Scott Henderson, Vice-President, Communications, Bell Media, was not happy with my post daring Canadian networks to walk the talk. In fact, he was “shocked and disappointed” in me. I promised him space on this site to respond to my post, and I’ve contacted Shaw to see if they’d like equal opportunity … though Shaw may be wiser than to try to prolong the issue.
Here’s Bell’s response, with my annotated response to their response. (I obviously didn’t and would never promise not to express my own opinion about anything I publish to my site, especially if it’s twisting my words, unless it’s paid advertising.)
Diane Wild dares Canadian broadcasters to “walk the talk” when it comes to promoting Canadian programming. Well I double-dare her back: start recognizing the widespread promotion that already occurs on a regular basis and as a matter of course.
[Diane: I post every media release Bell sends me related to their Canadian series verbatim to my site, do interviews with writers and actors involved in the series, praise the series I like, and I acknowledged in that Walk the Talk post, as well as at the time of their premieres, that Motive and Orphan Black were given excellent launches. If Bell and the other networks would fund my efforts to do more, I would be happy to do more.]
In her blog post “A dare to Canadian broadcasters: Walk the talk” (May 4), Wild strongly suggests, using Bell Media as her primary example, that Canadian broadcasters do not “demonstrate a true desire to succeed with their Canadian shows.” The accusation is unfair, unfounded, and frankly, insulting.
[Diane: I’ll say more about this later, when they make unfair, unfounded, and frankly, insulting claims about my piece.]
Normally, we don’t respond to such allegations. We stand by our promotion of all of our Canadian content. Our production partners respect the support we provide to their productions, and viewers respond by watching.
[Diane: I’m sure they do. My opinions are my own however my inbox and twitter feed suggests not everyone in the industry respects your support.]
Beginning in 2003/4, when we helped change the landscape of quality Canadian productions with the debuts of Canadian Idol and Corner Gas, and later Flashpoint, so too did our attention to effectively promote Canadian productions.
But enough is enough. Ten years later, it is time to dispel the myth that Canadian broadcasters casually throw original productions onto the air, cross their fingers, and hope that they stick with audiences.
[Diane: That’s not what I said. In fact I said the opposite about Motive and Orphan Black.]
In the post, Wild points to two very specific examples – the smoking guns – to support her claim that Bell Media is not providing even “basic support to their Canadian content”: 1) that recent media releases from Bell Media did not feature episodic descriptions for upcoming episodes of Orphan Black and Motive; and 2) that similar episodic information, and even general promotion, was unavailable on Space.ca and CTV.ca. More on that in a moment.
As Wild rightfully gives credit for the resources that were dedicated to launching these two series, both of which have become hits and been recently renewed for second seasons, we won’t recap their incredible launch campaigns.
The thrust of Wild’s argument is that Bell Media is asleep at the wheel, providing no sustained promotional support for these programs. In the case of Motive, she suggests CTV has “no other original series to promote right now,” so they should be “aggressively promoting what they have.”
[Diane: I didn’t say there was no sustained promotional support. I made very specific and supported claims about basic promotional efforts which Bell is now unfairly, unfounded-ly, and frankly, insulting-ly expanding into something I didn’t say.]
Well, let me tell you how CTV is promoting Motive on a weekly basis:
- Each week, CTV cuts 15 and 30-second Motive episodic on-air promos that air in healthy rotation to millions of viewers on CTV and other channels.
- Other Motive on-air promotional elements, such as “bumpers” and “snipes”, are utilized each week, including, lower-third on-air banners during select NHL regular season and play-off games on TSN.
- Following its Super Bowl stunt launch, CTV aired Motive on-air promos in additional big-event television broadcasts, including The Oscars, The Junos, and The Golden Globe Awards.
- Motive “pre-roll” promos run before programs are streamed online, and custom Motive banner ads are presented across Bell Media websites.
- Meanwhile, CTV.ca has published 17 articles about Motive.
- Every Thursday, CTV’s Etalk teases each new Motive episode, reaching three quarters of a million viewers on average.
- Last Thursday, CTV distributed an episodic e-mail blast promoting that night’s Motive broadcast to hundreds of thousands of web subscribers.
- Each new episode is live-tweeted by @CTV_Television, while new episodes of Motive are pushed to CTV Twitter and Facebook followers. The #Motive hashtag is burned on-screen during each broadcast to encourage social media chatter.
- Following the launch campaign, Motive has been promoted with radio and outdoor advertising, including, for almost fourth months, the most prominent billboard in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square (pictured).
- CTV actively builds the profile of Motive stars at public events, including the CSA Fan Zone event in March, and the Heart Truth fashion show.
- And CTV has continued to pitch journalists across the country on additional Motive coverage, even after securing more than 200 media hits for its launch. Another wave of publicity is expected for next week’s season finale.
