either way. My philosophy is that treating shows and the industry like they can’t handle criticism is helping perpetuate the feeling that Canadian shows are the poor cousin of US shows — the “don’t kick the puppy” syndrome.

… [The site is] obviously intended to promote and support the Canadian TV industry so more people will hear about the shows and choose to watch them, but my angle on that is that pretending everything’s wonderful has the opposite effect on the audience.

I wrote something in 2006 on Canadian TV’s puppy syndrome, and as the years go by, my opinion has solidified even more around this sentence I wrote then:

Worse than receiving negative criticism is being considered unworthy of discussion or debate.

But years ago I stopped writing reviews after a few too many angry emails and one instance of continued harassment from people associated with the shows — generated by lukewarm rather than negative reviews, or even entirely positive interviews that didn’t mention someone who thought they should be mentioned.

Compared to the previous writing I’d done about US series, and dealings with US network PR, it felt like I’d been sent to the minors. The amateur hour whispers are still heard from former critics, writers and producers who have since escaped.

Things have changed in my world, either because the industry has matured, people are more used to bloggers and social media, I’m more used to dealing with our homegrown industry, they’re more used to TV, eh?, or, more likely, some combination of those.

The site’s back to doing reviews and with the new contributors I’ve got traction on doing more original features and opinion pieces. I’m having fun with it, which is my main motivation for continuing to run TV, eh? — that and the encouragement from many people who work in the industry.

Engaging with people who express contempt for me is not fun. The continued saga of Bell versus The Blogger won’t be fun for most readers. But I’m making an exception to my “when it stops being fun walk away” rule by writing about it again, because the only rationale I can think of for their communications with me lately is that they want to intimidate me into shutting up.

And Bell Media isn’t a puppy: it’s a big dog in the telecommunications world in Canada. And I am not inclined to be muzzled; their attempt, if that’s what it is, makes me more likely to continue to be the yappy little dog.

I mean, come on: they’re a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate now taking on a hobby blogger at every perceived slight.

They already sent a humourless, off-point response to my challenge that they stop talking about their great PR work at a time when their PR work wasn’t great.

Today, they phoned me to object to a tweet. It’s bush league in the Canadian TV industry again.

A production company enthusiastically tweeted a link to the Agam Darshi interview saying it was arranged by CTV at their upfront presentation yesterday. I retweeted them, happy that they were happy with the interview. I also added the clarification:

Though to be pedantic about that RT, the Agam Darshi interview wasn’t via CTV or the upfront – it was arranged directly with her people.

Not much later, Bell Media (yes, I’m using the impersonal corporate entity since I don’t think it’s fair to single out an individual) called me to object and drip some more contempt my way, and somehow insinuate that calling myself pedantic was an insult to Bell Media. (By the way, Bell, you’re welcome for commissioning a positive interview about your upcoming series without costing you time or effort.)

Would it have been important to me to clarify the credit if it weren’t for Bell’s open hostility toward me? Hard to say, but probably – I am, actually, often pedantic about precision, and Darshi’s “people” deserve to not have their efforts presented to her or to Twitter as a whole as the work of the network.

I get it: I can be harsh — though I try to do it with levity — about what I perceive as failings of the Canadian television industry. And there are a lot of failings if you believe, as I do, that Canadian content should be the core business of a Canadian broadcaster. As it is, our networks are the chronic retweeters of the broadcast industry, taking another country’s content to fill their stream. And that merits discussion and debate.

The people writing the ill-considered response to my post and making ill-considered phone calls are human beings: If I were Bell, I’d probably hate me too. But they’re also PR professionals: If I were Bell, I’d hate me silently.


Industry Update – CTV/Bell Media 2013 Upfront


CTV/Bell Media’s “Amazing” 2013 upfront was held at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, in Toronto, Ontario. It was the third straight year the upfronts were held there. The press conferences were, as always, held at Bell Media’s home offices at 299 Queen Street West.

CTV expanded the number of press conferences this year, from six to seven. The Canadian originals – The Amazing Race Canada and Satisfaction – came first. CTV’s press conferences are largely a showcase for new imported programs. This year featured ABC’s The Goldbergs, CBS’ Intelligence (this one’s about a microchip-enhanced operative — it looks silly), CBS’ Hostages, and syndicated talk show Bethenny. Fox’s The Following rounded out the bill, as the “returning favourite.”

Bell Media’s upfront presentation was fairly straightforward. It was the longest of the Big Three upfronts, at ninety-plus minutes. For its length, it didn’t have much to say beyond the standard talking points. I assume this was by design. Bell Media formally welcomed Astral Media into its family in 2012, barring “little things” like CRTC regulations…that were actually acted upon. For 2013, Bell showcased what they actually owned.

Bell Media dialed back the hubris, compared to last year. The only hint of the Bell-Astral deal was the announced Bravo GO multi-screen initiative. Mostly, Bell showcased supporting players from its American imports, as well as stars from its Canadian shows.

The clips for Canadian shows were blended with the clips for American shows, so CTV wasn’t shoving its original content into a cultural ghetto. CTV took pride of place in Bell Media’s hierarchy, with CTV Two announcing The Big Bang Theory…in syndicated weekday rerun form. Anger Management and Hot in Cleveland — six nights a week of Hot in Cleveland were also patched into CTV Two, as well as six nights a week of Mike & Molly. It’s obvious CTV Two is the home of shows CTV doesn’t want to lose to CHCH.

