Tier 3: The List

Spurred by a couple of months of information-seeking phone calls, Playback has compiled the co-ordinates of the latest batch of specialty channels, American and Canadian. Report prepared by Pamela Swedko. American Channels - Black Entertainment Television Production contact: Lydia Cole, vp...

Spurred by a couple of months of information-seeking phone calls, Playback has compiled the co-ordinates of the latest batch of specialty channels, American and Canadian. Report prepared by Pamela Swedko.
American Channels

- Black Entertainment Television
Production contact: Lydia Cole, vp of programming
One BET Plaza,
1900 W Place NE,
Washington, d.c, 20018-1211
Tel.: (202) 608-2901
Fax: (202) 608-2995
Housekeeping: Black Entertainment Television features music videos, news, public affairs, jazz, specials, sitcoms from the past, gospel and college sports, all targeted at an African-American audience. Black Entertainment Television Inc. owns and operates the network, which reaches approximately 52 million u.s. homes and more than 90% of all cabled black households.
Note to producers: The channel is seeking acquisitions, particularly music programs for BET On Jazz, as well as for the BET Cable Network, which would appeal to its Afro-American base market and Canadians. bet will also consider commissioning music programs, specials and comedy and sitcom projects that offer an African-American perspective and would sell in the u.s. The company is considering synergies with Toronto’s Caribbana festival.

- CNBC
Production contact: Bob Reichblum, vp of primetime programming
2200 Fletcher Ave.,
Fort Lee, N.J., 07024
Tel.: (201) 585-2622
Fax: (201) 585-6327
Housekeeping: On air since April 1989, cnbc, owned by nbc, is an entertainment and information station with a programming mix consisting of daytime business reports and talk at night. During the day, a team of business correspondents, experts, analysts and guest commentators report on market news, trends and personal finance, while talk shows such as Politics With Chris Matthews and Rivera Live run through the night. Programming for cnbc is produced almost exclusively in-house.

- Food Network
Production contact: Eileen Opatut, senior vp of programming, production and operations
1177 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, n.y., 10036
Tel.: (212) 398-8836
Fax: (212) 736-7716
Housekeeping: Launched November 1993, The Food Network features lifestyle programming devoted exclusively to food and entertaining. The lineup includes shows on the latest trends in wines, a cooking show for canines, dinner party planning and international cuisine.
To date, 97% of Food’s programming has been generated in-house, but in an effort to expand its vision of what food programming can be, aside from cooking shows, and to diversify its schedule, the network is starting to take a more in-depth look at proposals with the intent of developing something new.
Fifty-six percent of Food is owned by E.W. Scripps Company while the remaining 44% belongs to a consortium of u.s. cable companies.
Note to producers: In terms of independent production, the network is looking to stray from the cooking show standard and move toward innovative formats that are ‘promotable and dynamic.’
There are no strict guidelines as to how ideas should be packaged; producers are welcome to send tapes or written proposals, whatever it takes to communicate the vision. While Opatut would like a rough idea of what the show would cost, she is more interested in the content. At present there are no Canadian-produced programs in Food’s mix.

- Golf Channel
Production contact: Peter Gordon, senior director of programming
7580 Commerce Center Drive,
Orlando, Florida, 32819-8947
Tel.: (407) 363-4653
Fax: (407) 363-7976
Housekeeping: The Golf Channel launched Jan. 17, 1995 and is the sole 24-hour network devoted exclusively to golf programming. The channel’s lineup runs the gamut of tours and competitions and also includes instructional shows, nightly golf news, a live call-in show, celebrity interviews and video tours of the world’s best courses.
Golf is owned by a consortium of u.s. multiple systems operators including Fox Television, Continental Cablevision and Comcast Cable Communications.
Note to producers: Golf’s schedule is full for 1998, but the search has begun for ’99. And while 90% of the network’s programming is produced in-house, Gordon is open to perusing proposals. He suggests that interested producers contact him first to obtain a copy of the submission guidelines as well as to find out what the channel is looking for.
Although Golf does not have any Canadian-produced shows at present, its travel and news programs make frequent visits to Canadian greens.