[Diane: That’s genuinely terrific. None of this contradicts the post, which is about specific public declarations and basic PR actions in a specific timeframe. And why are none of these episode-specific promotions available on the series’ website – as in CTV.ca/Motive – or provided to websites as embeddable videos? I should add that the @MotiveTV twitter account couldn’t answer my question of what episode was airing 2 days before it aired – the message to me was “check the website tomorrow”. Which I did and the information or an episode-specific promo still wasn’t on the show’s homepage.]
The result? Averaging 1.1 million viewers each week, Motive is the #1 new Canadian series of the 2012/13 broadcast year, and the most-watched Canadian drama in the key selling demos. Undoubtedly, our efforts are working.
And to be clear, Motive’s ratings were not sagging “amid the killer competition” on Sunday nights, nor are they showing “troubling signs of softness that can be strengthened with consistency and promotion” on Thursday nights. Motive delivered 1.093 million viewers on Sundays (winning its timeslot on conventional television), and is now delivering 1.071 million on Thursdays (holding its own against U.S. simulcasts).
[Diane: Using ratings averages over the course of the season obfuscates the point. Here’s what I’m founding my opinion about ratings on. Numbers from BBM Canada where available, Bill Brioux’s overnight numbers where not:
Episode 1, February 3 (post-Super Bowl slot) – 1.229 million
Episode 2, February 10: 814,000
Episode 3, February 17: 1.012 million
Episode 4, March 3: 929,000
Episode 5, March 10: 630,000 (this is what I refer to as sagging “amid the killer competition”)
Episode 6, March 14: 807,000 (first Thursday airing)
Episode 7, March 21: 1.202 million (what I refer to as recovering from the understandable timeslot switch dip)
Episode 8, March 28: 1.062 million
Episode 9, April 4: 1.011 million
Episode 10, April 25: 835,000 (this is what I refer to as sagging after reruns – and I ask myself why, in a 13-episode season, were there reruns mid-season?)
Episode 11, May 2: No ratings available]
Following a $4 million promotional campaign to launch Orphan Black, comparable tactics to the Motive campaign are employed by our Specialty division each week in promoting this hot new Space series. Similarly to how Etalk is used to promote Canadian programs, Space’s daily information series Innerspace has reported 15 stories on Orphan Black, in addition to a half-hour special. On social media, Space live tweets each episode. After securing more than 200 media hits so far, Space continues to pitch media, including TV, Eh?, which ran a story on April 24. We also arranged for series’ stars to appear at genre fan expos in both Toronto and Calgary.
[Diane: Again, that has nothing to do with the point in that post. Also, TV, eh? was pitched post-launch because we were mistakenly not pitched for the launch, which is fine but don’t count that as a win.]
And as an example of Kevin Crull’s efforts to duplicate the Quebec star system, we shone the spotlight on Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany when CTV flew her to Regina to be a presenter on The 2013 Juno Awards. After being interviewed by dozens of journalists on the Juno Awards red carpet, she was then introduced to 1.9 million viewers on the CTV broadcast.
[Diane: She’s amazing. Nothing to do with my post, and it was the Montreal Gazette who said he didn’t offer a plan about the star system, not me, but she’s amazing.]
But back to Wild’s original concerns: that she couldn’t obtain episodic descriptions for either Motive or Orphan Black via the May “monthly highlight” press releases from CTV and Space. In the case of Motive, the press release was issued a day late, and, as indicated by Wild, excluded Motive information for that particular week. However, it included descriptions for the rest of the month – hardly the coming of a promotional apocalypse as described.
[Diane: I did not describe a coming promotional apocalypse. I made a joke about a zombie vs clone apocalypse, as a “fun” intro to highlight that the Space programming highlight release revealed episode descriptions about a zombie movie and a serialized zombie show but not the serialized clone show. I’m not saying I’m a comedy writer or anything, but zombie apocalypses are kind of a thing.]
In the case of Orphan Black, the program is a serialized drama, and therefore a decision was made to exclude spoiler episodic information, but rather reinforce the timeslot in the release. As Wild notes, the information continues to be available on Bell Media’s media site, the go-to information source for media. We continue to evaluate our strategy in imparting this type information to media on a week-to-week basis.
[Diane: It would have been good to inform the media that episode descriptions would now only be available on the media site and provide the direct link to the media kit where the information resides. It also would have been good to include the next episode description at least, especially given the fact that it was available on the BBC America website. I was not the only media to note the absence. This was part of my point – the scrambling to find information that should be provided in a consistent way. Especially in a week when you’re publicly touting your promotions. There’s also that week where it was going to be a rerun but ended up being new.]
The suggestion that Motive and Orphan Black are not promoted on CTV.ca or Space.ca is dumbfounding. As mentioned, both series are featured in their respective sites’ promotional “marquees” (the rotating carousel of featured upcoming programming), driving to each week’s broadcast. Further, both series are featured in leaderboard ads that appear on their respective sites.