Cirque du Soleil topped and tailed the upfront presentation. Castmembers from Saving Hope, The Listener, Orphan Black, The Amazing Race Canada and Motive were on hand for pictures during the afterparty.

There’s a commercial element to this, of course. Bell Media runs a joint venture with Cirque du Soleil. Bell wants The Amazing Race Canada to be a hit for CTV. Motive, The Listener and Saving Hope are hits for CTV. Orphan Black does well on SPACE, and on BBC America.

One thing that bothered me about the 2013 CTV/Bell Media upfront: I was told I couldn’t take pictures of the presentation, the afterparty, or the tweets (including one of mine) that cycled during the upfronts. Come the afterparty, the tweet cycle included pictures of both events. Many of the pictures were of a giant birdcage, with Cirque du Soleil performers inside.

Bell Media showcased afterparty tweets — a few from accredited press members – as part of the afterparty. I’m not criticizing Bell Media; I just found the miscommunication strange. Bell Media announced a relationship with Twitter Canada as part of the upfront. Ad buyers were no doubt going to tweet about the cage, and Jon Montgomery handing CTV Programming and Sports executive Phil King a beer pitcher.

As for The Social, I didn’t find its sales pitch that strong. It came across to me as The View, with social media elements. That’s a thin premise to hang a talk show on. Perhaps The Social will make more sense once it airs. If the chemistry between the four hosts aren’t there, Twitter AMPLIFY content won’t make up the difference.

I didn’t mind the CTV/Bell Media 2013 upfront. Bell Media is still slow to embrace video-on-demand, but it has a better overall grasp of how to handle its Canadian content. Whether it follows through on a statement to make more Canadian content remains to be seen.


Industry Update – Rogers Media/City 2013 Upfront


Rogers Media’s 2013 upfront was held June 4, 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Before the upfront, Rogers announced the renewal of Seed, as well as the rescheduling of Package Deal to fall 2013. This stuff you already know, so I won’t waste time typing about it.

The interviews started shortly after 2:30 PM ET. Surprisingly, five of the seven interview segments focused on Canadian shows. Seed and Package Deal featured cast interviews, though a majority of Seed‘s questions were answered by executive producer Mark Farrell and star Adam Korson. Eva Longoria was on hand for Mother Up! Also interviewed were the cast of OLN/City’s Storage Wars Canada, and Ray Zahab from OLN/City’s The Project: Guatemala. Rounding out the bill were James Wolk from The Crazy Ones, and Lauren Ash from Super Fun Night.

The Score, which joined the Sportsnet family as soon as the CRTC approved Rogers’ takeover of the channel, will become Sportsnet 360 on July 1. This doesn’t mean The Score is dead – the website and mobile businesses Score Digital owns still carry The Score’s lineage, and name.

Rogers promised Sportsnet 360 would retain The Score’s personality, and I hope Sportsnet 360 makes the cut. I just hope it doesn’t become a clearinghouse for Sportsnet 590 The Fan simulcasts. It’s nice Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro are back on The Score/Sportsnet 360, but the Tim and Sid simulcast is there for three hours of easy weekday CanCon.

The Rogers upfront presentation was typical of its kind: a rundown of Rogers’ properties, with a visible countdown displaying the number of minutes until free bar access. The most genuine surprise was two performances by Tegan and Sara, in service of City obtaining Canadian broadcast rights to the Grammy Awards. Professional wrestler Ron Killings (d/b/a WWE’s R-Truth) and IZOD IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe shepherded The Score into the Sportsnet family.

Rogers was especially interested in Mother Up!, showing unfinished and behind-the-scenes clips of the show during the upfront presentation. The clips were rough – backgrounds weren’t cleaned up and painted in. It struck me as odd to showcase Mother Up! in beta mode, yet it’s obvious Rogers has high hopes for it. Package Deal clips were also screened, while Breakfast Television formally announced a Montreal edition with a “surprising” host.

One notable thing about City’s 2013-14 fall schedule is the return of Great Canadian Movies, which will air Saturday at 9:00 PM ET, after an “encore presentation” of The Project: Guatemala. The Canadian movie block was temporarily retired in 2012-13, in favour of The Bachelor Canada, Less Than Kind and Murdoch Mysteries “encores”.

The Rogers upfront promoted OMNI’s Bollywood Star. Mohawk Girls, an APTN/OMNI series, wasn’t mentioned. It was a curious omission. CityNews Channel’s immediate termination last week was also ignored. Granted, upfronts deal in “happy news” moments, and don’t focus on the failures. I would have liked to see Rogers mention CityNews Channel; it was an integral part of Rogers’ 2011 upfront.

To promote Storage Wars Canada during the free bar, advertisers were handed “Rogers Cash”. The completion of activities – e.g., having a caricature drawn at the Mother Up! booth, playing a racing simulation and/or meeting R-Truth at the Sportsnet 360 booth, getting a Cityline beauty makeover – allowed participants to earn more “Rogers Cash”. It was a departure from standard protocol – Canadian television upfronts don’t usually have a gaming element. This was mainly for the advertisers’ amusement, but it was effective enough promotion.

In the end, Rogers Media had a relatively modest 2013 upfront, even though it was more lavish than the 2012 upfront. While not much actual news was offered, at least Rogers didn’t oversell itself. The countdown-to-free-bar display was a bit much, though.