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.