CH network morphing into E!

Hints dropped at last year's upfronts that change was coming for CH are now fact. In what Sunni Boot calls an 'avante-garde' deal, CanWest MediaWorks is bringing a top Comcast entertainment brand to Canada.

Yesterday, CanWest MediaWorks announced an exclusive, multi-platform agreement with Comcast Entertainment Group’s US-based E! Networks that will rebrand the CH network as E! in September. The deal marks the first time E! will be delivered as an over-the-air network, and makes CanWest MediaWorks the key-holder for broadcast, online, mobile, VOD and satellite radio opps in Canada.

Sunni Boot, president/CEO of Toronto’s ZenithOptimedia, tells MiC the deal is ‘really avant-garde. They’re moving absolutely in the right direction. Conventional television is definitely on the decline. With Alliance Atlantis, they’re going to have their second revenue stream coming from cable subscription. And it’s going to give them a new platform, brand new to Canada. That generates excitement. And they can monetize it.’

E!’s sked will mix network prime-time shows with E! library content, airing during weekends, late prime and daytime. Each CH station’s local content will relaunch with a refreshed on-air image under the banner of its historical call letters (CHCH News, CHEK News, CHBC News, CHCA News and CJNT Montreal). The network’s complete programming schedule will be revealed at the CanWest MediaWorks fall launch event in June.

CanWest has committed to support CanCon drama, documentary and factual entertainment development with a dedicated fund. It intends to aggressively seek providers for the delivery of Canadian content for all of E!’s multi-platform offerings.

The deal’s brand extensions beyond TV are just what the mediascape needs, says Boot. ‘Advertisers are looking to be participatory on all platforms in a holistic way, so when you have a single owner, a single opportunity to develop content and distribute your content as an advertiser, this is part of the future. They’re going to give us mass reach and experiential. This is a good thing (that’s) going to help us as buyers move more quickly into the area that we have to – which is having the right touchpoints at the right time.’

Will the deal help CanWest ‘eclipse’ the competition? No, says Boot. But it will put CTVglobemedia on its toes and force it to sell smarter when it comes to on-air, online and mobile assets. ‘The competitor (CTVglobemedia) has phenomenal cable offerings, fantastic conventional offerings, and it’s going to add a really strong radio network through CHUM,’ Boot explains. ‘That’s pretty powerful. But, increasingly, we’re not buying all the assets of a single company for a single campaign. So it’s nice that CTVglobemedia has all that and that CanWest has all that.’

In announcing the deal with Comcast, Kathleen Dore, CanWest MediaWorks’ president of Canadian television, says: ‘While Global Television continues to experience strong momentum, the launch of the E! brand in Canada will redefine our second conventional television network.’