CBC launches two new digital channels

CBC has put a new stamp on both Country Canada and The Documentary Channel, re-branding the digi-channels as Bold and Documentary in an effort to tempt subscribers with more sophisticated and focused programming.

The channels, led by new creative head Bruce Cowley, and their revamped schedules were unveiled Thursday at the Ceeb’s Toronto headquarters. Both were up and running as of midnight Wednesday for a month of free previews before viewing becomes subscription-only.

Programming boss Kirstine Layfield says that with Bold, CBC is focusing on bringing more arts programming to the channel, while also featuring uncut drama and comedy and niche sports.

‘Country Canada was more of a general entertainment channel, set up as having a bit of everything. But in the digital specialty world, you have to be something [more specific],’ Layfield explains. Its transition was more dramatic than that of The Documentary Channel.

‘We wanted to make the service more relevant to motivated digital television viewers,’ says Cowley, former programming head at CTV, ‘so there’s a degree of predictability to the service.

‘Country Canada was an alignment of current affairs programming alongside series and sports,’ he adds. ‘With Bold, the nights go more by themes, and it’s for people with a taste for things they can’t find elsewhere.’

CBC series such as The Tudors and the recently cancelled Intelligence will find new life on Bold, where they will air uncut and commercial-free on Sundays and Mondays, respectively.

Layfield says Bold will be 80% Canadian content, and run some programming similar to the fine arts fare the main network used to showcase on Opening Night.

Arts programming highlights include The Metropolitan Opera Series, a TV version of CBC Radio program Q, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, and the musical series Live From Abbey Road. The channel will also air select coverage of the Summer Olympics, in addition to more specialized sports such as sailing and equestrian events.

A challenge for the execs was to keep documentaries airing on CBC Newsworld separate from those airing on its digital channel. As such, Documentary will run more feature-length and series docs that are less investigative and more about wildlife and personal stories. Newsworld will feature point-of-view, political and current affairs-based docs.

Documentary relaunched on Thursday at 8 pm with the award-winning film The Devil Came on Horseback, about a US Marine captain’s journey through Darfur. The doc screened at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

This morning, CBC announced that it has secured an exclusive deal to air a Sundance Channel-branded block of programming. Commented Sundance founder Robert Redford:
‘It is an honour to be in this collaboration with the CBC and by association, with the people of Canada. We are very pleased to contribute strong independent documentary programming to this exciting audience, and to be a part of the Canadian television landscape.’

Asked about advertising and sponsorship opportunities on CBC’s new digi-channels, Layfield says: ‘We’ll have a little ‘oasis’ of non-commercial time on Bold and Doc, so there’s going to be times – for example, a Tuesday – when it will be uncut and commercial-free, and times when there will be commercials. We’ll make decisions based on the programming.’ And, she adds, the Ceeb is ‘absolutely open to sponsorship opportunities.’

From Playback Daily