One to watch: APTN » Media in Canada

One to watch: APTN

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)'s viewing numbers are on the rise, positioning the net as one to watch - literally. BBM's People Meter service revealed last week that APTN's weekly reach has grown from nearly 1.6 million (between January to October 2004) to just over 2.1 million viewers (over the same 10-month period one year later). This represents a growth of 35% for the net's secondary audience group consisting of non-Aboriginal viewers. And just last November, APTN began to be measured in Quebec resulting in an increased reach to more than three million viewers per week.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)’s viewing numbers are on the rise, positioning the net as one to watch – literally. BBM’s People Meter service revealed last week that APTN’s weekly reach has grown from nearly 1.6 million (between January to October 2004) to just over 2.1 million viewers (over the same 10-month period one year later). This represents a growth of 35% for the net’s secondary audience group consisting of non-Aboriginal viewers. And just last November, APTN began to be measured in Quebec resulting in an increased reach to more than three million viewers per week.

Variety is key here, says APTN CEO Jean LaRose, claiming that the net is now looking for different genres, including dramas, comedies and variety shows, to add to its roster. The net is also doing its part to keep aware of audience preferences, creating an online focus group of up to 6000 viewers across Canada, launching over the next month.

For advertisers, APTN may spell a new platform for dissemination. ‘The advertising community is starting to notice that we’re getting the eyeballs and that we’re national,’ says LaRose. Case in point: national chain Tim Horton’s tested the net’s viability last fall for its 30-second ad spots and, netting good responses, has since signed on as a regular advertiser. Food brand Duncan Hines has followed suit. LaRose says the strategy now is to go after the major banks and automakers, pointing out that: ‘Aboriginals buy pickup trucks like no other group.’ He confirms that sponsorship opps are available at APTN. As an example, he says, RBC Financial Group has sponsored Venturing Forth, a youth entrepreneurship show for the last two years.

In an effort to ride this viewer wave, LaRose says the net will also increase Aboriginal productions over the next seven years. His three-year goal? To increase Aboriginal programming to 35 hours per week. (The net currently airs 30 hours per week.) ‘We’re working out the target [number] now with producers and their [content] supply,’ says LaRose. ‘And we’re also looking into a lot of SAP (secondary audio program) technology so that shows will have different dialects – such as a Cree version, an Ojibway version.’

Also as part of its license renewal last fall, APTN got the CRTC nod to create more regionally specific programming as a result of their Southern feed splitting into Western and Eastern feeds, respectively. As such, an entirely new roster is planned for fall 2006. ‘Initially, it will be a time-shifting thing. But in the next six years, we will be building inventory for this,’ he says.

Though APTN’s primary viewers comprised of Aboriginals living on-reserve, north of 60 and in urban Canada are not measured by BBM or Nielsen, a 2003 study by Star Inc. reports that 94% of Aboriginals claim to watch APTN, to ‘see themselves as they are.’

‘It’s a big difference now from six years ago when the net license was okayed by the CRTC,’ recalls LaRose. ‘The mainstream media didn’t believe we would last, but we’re a proven experiment. This is no social engineering project.’