All posts by Cameron

Industry Update – Adapting Bitten: From Book to Television


Bitten was the focus of a panel discussion at the 2013 Canadian International Television Festival, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I had the opportunity to ask executive producers Daegan Fryklind and J.B. Sugar about the show. The Bitten panel included castmembers Greg Bryk, Joel Keller, Michael Xavier, Paulino Nunes, and Steve Lund, and was hosted by InnerSPACE‘s Ajay Fry and Morgan Hoffman.

Cameron Archer: This one would be for Daegan and J.B. Sugar. How closely did you work with Kelley Armstrong in adapting the [Women of the Otherworld] book series to this show?

J.B. Sugar: Kelley was involved in the early stages a lot more heavily, when Daegan delivered her first couple drafts of the first and second episode scripts, as well as the show bible. I think the best news for us, as creatives adapting her work, was to have her kind of give us her blessing and say “Daegan really got the world, and the voices, and the characters”…I  think that was an amazing blessing to get, and let us move forward with confidence. (whispers to Daegan Fryklind) Expand.

Daegan Fryklind: And then Kelley did come to set, also, and met the writing team, and took a tour of Stonehaven, and our standing sets, and loved it. As J.B. said, to get her stamp of approval was really an honour. She was extremely busy during our production season with her newest novel, and touring a lot, so…

Steve Lund: (attempts a menacing tone) Omens. Check it out.

Fryklind: …but would throw us a lot of good feedback on Twitter, which was great.

Sugar: Random House Canada’s about to re-release Bitten in a new edition, and there’s a nice little burst on the cover, giving some props out to the show, saying “coming to Space”.

Morgan Hoffman (InnerSPACE): Cool!…[Women of the Otherworld is] such a beloved book series, and there’s numerous books within it. What would you say were the biggest challenges in adapting [the series] to a TV show?

Sugar: I’m sure Daegan has the right answer…Bitten the first season of the show follows closely to the plotline of Bitten the novel. The Otherworld series kind of jumps in time, and goes into backstory. I think the challenge was to take this wealth of mythology, and backstory, and character that needed to be crafted into a narrative that would work for the medium of TV. That’s something that Daegan and our writing team just did so brilliantly, so I’ll let her expand on that.

Fryklind: The novel itself also stays very closely to Elena [Michaels]’ P.O.V. – that’s internal monologue. In adapting the novel to a series, I had to really blow out character arcs for (refers to male cast attending CITF panel) each of these fellows, so that they had their own storylines, and so that when we were coming away from Elena to other storylines, we had B-plots and C-plots. We sorta blow out the world, blow out their valley, and create characters there, and Toronto, and Philip [Madden]’s world, and his family, and just give everyone their own throughline, and their own want and need throughout the first season.


Industry Update – Canadian International Television Festival

CITF-LogoThe Canadian International Television Festival debuts on November 15, 2013.  Perhaps TV, eh? readers forgot it existed.  Diane Wild – whose site I infrequently publish articles to – forgot it existed until I mentioned the CITF to her earlier this month.  CITF promotion will hit full force in the next few days, but then, it has to – there’s a press conference scheduled for November 5, after all.  As of the date I finish this article (November 3, 2013), the CITF confirms three things about itself – it’s real, there’s a Murdoch Mysteries-related event, and it promotes the #EyeOnCanada initiative.  Quite a feat, for a public festival that debuts in less than two weeks.

While I don’t know the CITF’s behind-the-scenes happenings, the festival cuts things close with its launch.  The CITF’s first Twitter posts were made on October 24, 2013.  The Canada Media Fund website has dates and times for certain parts of the festival, and the CITF’s first day is set aside for industry.  Murdoch Mysteries is the subject of the first announced screening and Q&A session.

Continue reading Industry Update – Canadian International Television Festival


Industry Update – The cast and creator of Satisfaction


As Satisfaction was one of the two Canadian shows participating in the 2013 CTV Upfront Press Conference, I had the opportunity to speak to castmembers Luke Macfarlane, Leah Renee, and Ryan Belleville, plus showrunner/creator Tim McAuliffe:

How will Satisfaction differ from CTV’s previous series, Hiccups and Dan for Mayor?

