All posts by Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.

Bell Relinquishes Jets Arena Naming Rights

For the first time in the history of the rink, the home to the NHL Winnipeg Jets won’t carry the name of a telecommunications giant. While Bell Canada announced on June 15 that it had agreed to a multi-year partnership with the Jets to continue as the arena’s official telecommunications provider, True North Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Jets, revealed the same day that the rink would no longer be known as Bell MTS Place. Going forward, the building will be taking on a new life as the Canada Life Centre.

In the recently-completed Stanley Cup playoffs North Division finals, the Jets faced the Montreal Canadiens. Winnipeg was heavily favoured at all of the best Canadian sportsbooks, but Jets backers could’ve used some of that life insurance. They were snuffed out in the minimum four games by the Habs.

The name change will officially take place on Canada Day, July 1. The 10-year sponsorship agreement includes substantial branding, media, hospitality and community assets for Canada Life. Home to both the NHL Jets and the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg’s top farm club, the arena typically hosts more than 140 events each year and is consistently recognized as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in North America.

The 440,000-square-foot building can house 15,000 fans at a hockey game and more than 16,000 at concerts.

When the MTS Centre opened in 2004, the AHL Moose were the major tenants of the facility. The Jets moved into the building in 2011 after being relocated from Atlanta.

While the name Canada Life Centre is effective July 1, 2021, it will take several weeks to replace the current signage in place throughout the facility. Canada Life estimates that all of the signage will be changed over by September.

While Bell gained its name on the building by purchasing MTS, Canada Life also recently underwent a similar acquisition. Great West Life and London Life were usurped in a merger and are now all part of the Canada Life brand.

Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment, indicated that the opportunity for this partnership arose just as the Bell MTS agreement was about to come to an end.

“I’ve known Paul and the folks at Canada Life for a long, long time,” Chipman told the Winnipeg Free Press. “Certainly, this was something we were both interested in seeing happen. But more than that, I think the most unique and powerful part of this is that it is a national company that is still very local.”

True North Sports & Entertainment is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“It couldn’t be a better time to embark upon the next 10 years of our journey than with a partner like Canada Life, that shares the same community commitment and passion for our great city and country,” Chipman said.

Chipman noted that with the hopefulness growing that the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under control, that the company has initiated the process of tentatively booking concerts and other events for the fall.

“However, it all depends on the public health orders in place at the time,” Chipman said.

Paul Mahon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life’s parent company, noted that they were OK with that prospect and are focusing on a long future of working with True North.

“We’re in this for a big decade of collaboration,” Mahon said. “Even if that means it’ll be a slow start to events because of the pandemic, obviously that’s disappointing to the fans and people wanting to come back to stands, but we’re just excited we get to be there for this journey as a team.”

Brief History With Bell
Known as the MTS Centre when it opened in 2004 at a cost of $133.5 million, the arena was renamed the Bell MTS Place on May 30, 2017, following Bell Canada’s acquisition of Manitoba Telecommunication Services.

While Bell will see its name removed from the Jets arena, the company’s logo will continue to adorn the Jets’ helmets for the next five seasons as part of the telecommunications deal.

Bell still has its name on one significant NHL arena. In 2002, Bell Canada paid $100 million US for the naming rights to the home of the Montreal Canadiens, formerly known as the Molson Centre. A 20-year pact, that deal will also be coming to completion soon. Montreal’s arena will be called the Bell Centre through 2022.

Winnipeg Jets by TheAthletic is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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Link: Nurses preps for return on Global, after over a year of waiting

From Melissa Hank of Postmedia:

Link: Nurses preps for return on Global, after over a year of waiting
The timing for Global’s homegrown medical drama Nurses couldn’t have been better. The series scrubbed in last January and wrapped up its first season in March 2020 — just before the reality of working in a hospital would upend anything we’d seen before on TV. Continue reading.

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Hollywood Suite and WIFT Toronto launch Indigenous writer program

From a media release:

Today, Hollywood Suite is pleased to announce a partnership with Women in Film & Television Toronto (WIFT Toronto) to launch the WIFT Indigenous Writers Program. This career accelerator program is designed specifically for Indigenous writers at the mid-stage of their careers to provide them with networking, industry insight training and mentorship opportunities.

We are thrilled to collaborate with WIFT Toronto on this important initiative to support and amplify Indigenous creators as they take the next steps in their careers,” said Julie Kumaria, SVP, Marketing & Content Distribution at Hollywood Suite. “We are proud to support Indigenous storytellers and help them bring their unique perspectives to the screen.”

“Over the past number of months, we have been listening and learning in dialogue with our Indigenous colleagues and collaborators to identify ways to be a further ally to champion Indigenous voices”, said Karen Bruce, Executive Director, WIFT Toronto. “We are grateful to Hollywood Suite for their support in the creation of this crucial program and are thrilled that this new initiative will support our ongoing commitment to identifying and supporting Indigenous artists in Canada.”

