Source : Globe & Mail
The A Channel network, a collection of seven small television stations that have been punted around in the takeover of CHUM Ltd., are expected to be given a makeover as its new owner looks to revitalize the struggling broadcaster.
Industry sources suggested yesterday that CTV Inc. is looking to rebrand the A Channel network it is acquiring in the $1.4-billion deal to buy CHUM, and could apply to have its broadcast power increased in some markets.
A Channel is made up of stations in smaller cities such as Victoria and six others in Ontario, including Ottawa, London, Barrie, Wingham, Pembroke and Wheatley.
The second-tier network was originally sold to Rogers Communications Inc. in April for $137.5-million to ease regulatory concerns about CTVglobemedia Inc. owning too many stations across Canada. CTVglobemedia is the parent company of CTV and The Globe and Mail.
But when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered CTV to sell off CHUM's other network CITY-TV instead, the A Channel deal was scrapped, and those assets fell back into CTV's hands.
CITY-TV, which CTV hoped to build into a second national network aimed at younger viewers, has since been sold to Rogers.
Now executives at CTV are looking to implement a scaled-down version of that strategy at the A Channels, hoping to make the small string of stations a bigger presence in their own markets, and in neighbouring cities.
A key piece of that strategy will likely see the A Channels rebranded in the coming year, an industry source said. "You'll probably see that disappear."
CTV wants to boost the amount of marketing those stations get. That was something cash-strapped CHUM could not do. After viewing the financial state of the company, CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said last week the A Channels were definitely losing money. The regulator let CTV hold on to those assets hoping an owner with more funds at hand would be able to invest more in them. Beyond the rebranding, for which the name is not yet known, CTV will most likely look to bolster the programming schedules of the small city outlets, using it as a testing ground for some shows that could jump to the main national network.
CTV often buys U.S. programs in bulk to secure the best titles, meaning some inevitably get shelved because there is no space in its schedule. Some of those overflow shows could find their way onto the A Channels.
CTV may also look at expanding the broadcast signal of some of the A Channel stations, similar to a recent application by rival CanWest Global Communications Corp.
Last week, the CRTC granted CanWest the right to expand its secondary CH network in Red Deer, Alta. The company will install broadcast transmitters in Calgary and Edmonton.
Though the CH station is already carried on cable in those cities, the move will give the company better placement on the dial.
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