O’Farrell revives bid to sell Canadian ads on US avails

Fourth time's the charm? The former CAB boss takes a page from Rogers, Kevin Shea and Drew Craig with his plan to payroll Canadian programming.

Former Canadian Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Glenn O’Farrell has resurfaced with a proposal to sell ad time on US specialty channels’ so-called local avails as an alternative to controversial fees-for-carriage.

And O’Farrell’s venture, MédiadeNovo, has an unlikely ally in Kevin Shea, whose earlier 49th Media bid to replace American ads on US specialty channel feeds with Canadian ones was opposed by CTV and Global Television and nixed by the CRTC in 2004.

But that was then, and this is now.

‘While previous local avail proposals were duly considered, the MédiadeNovo application is fundamentally different and was designed to offer the highest levels of funding solutions for Canadian programming,’ O’Farrell said.

His company would convert local availabilities – domestic ads that are currently added to US channels – into Canadian programming financing without ‘causing market or regulatory distortions’ that could disadvantage broadcasters.

O’Farrell said he’d unveil more details once the CRTC gazettes the application from MédiadeNovo, whose principals are O’Farrell, Shea and veteran producer Jeff Thiessen.

But his bid got backing Tuesday when Telus VP Michael Hennessy told the CRTC – which is still in the midst of hearings into possible retransmission fees – that selling advertising spots on US specialties would ‘create a new revenue stream to offset the need for fee-for-carriage.’

O’Farrell welcomed Telus’ well-timed support as ‘one of the sensible measures required to move the industry forward by finding the middle-ground.’

Current CRTC rules have Canadian viewers watching US commercials that target American audiences on stateside channels like A&E, Spike TV, CNN and TLC. In addition, two minutes per hour of the ‘local avails’ are used by carriers to promote Canadian shows or new products, including mobile phones.

MédiadeNovo proposes to replace the two minutes of local avails with ad inventory sold to Canadian advertisers, with 70% of the revenue being directed to Canadian programming and the rest going to cable or satellite distributors.

That ratio is key as earlier middlemen proposals to sell Canadian ads on US specialty channel feeds from Rogers in 1996, and Shea’s 49th Media and Drew Craig’s Only Imagine application in 2007 were opposed by groups including the CAB, on grounds it would steal advertising from broadcasters and profit content carriers.

But O’Farrell, who left CAB early this year, said the latest CRTC bid to sell commercial airtime during local avails would increase Cancon investment at no cost to cable and satellite TV subscribers or inconvenience to TV viewers.

‘The long-term plan would allow hundreds of millions of dollars in untapped potential revenues to flow back into the Canadian broadcasting system in support of Canadian programming,’ he said.

From Playback Daily