The free, intensive four-day program will include two full-time mentors, industry guest speakers, case studies, writing and pitching workshops, and peer-to-peer mentorship. By engaging key partners including industry leaders, experienced creators, writers, broadcasters, funders and more, the program aims to bring the best education and career opportunities to Indigenous creators whose stories need to be heard.

The application portal will open on August 9, 2021, and all WIFT Toronto members who are First Nations, Métis, or Inuit are encouraged to apply. Applicants who are First Nations, Métis, or Inuit who do not currently have a WIFT Toronto membership may still apply. Anyone chosen for the program that is not a member will be granted a one-year complimentary membership thanks to donations made to the Foundation for WIFT Toronto.

Detailed information on the program including the application process and deadlines will be available shortly.

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CBC announces new programming diversity commitment

From a media release:

At the Banff World Media Festival this morning, CBC announced a new programming diversity commitment to better reflect Canadian audiences and advance equity, inclusion and representation in the Canadian production industry. 

Effective immediately, CBC’s programming diversity commitment will require that at least 30 percent of all key creative roles on new CBC original scripted and unscripted series commissioned from independent producers will be held by those who self-identify as Indigenous, Black and/or People of Colour or persons with disabilities. Each type of series will have a tailored, genre-specific approach to what is considered a key creative role, with details to be posted on cbc.ca/ip. For example, for scripted drama, comedy and kids (live action) series, the 30 percent requirement will apply to all writer, director and principal performer roles. The new commitment will be included in all CBC contracts with independent producers, and will also require that producers of current CBC series set action plans detailing how they will work to increase equity and representation across existing productions. 

“We know we have work to do to better represent the voices and lived experiences of creative talent from Indigenous, Black and all racially diverse communities as well as those with disabilities, all underrepresented groups that are significantly underemployed in the Canadian industry,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports, CBC. “This new commitment formalizes our ongoing efforts to increase equity and representation across all areas, and is an immediate first step in ensuring that our original series will be led by a more diverse range of creative talent who authentically reflect more communities and perspectives across the country. 

CBC’s new commitment builds on the foundational diversity commitment made by CBC/Radio-Canada at Banff in 2019, with the majority of original series on CBC’s 2021-22 programming slate meeting the first goal, and many already achieving and in some cases exceeding the new 30 percent target including Coroner, Diggstown, The Porter, Pretty Hard Cases, Run the Burbs and Sort Of. CBC will continue to discuss and evolve the new commitment in partnership with the Canadian creative and production industry.

Radio-Canada remains committed to ensuring that at least one of the key creative roles on all of its original French-language scripted and unscripted programming is held by someone from an equity-deserving group by 2025. Beyond that, it is increasing its investments in programs such as Synergies to help build greater capacity for diverse talent within the francophone market. 

CBC/Radio-Canada will also maintain the public broadcaster’s momentum in gender equity, having already surpassed gender parity goals across all commissioned programming. 

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Blood and Water: Fire & Ice’s Diane Boehme: “We’re going out on a high note. This is our best season ever”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the television industry—as it has our lives—into disarray. It hit production of Blood and Water: Fire & Ice particularly hard, splitting the Omni drama’s production in two. That extended break of almost a year meant a loss of some actors to other projects, all of the locations to film in and some crew. But, as Blood and Water: Fire & Ice creator and showrunner Diane Boehme tells it, the pandemic was also a creative blessing.

“I had a chance to sit down and say, ‘You know, I think I’d like to see a little more of this character… what would he think about this, what would she think about that,’ and really catch my breath,” Boehme says. “I think that the series is richer for all of that input and the time we had to implement it. This might be our final season, but by god, we’re going out on a high note. This is our best season ever.” Catching her breath meant a massive re-write and a focus on the locations they did have—in Hamilton and Brantford, Ont.—a story that fit and juggling COVID safety protocol costs. The result, from the first two episodes I’ve seen, has made for an even tighter and engaging story.

Back for a final season Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Omni, Blood and Water: Fire & Ice‘s final chapter of eight half-hour episodes follows disgraced former Vancouver cop Michelle Chang (Selena Lee)—now a Toronto-based private detective—as she hunts down Norris Pang (Sean Baek), the man who has kidnapped her daughter. Pang is also the mastermind behind a money laundering scheme happening at the Xie family’s casino, where Anna Xie (Elfina Luk) is attempting to expand the family business, much to her father’s chagrin.

Lee, as Michelle, is mesmerizing to watch. Her eyes emote so much of what Michelle is feeling—the pain of getting close to her daughter, only to have her taken away—and she wields a weapon with the best of them.

“She is so focused, a great leader and a lovely person to work with,” Boehme says. “She is a big star in Asia and I’m glad that our show had a chance to repatriate her back to Canada.”

Blood and Water: Fire & Ice airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Omni.

Images courtesy of Breakthrough Entertainment.

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