Tim McAuliffe: Well, it’s funny. I wrote for Dan for Mayor for a brief period of time, and briefly for Corner Gas as well. We actually have Gabrielle Miller on our show. I think [Satisfaction] is different in that it’s skewing a little younger … This is a story about people living in the city, in their twenties.

How worried are you about ratings? Dan for Mayor and Hiccups both debuted to an audience of around two million viewers; the audiences dwindled to around half a million by the end of their second seasons.

McAuliffe: Worry about the ratings? Yeah, I’m super worried.

Leah Renee: I always worry about the ratings!

Ryan Belleville: Well, the sign of a good showrunner is, of course, he’s always worried about the ratings. He’s also worried about the paint fillers being used on his sets; he’s worried about new scripts. [McAuliffe] has non-stop worries going on. I mean, there’s really nothing you can do. It’s a really funny show, and I think people will like it. It’s nice to have an urban comedy about young people in Canada. It’s a really refreshing thing, I found. We just have to hope people will agree with us.

Renee: We all just got to see some cuts of the show. … We all saw two episodes just the other day and they were really funny, you guys. They were really funny. I was laughing out loud, and I was like, “I was a part of this, and I’m laughing!” I think we’re all a little worried, but at the same time, I’m not, really. I feel like [Satisfaction‘s] going to be good.


Industry Update – CRTC: Mandatory Carriage vs. Channel Drift

On April 23, 2013, the CRTC began a public hearing on “distribution orders under section 9(1)h) of the Broadcasting Act” – in other words, mandatory carriage orders. Mandatory carriage automatically adds a service to a cable/satellite/IPTV provider’s basic package, and – unless the service is distributed for free – requires distributors to pay that service a wholesale fee per customer. This is a privilege ten services currently enjoy. A new or existing service granted mandatory carriage is the CRTC equivalent of winning pole position in a horse race. It practically guarantees that service some form of subsidy.

New and/or unlaunched services applying for mandatory carriage, such as Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel, ACCENTS, and FUSION, are forward-looking statements in search of stable funding. Starlight, in particular, has made some noise in the media about its commitment to Canadian film. Existing services, such as Sun News Network and Vision TV, see mandatory carriage as the way to secure their futures.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a Steve Ladurantaye Globe and Mail piece about four services — Blue Ant Media’s Travel + Escape, OUTtv Network Inc.’s OUTtv, Stornoway Communications’ ichannel, and ZoomerMedia’s ONE — asking the CRTC for licence amendments. To that end, the Independent Broadcast Group — the four previously mentioned broadcasters, plus APTN, Channel Zero, Ethnic Channels Group, TV5 Quebec, and ZoomerMedia — lobbies to protect the independent broadcasters’ interests.

ichannel, OUTtv, ONE, and Travel + Escape’s renewals are part of the same CRTC Broadcasting Notice of Consultation as the applications for mandatory distribution orders. To demonstrate what a new “basic” service could become in the future, I point to two current services on differing prosperity levels — OUTtv and Vision TV — as they have at least one thing in common.

OUTtv debuted as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) service PrideVision, and struggled to attract viewers in its early days – it aired pornographic content in the late night hours, and lacked a West Coast feed. Shaw Communications, in particular, resisted PrideVision. Headline Media Group (later Score Media Inc.) sold the service in 2004, to a consortium led by broadcaster William Craig.

PrideVision, by then doing business as HARD on PrideVision, briefly aired porn between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM. In 2005, HARD on PrideVision spun off into a separate service (now Playmen TV), making the “new” OUTtv a full-time, general-interest LGBT service. Today, OUTtv is almost fully owned by Shavick Entertainment (Re:Source Media owns 4.16%), and has 939,200 subscribers as of 2012. Arguably, it took a decade, two ownership changes, and the “spinoff” of a questionable program block for OUTtv to find its footing.