- Speedvision
Production contact: Lou Occhicone, supervisor of programs and acquisitions
2 Stamford Plaza,
281 Treser Blvd.,
Stamford, CT 06901
Tel.: (203) 406-2500
Fax: (203) 406-2601
Housekeeping: Speedvision is dedicated to automotive, marine, aviation, and motorcycle programming. Each night has a theme: Monday is motor sports, Tuesday is dedicated to motorcycle programming, Wednesday is a combination of aviation and marine, Thursday is historical, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday are a mix. Ownership of Speedvison is divided among Comcast, Media One and Cox Cable.
Note to producers: Occhicone says historical docs are always a big hit and a program on the history of motorcycles is something he would be interested in acquiring.
Proposals should include a detailed description of the concept, a breakdown of each episode and a tape of some past work by which to judge the production quality.
The programming budget for 1998 is already fully committed, but Occhicone says he will be looking at proposals for 1999 around April.
Speedvision presently features several Canadian series such as Toyota Canada Superbike Championship, produced by Professional Motor Sports Productions, Classic Car Restorations by Daro Communications and Speedvision Power Boat Television Show out of Canamedia.

- WTBS-TV SUPERSTATION
Production contact: Jim Head, vp of original programming
1050 Techwood Drive,
Atlanta, Georgia, 30318
Tel.: (404) 827-1717
Fax: (404) 885-4326
Housekeeping: WTBS-TV Superstation began transmitting via satellite in December 1976 and is currently in more than 73 million homes. According to ACNielsen, tbs is the most-watched network on cable among those in the 18-49 demographic in the u.s.
Operating under parent company Turner Broadcasting Systems, the network features family-oriented programming, including more than 500 hours of sports, 1,600 movies and nearly 100 hours of first-run original programming plus a plethora of sitcoms per year.
Note to producers: While in the past original programming consisted primarily of non-fiction programs, tbs is in the midst of a transformation whereby all doc-type shows will move over to cnn, leaving room to launch a franchise of original movies on tbs. The network is looking at producing four per year, beginning in 1999.
Head is currently soliciting material and establishing relationships with producers. According to Head, the channel has a strong commitment to original programming. Aside from movies, the only other thing of interest to tbs is short-form elements which could be scattered throughout the schedule for promotional purposes and to hold the viewers’ attention between shows.
Starting Feb. 1, tbs will air a series of one-minute movie parodies called ‘Monkeyed Movies’ where, as the title suggests, monkeys will act out a scene from a movie.
Pitch-wise, Head would like everything in writing: information on the production company, who they have done business with in the past, their made-for-tv experiences, how these projects have performed and which networks purchased them. (Please note: the preference is that producers use the fax machine and not the telephone as a means of contact.)

Canadian Channels

- Comedy Network
Production contact: Ed Robinson, vp of programming
P.O. Box 1000, Station 0,
Toronto, Ont., M4A 2M9
Tel.: (416) 299-2000
Fax: (416) 299-2653
Housekeeping: The Comedy Network features uncut and uncensored laughs 24 hours a day with classic and current Canadian, American and British comedy in the form of stand-up, parody, sketch and satire.
Comedy is owned 65% by Baton, 15% by Shaw Communications, 15% by Astral Broadcasting Group and 5% by Just For Laughs (Les Films Rozon).
The network’s budget for the next year is just under $6 million.
Note to producers: Comedy will consider sketch comedy, stand-up, specials and talk shows, but is particularly interested in experimental comedy shorts, which are featured every weeknight during a half-hour segment. No sitcoms.

- CTV NEWS 1
Production contact: Robert Hurst, chief news editor
P.O. Box 9, Station O,
Toronto, Ont., M4A 2M9
Tel.: (416) 609-7400
Fax: (416) 291-5337
Housekeeping: CTV NEWS 1 is Canada’s 24-hour headline news channel, featuring updated news, weather, business, sports and features in a 15-minute wheel. Comprised of five components, the wheel starts off with a six-minute newscast reporting the top national, international and local Canadian stories, followed by weather provided by The Weather Network. Next up is business news and a one-minute sports report from Headline Sports. Wrapping things up is a feature segment covering health, entertainment, consumer reports, the best of ctv, etc., which changes throughout the hour.
CTV NEWS 1 is 100% owned by CTV Television Network, which in turn is 100% owned by Baton Broadcasting.

