CBC upfront about double-digit upticks, integration augmentation

The broadcaster's EVP Richard Stursberg tells MiC about the new partnership inked between the CBC and the National Post, while network execs Stewart and Moore wax on media strategies and sales predictions.

Programming and schedule announcements were just the icing on the cake at yesterday’s CBC fall upfronts presentation at the broadcaster’s headquarters in downtown Toronto.

As MiC sat down with network execs Richard Stursberg, Kirstine Stewart and Scott Moore after the programming presentation, it turned out that there was even more big news to share: the CBC has inked a preferred sales partnership with the National Post and its extended, newly purchased newspaper group, CBC EVP Stursberg shared in an interview with MiC.

The two mediacos have worked together before but formalized the deal as of today, he explained. ‘The way it will work is that the Post will be our preferred print partner, so if we’re out making a sale and we need a national print piece, then we’ll turn to them. And vice versa.’

Paul Godfrey, the newly-minted president and CEO of the newspaper co formerly known as Canwest LP, was slightly more ebullient in his description of the deal: ‘We’re joining arms,’ he said in an interview following the presentation. ‘After dating together throughout the Olympics, we found out that we like each other a lot, so we’re going to get engaged.’

When asked if this would affect the newspaper’s existing relationship with the now Shaw-owned Canwest television assets, Godfrey was careful to note that the deal is not an exclusive arrangement, but specifically a ‘preferred partnership’ in which both sides can work with other mediacos in accordance with their clients’ needs.

‘They were our partner for a number of years,’ he said of Canwest’s television division. ‘We were in the same company; this is not abandoning them. I think CBC offers a number of possibilities…[and] I think this association has a bigger footprint in Canada.’ The expanded possibilities might mean shared content and personalities between two organizations, such as CBC personalities appearing in Post columns (like current Post columnist Rex Murphy) or Post personalities appearing on the CBC.

The other big announcement from the CBC was that Radio-Canada and CBC sales will now be handled by a joint sales team, Stursberg said. ‘If you’re a big national account and you want to buy French and English at the same time, no problem. And strangely, that has never happened before. It seems almost kind of obvious. But it’s all about the customers: What do you want? You want French and English? No problem. You want television and print? No problem.’

The new sales arrangements will no doubt be a bonus to the network as it pursues an expanded palette of cross-platform strategies designed to offer advertisers more comprehensive, integrated opportunities. Going forward, said Kristine Stewart, general manager, CBC Television, the network will pursue more ‘campaign-oriented’ promotions with its shows, after the success of The Hour‘s ‘One Million Acts of Green’ campaign last year.

‘We learned from the ‘One Million Acts of Green’ campaign that we can successfully run a campaign multi-platform,’ she said. ‘So the idea of [new shows and promotions such as] All for One with Debbie Travis, and Culture Days [a nationwide event this September of which CBC is a sponsor], it’s an opportunity to expand beyond the usual time-sell on air and really take advantage of other applications, and other sponsorship and money that can come in that way.’

The CBC’s mandate to increase its brand integration opportunities – in addition to hitting the mark with new shows such as Battle of the Blades – all adds up to a promising year ahead, CBC GM and CBC Sports executive director Scott Moore, told MiC.

‘We’re thrilled on a couple of fronts,’ he said. ‘Number one, our clients have responded to our Canadian schedule in the fact that we produce so much of what we make and we can integrate within them. That’s received a lot of promising response. We did a lot of it last year, but we’re building on it this year. That combined with the economy coming back, we’re going to see a [sales percentage] increase. And I’d like to think that it will have two digits in it, but that’s about all I’m willing to comment on.’

The rebounding economy certainly plays a role, with automotive sales coming back ‘in a big way’ and a much more competitive national wireless telecommunications market. ‘Just overall, people are feeling more confidence in the economy and we’ve seen that certainly in the last four to six months.’