A new deal for a pair of television stations north or the border has been struck, and another for three more has come apart. All of the stations are struggling. In the first instance, the price is as yet unknown; in the second, a grand total of $3.00 is off the table.
The latest transaction has Canwest Television LP selling CHCH-TV Hamilton ON and CJNT-TV Montreal PQ to Channel Zero Inc. In the crater is an offer from cable company Shaw Communications to buy three troubled stations for three bucks.
The Canwest/Channel Zero deal requires approval from the CRTC, Canada’s version of the FCC. According to Canwest, if the deal doesn’t go through it may mean the end of the road for the stations. “We believe that this sale, once complete, will represent the best opportunity for these stations, the communities they serve and the employees who work there,” Canwest’s President Peter Viner said. “Despite considering a number of strategic alternatives, we concluded that without new ownership, these stations would have to be closed.”
Channel Zero has promised to offer jobs to all current employees and to provide and 36.5 hours of local programming per week at CHCH and 13.5 hours of local ethnic programming per week at CJNT.
The Toronto Globe and Mail believes that the total value for the two stations is under $5K.
The undone deal involves CTVglobemedia stations CKX-TV Brandon MB, CKNX-TV Wingham ON and CHWI-TV Windsor-Wheatley ON. CTV and other broadcasters had been complaining about financial difficulties and have been seeking the right to negotiate retransmission consent with cable operators as is done in the US.
CTV told CRTC that it couldn’t sell the stations, not even for $1 apiece. Upon hearing that, cabler Jim Shaw offered exactly that amount, and CTV accepted. “I think it’s great,” CTVglobemedia’s Ivan Fecan said at the time. “We’ve accepted their offer of $1 per station. Cable is rolling in money and can obviously afford to underwrite the losses.”
However, Shaw apparently didn’t like what it saw in the stations’ financial records, and decided not to go through with the deal. The fate of the stations is unknown, although speculation is that they may be closed as early as September if regulatory relief is not forthcoming.
RBR/TVBR observation: It sounds like TV is getting hit even harder in Canada than it is here. Stations in the US are hurting, but people aren’t just giving them away yet. Of course, Canadian telecasters are even more reliant on advertising revenues than here, since they lack the steady and reliable retransmission revenue stream.