- Family Channel
Production contact: Sandra Walmark, supervisor of original production
BCE Place,
181 Bay Street,
Toronto, Ont., M5J 2T3
Tel.: (416) 956-2030
Fax: (416) 956-2035
Housekeeping: Family Channel is a national premium, general-interest service organized into four blocks: preschool, kids, family and adults. Up to 60% of the programming comes from Disney Channel, 25% is first-run Canadian programming, and 15% comes from other parts of the world.
Family is owned 50% by Astral and 50% by WIC Western International Communications. Family Channel u.s. has no stake in the Canadian specialty.
Note to producers: Although nothing is missing from the lineup at present, Walmark says Family wants to expand on its nine- to 12-year-old audience and is actively searching for a half-hour series, longer form light dramas, comedies or possibly an mow to develop for the 1999 season.
All programming for the channel must adhere to its programming standards and practices policy, which requires that programs shown avoid strong language, adult situations and deliberate violence.
Pitch-wise, Walmark would like to see a detailed description of the creative elements, a proposed production or development schedule, a proposed preliminary production or development budget, information on the production company and its key creative players, and a proposed financing plan.

- Headline Sports
Production contact: Lee Herberman, vp programming and production
370 King St. W.,
Toronto, Ont., M5V 1J9
Tel.: (416) 977-6787
Fax: (416) 977-0238
Housekeeping: Headline Sports is a national sports news and information network operating on a 15-minute wheel 24 hours a day. The programming is driven by the day’s events, with some feature shows in the mix.
Headline Sports is owned by Levy Holding Companies, whose assets include Hamilton-area cable systems, Toronto software company Digimation and Calgary-based Shaw Communications (Shaw’s investment in the sports specialty is awaiting crtc approval).
Note to producers: In terms of independent production, Herberman is interested in any fresh, innovative sports-themed idea suitable for traditional and non-traditional sports viewership. He says he would want a brief one-page – presented via fax or mail – outlining the concept. Although much of the programming is produced in-house, Herberman says he is always open to outside ideas.

- HGTV Canada
Production contact: Barbara Williams, vp of programming
1155 Leslie Street,
Toronto, Ont., M3C 2J6
Tel.: (416) 444-9494
Fax: (416) 444-0018
Housekeeping: Home and Garden Television delivers lifestyle programming in the categories of decorating, interior design, building, crafts and hobbies, gardening and special interests.
One-third of the network is owned by hgtv u.s. and two-thirds is the property of Atlantis Communications.
Note to producers: Since practically all of the programming on hgtv originates from independent producers, Williams says they have a very official system in place for handling submissions. Each month a group of six divvies up proposals for perusal and pitch to each other those they feel might have a home on hgtv.
Williams says she is looking almost exclusively for series and is open to ideas.
Pitch-wise, she suggests people obtain a copy of the submission guidelines and package their goods accordingly. In short, the guidelines require a short synopsis of the series as a whole, information on the producers, a rough budget of the series, a breakdown of one episode, a basic script treatment of one episode, and some hint of what may be included in others.
Presently Williams is looking to fill the schedule for fall ’98.

- History Television
Production contact: Sydney Suissa, director of program development and acquisitions
121 Bloor St. E.,
Toronto, Ont., M4W 3M5
Tel.: (416) 967-8052
Fax:( 416) 967-6039
Housekeeping: History Television’s focus is on Canadian and world history, with a primary area of interest in contemporary 20th century stories. The programming schedule is built around three eight-hour wheels. History is looking at about 900 hours of programming for year one and aims to make 140 of those original Canadian productions.
Alliance Communications owns 88% of History and ctv owns 12%.
Note to producers: Prior to submitting any ideas Suissa strongly recommends producers obtain a copy of the producer’s guidelines for submission. The guidelines require that producers submit two to five pages describing the program concept and treatment, addressing the conceptual premise and focus, key visual/creative elements and the main presentation decisions.
It also asks for an explanation of why the proposal is suited for History, bios on the creative team and prior experience, and a financial plan including total production cost per episode and History’s expected contribution. No proposal will be looked at without a signed Proposal Submission Agreement.
Suissa is only interested in licensing documentary programming and is presently close to finalizing the slate for the 1999 season.