Vision TV began in 1988 as a multi-faith religious service, initially owned by a company that evolved into S-VOX Foundation. ZoomerMedia acquired the service in 2010. Under ZoomerMedia ownership, Vision TV is more of a general-interest service for older audiences. ZoomerMedia’s chief argument is that cable and satellite companies want to remove Vision TV from their basic tiers, in part due to Vision TV straying from its original mandate. In the event Vision TV is bumped off basic cable, ZoomerMedia will attempt to amend Vision TV’s licence.

Where OUTtv and Vision TV intersect is their desire to amend their licences, and reduce Canadian content levels. This is why I don’t see a future for Starlight, EqualiTV, Dolobox TV, or other unlaunched services vying for mandatory carriage. The history of Canadian specialty services suggest that a service will rebrand, and/or amend its broadcasting licence, at some point. Even well-established, profitable services like The Comedy Network want to reduce their Canadian content levels.

Canadian television is littered with services that failed – C Channel, WTSN, The Life Channel, Edge TV, Cool TV, X-Treme Sports, Fox Sports World Canada, etc. Other services have new storefronts – Drive-In Classics is now Sundance Channel, TV Land is now Comedy Gold, mentv/The Cave is now H2, and so on. Services might wrap themselves around noble goals – engaging youth, reviving the Canadian film industry’s fortunes, appealing to underserved minority groups. What matters is whether the services are managed well enough to survive on their original mandates, and whether channels will still be maintained, if their preferred source of funding doesn’t materialize.

In the end, I don’t think CRTC’s current mandatory carriage hearings will produce much of value. In 2013, there are too many examples of services that meant well, but gave in to the pressures of commercial broadcasting. I rarely see a CRTC licence amendment that increases Canadian content, or strengthens a service’s mandate – maybe AUX’s 2011 application to play more music videos, which the CRTC denied.

I neither want to see overfunded services that can’t sustain themselves, nor services using mandatory carriage orders as a substitute for venture capital. In the wake of CRTC’s second round of Bell-Astral hearings, there are more pressing matters in Canadian television.


Industry Update – CRTC News: Licence Renewal Amendments – Blue Ant, Super Channel, Stornoway


Various companies
Section 3 – Licence renewal applications of independent conventional, pay and specialty television services
Broadcasting Notice of Consultation filed: January 21, 2013
Deadline for comments: February 20, 2013

I’m not going through the entire list of renewals. Many of the channels listed in Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-19 will simply ask to renew their licences, under their current terms of service. There are a few channels here that want to amend their terms of service, so that is what I will focus on.

Unless otherwise stated, the licences for the channels mentioned in this article expire on August 31, 2013. Of particular interest to me is Blue Ant Media’s bid to take a Rogers/Shaw/Bell-like form. Blue Ant’s under-the-radar now, but if there’s a marginal channel it figures it can turn around, Blue Ant will make a play for it. I still don’t know how it will turn bold around.

Allarco Entertainment 2008 Inc.
Super Channel

Super Channel is required by the CRTC to invest thirty-two percent of its total gross revenue each year on Canadian programming. Super Channel wants to change this to at least twenty-two percent, based on the number of Super Channel subscribers. When 820,000 people or more subscribe to Super Channel, this will trigger the full thirty-two percent commitment. Allarco claims this is in keeping with The Movie Network and Movie Central’s previous Canadian programming expenditures, before they were fully established.

Allarco wants to lower Super Channel’s $1-million-per-year commitment to regional outreach programs, reducing the commitment to $500,000. It wants to bring its other licence commitments in line with current commitments from The Movie Network, and Movie Central.

Allarco wants to delete a condition requiring it to spend as much each year for Canadian programming as it makes in operating profit. The argument is that Super Channel has operated at a loss ever since it launched in 2007, and that any money made by Super Channel will be used to pay down its deficits. It should be noted that Super Channel first made a profit in 2011. In its first three full years, Super Channel recorded a total pre-tax loss of almost $100 million.

