To hear Wendy Freeman tell it, the execution of scores of Bell Media CTV sluggos this summer was all because ad revenues are in the toilet.
“These decisions are never easy…severe financial pressures…industry changes…God help us…etc.,” the network news supremette burbled re CTV’s dumping of half the staff from flagship newsmagazine W5 and killing Kevin Newman Live.
Her bosses at Bell Media had previously eviscerated Much Music and sacked several personalities from their radio division. (It’s a mystery to us how Lloyd Robertson survived the W5 pogrom. The venerable bingo caller doesn’t, er, do much. They just wheel him in, the tailor’s dummy who chants intros and extros, and then gets limo’d back to his gated community crypt. You’d think Floyd would have a little compassion for his junior colleagues and fall on his sword, as Linden MacIntyre did to make room for his younger brethren on CBC’s the fifth estate. But Floyd, 81, won’t budge.)
What Bell Media didn’t say when it threw so many employees on the breadlines was that they had to save a shitload of dough in order to buy up rights to the HBO library in Canada—a deal that Bell quietly announced last week.
The agreement gives Bell customers who subscribe to The Movie Network access to the vast HBO back catalog, via streaming or video on demand.
This helps Bell to compete with Netflix Canada, which refused to pay the multi-million dollar price tag HBO was demanding for its cache of Sopranos and Deadwood reruns.
So that leaves Bell under even more pressure to chalk up profits.
Thank God they still have the lucrative specialty channels like Book Television, the one horse operation wheezing out antique BBC retreads, authors’ festivals and prime time fare that includes Road to Avonlea and The Waltons.
Book Television exists because, like the rest of the unwatched specialty channels, it makes huge profits, as much as $2 million a year, through cheapo production costs–a skeleton staff of one, or maybe two button pushers.