[Diane: I am dumbfounded that Mr. Henderson thinks I said Motive and Orphan Black are not promoted at all on CTV.ca or Space.ca. I said besides not having the usual programming highlights media releases, the show websites that week – which happened to be the week Henderson spoke at the Academy and Crull was quoted in the Montreal Gazette — did not have information on whether that week’s episode was new, what the episode was called or about or who the guest stars were, or have an episode-specific promo on the page. This is very basic promotional support and was not provided in a week where senior executives were speaking about their promotional efforts.]
[Diane: Not on the series homepage, as I said. It is posted this week, so perhaps I’m not so misguided in suggesting that should be a basic promotional activity?]
On the Orphan Black web page, episodic descriptions have previously pushed to post-broadcast, online, on-demand streaming. Moving forward, we intend to feature each week’s upcoming episodic description on Space.ca.
Sadly, in today’s age of social media, it is apparently easier to lob cheap accusations on Twitter and publish sardonic blog posts, then pick up the phone to call a PR professional for information. With one quick phone call (or e-mail), this information would have been provided. But rather, Bell Media is accused of hiding our original programs “in witness protection” and “protecting them from prying eyes.”
[Diane: My point is not boo hoo I didn’t get the information, it’s that forcing media and the audience to dig for the information or be pro-active in getting that information is not good promotion. I could have called you Wednesday night when I realized I didn’t have the Motive description yet, but that doesn’t mean I would have shut up about what should be done better to promote episodes of the show. And given that I don’t get paid to run TV, eh? — networks do not purchase advertising on TV, eh? to promote their shows — I did not make the phone call.]
Most offensive is the blog’s positioning of our alleged anti-promo agenda under the big, dark, cloak of “Bell”, as if the people working at Bell Media were nameless, faceless, corporate drones.
[Diane: It’s disingenuous to believe anyone could write a post without referring to the corporate entity by name. I referred to the specific names of people who I feel bear the ultimate responsibility for resourcing and PR direction, including Mr. Henderson, and who have been public about the challenges of promotion. I deliberately did not name the specific CTV/Space PR people I deal with who are accommodating and helpful, and have no way of naming — nor would I — the specific person responsible for not updating the show websites or sending out a timely programming media release or operating the MotiveTV twitter account.]
There are hundreds and hundreds of people who walk into Bell Media each day with the sole purpose and desire of developing, producing, and promoting the best Canadian TV possible. We are the development execs who embrace scripts, assemble talent, and guide production. We are the editors who figure out the best way to promote each week’s episode in 15-30 seconds. We are the schedulers who research, explore, and assess the best timeslot possible. We are the creative directors who conceptualize photo shoots to execute the perfect print ad. We are the lawyers and accountants who find amazingly creative means to finance production. We are the programmers who make heartbreaking decisions about which programs to put on air. We are the graphic designers who produce clever press kits. And we are the publicists – the most in the country – whose primary focus is the promotion of Canadian TV. That’s who “Bell” is.
While the cynicism inherent in Wild’s “dare” to Canadian broadcasters is deeply troubling, the overall allegation is simply illogical. Why would Canadian broadcasters let Canadian productions flounder on their own, after investing so much energy, resources, time, and, without a doubt, heart?
Vice-President, Communications, Bell Media
[Diane: The cynical answer? A significant reason Canadian broadcasters invest energy, resources and time into Canadian productions is that it’s a condition of their license from the CRTC. Do they invest more than the minimum required by their licence and by benefits package spending? I wish the breakdown of those numbers were publicly available but signs point to no.
Another cynical answer? Why would Bell rerun and not promote Motive regularly now? The US broadcast partner will pick up some of the ongoing promotional burden. CTV is rerunning Motive season one in simulcast with the ABC airing starting the week after the (to-be-promoted) CTV finale. Coincidental timing, or planned to flow directly into the US airing by adding the reruns mid-season? Mr. Henderson didn’t counter my point about Crull’s comments on regular timeslots. Why the timeslot change and reruns, if not the Sunday competition and to time the end of CTV’s run with the US premiere?
Why in the past has The Listener been bounced around the CTV schedule? To make room for US shows in simulcast.
So yes, I’m cynical about the value and support Canadian broadcasters put into Canadian content. TV, eh? is my effort to support the Canadian television industry, and my opinion means nothing if it doesn’t include examining what it needs to do better as well as what it gets right. I post what they do right in their own words regularly through their media releases, as well as in my own posts, tweets and podcasts.
I’m cynical, too, because the only time I’ve ever heard directly from a Bell VP of Communications in the years I’ve been helping promote their Canadian content is to scold me about my opinion that they need to do more to support Canadian content.]