Stornoway Communications Limited Partnership
The Pet Network

The Pet Network will increase dramatic and comedic content, from twenty to twenty-five percent. ichannel will air sports, music-related material, and variety shows, as well as increase its dramatic and comedic content.

ichannel also wants a relief from its current Canadian programming expenditure requirements. The argument is that Stornoway Communications, as a small-time player in Canadian television, can’t afford ichannel’s present CPE level. ichannel’s CPE will fluctuate from year to year – in a worst-case scenario, ichannel will spend ten percent less than its average CPE level of thirty-seven percent. In case of a yearly deficit, the next year’s CPE will make up for that deficit.

The GameTV Corporation (Insight Sports)

GameTV will expand into “Reporting & Actualities,” as well as music and dance programs, variety shows, entertainment/human-interest shows, and reality television. In effect, Game TV wants to air awards shows, dance contests – anything that will keep the channel from going under. The channel can’t live on Talk About and Bumper Stumpers reruns forever.

World Fishing Network ULC
World Fishing Network

WFN will become more of a hunting, fishing and “sportsman lifestyle” channel.

ZoomerMedia Limited
Vision TV

Vision TV is mentioned in an earlier Industry Update piece, but if Vision TV doesn’t earn mandatory carriage, it will reduce its religious programming requirements to seventy-five percent. During the broadcast day, only half of the programming will be Canadian, and ZoomerMedia/Vision TV’s Canadian programming expenditure requirements will be limited to 12.64%. A rule “limiting the number of minutes of solicitation of funds in Cornerstone and Mosaic programming” will be removed, and twelve more minutes of dramatic-programming commercial time will be added.

In short, if Vision TV doesn’t earn mandatory carriage, the channel will slash its commitments considerably – less religion, more Downton Abbey and EastEnders.

Blue Ant Media Partnership
Travel + Escape

Blue Ant Television Ltd.
bold (pending)
Oasis HD

Blue Ant Media, through its two divisions, wants a group-based approach to its Canadian programming expenditures. In essence, its eight properties will have their original productions count towards a group-based CPE. Blue Ant argues that Rogers Media, Shaw Media, and Bell Media do it, so it might as well get in that game.

In addition, AUX does not agree with a thirty-five percent cap on music videos, arguing that for the service it provides – music videos from “emerging artists” – it doesn’t compete directly with MuchMusic. Bite wants to air more long-form documentaries, miniseries and specials, and variety shows. Former High Fidelity HDTV channels eqhd, HIFI, Oasis HD, and radX will shift to more general-interest programming.

Finally, AUX’s current licence – which expires August 31, 2015 – will be revoked, so that in the future, all Blue Ant properties will be renewed on the same date.

Fifth Dimension Properties Inc.
Penthouse TV

TEN Broadcasting Inc.
Hustler TV
Red Hot TV

All three channels will broadcast in 3D, when available. Boi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oing!


Other CRTC News

Blue Ant Media Inc., on behalf of Blue Ant Television Ltd.
Transfer of bold from Blue Ant Media Partnership to Blue Ant Television Ltd.
Broadcasting Notice of Consultation filed: January 22, 2013
Deadline for comments: February 15, 2013

Blue Ant Media already owns bold. This is a corporate reorganization, placing bold in the same corporate division as former High Fidelity HDTV channels eqhd, HIFI, Oasis HD, and radX. I’m not sure why CRTC wants a hearing on this reorganization, to be honest. Perhaps, this is related to the group-based CPE?

Shaw Television Limited Partnership
CIII-DT-41 Toronto and its transmitter CIII-DT Paris – Technical change
Approved: January 22, 2013

Global’s Paris, Ontario repeater will soon change from channel 6 to channel 17. The maximum effective radiated power of the transmitter increases from 4,000 to 165,000 watts, while the average ERP increases from 4,000 to 97,000 watts. The average height above average terrain decreases, from 311.3 to 272 metres. Essentially, this means the Kitchener area will get Global a lot better.