- Outdoor Life Network
Production contact: Dave Purdy, programming and acquisitions
P.O. Box 604,
Scarborough, Ont.,
Agincourt Postal Station M1S 4L1
Tel: (416) 299-2613
Fax: (416) 299-2641
Housekeeping: Outdoor Life Network is for those with an interest in outdoor activity. Every night the network sports a different theme: Monday focuses on water-based activities, Tuesday is all about mountain sports, midweek is expedition Wednesday followed by wild-nature Thursday and fishing Friday. The week caps off with the best of oln nature programming on The Challengers, a series of one-hour docs that focus in on great adventures.
Thirty-six percent of oln is owned by Baton, 29.9% by Rogers, 33.3% by Outdoor Life u.s.
Note to producers: Purdy says they are always looking for good one-hour docs and fast-paced series focusing in on outdoor adventure, sport and human elements in the outdoors that would appeal to the 18-34 demographic.
Pitch-wise, Purdy recommends sending no more than three pages, which should include some information on what the producers have done in the past.

- Prime TV
Production contact: Bill Grey, general manager
81 Barber Greene Road
Don Mills, Ontario M3C 2A2
Tel.: (416) 446-5561
Fax: (416) 446-5544
Housekeeping: Prime tv features a lineup of lifestyle and information programming, old and new, geared towards the baby-boomer generation. The network is owned 100% by CanWest Global.
Note to producers: As a general-interest station, Prime is interested in a variety of things and there is no way of nailing down any one particular type of programming, says Grey.
Grey suggests the best thing for producers to do is to first make contact with him and get a sense of what Prime is looking for at that time.

- Space: The Imagination Station
Production contact: Diane Boehme, manager of independent production
299 Queen Street W.,
Toronto, Ont. M5V 2Z5
Tel.: (416) 591-7400, ext. 2730
Fax: (416) 591-8497
Housekeeping: Space: The Imagination Station is a national English-language, science-fiction, science-fact, fantasy and speculation channel owned 100% by CHUM Ltd. The programming mix includes current and classic series along with movies, docs, specials and original productions.
Note to producers: Boehme says she would be interested in programming that pertains to the aforementioned categories; no magazine or children’s shows.
In keeping with the laid-back atmosphere at CHUM/City, the process for submitting proposals is very informal, with no forms to fill out and no deadlines; since this formula has been successful for chum’s Bravo!, the plan is to stick with it for Space.
Producers can either call Boehme directly and present their idea or submit a printed submission. If there is a script or treatment involved, send them along. If looking for a prebuy, Boehme says she would need a polished script, production budget and the key creatives.

- TELETOON
Production contact: Madeleine Levesque, director of original productions, English and French
2100 St. Catherine St. W.,
Montreal, Que., J3H 2T3
Tel.: (514) 939-5000
Fax: (514) 939-1515
Housekeeping: teletoon is an all-animation station organized into four blocks: kids, preschool, family and adult. Children’s programming currently occupies two-thirds of its schedule.
teletoon is owned 20% by Cinar, 20% by Nelvana, 40% by Family Channel and 20% by ytv.
Note to producers: Levesque is currently commissioning original programming for the ’98/99 season. teletoon’s original English- and French-language programming envelope is in the vicinity of $5 million for the year. Anything produced for the channel must be delivered in both languages.
At this point, about two-thirds of teletoon’s programming is for kids. Levesque says there is a shortage of original adult animation production ably slotted in the 9:30-10 p.m. block.
Pitch-wise, she wants to see a synopsis of the program (don’t go overboard on the script at this stage), a list of key creative players and pertinent financial information, time lines and shoot schedule, and very specifically, what the producer is asking from teletoon, whether it’s development money, a licence fee, etc.

- Treehouse TV
Production contact: Paula Parker, director of programming
64 Jefferson Ave.,
Unit 18,
Toronto, Ont., M6K 3H3
Tel.: (416) 534-1191
Fax: (416) 534-2809
Housekeeping: Treehouse tv, owned by Shaw Communications, is ytv’s newest specialty, broadcasting four-and-a-half-hour blocks of preschool programming from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Note to producers: Treehouse is looking for creative, high-quality preschool programs that relate to a child’s imagination and ‘promote caring and sharing and empathy behaviors.’
Pitch-wise, Parker would like to see proposals that include an outline of the project as well as budget information and financing arrangements. A bible, first script and demo would be an asset but are not a must. Parker is now commissioning for 1998 and is looking to find two to three new series. ytv pays anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 per episode.