Programming profile: Blue Ant Media

Looking to get a foot in the door at this multimedia co? Think like its crafty namesake and strategize innovative programming plays that take advantage of its multiple points of entry.
Post My Party 1

Craft maven Lynzie Kent hosts General Purpose Entertainment’s Post My Party on Makeful

As Ant-Man proved to the masses last fall, being small can be an advantage when you’re up against a mighty foe. And it’s no different for Blue Ant Media, the most niche and nimble broadcaster in Canada’s rapidly consolidating TV landscape. The media co has been using its size and innovative approach to craft of-the-moment strategies for its stable of TV channel brands, the most recent of which are the rebranding of BiteTV as Makeful and the global expansion of Love Nature. Here, Blue Ant’s EVP of content Vanessa Case discusses the strategy behind the new(ish) properties and what’s working for them now.


The rebrand: We saw the DIY/crafting opportunity wasn’t being done multiplatform. It was being done well in lifestyle TV, e-commerce [with Etsy] and in the social world, but those opportunities weren’t being connected. We wanted to find a way with Makeful to work with influencers and to create short- and long-form content to bring all those makers, DIY and crafting categories together on different platforms. The TV channel was first; we’re now in beta on the digital platform.

The digital strategy: The early online content has been DIY tutorials videos and profiles. Now, we’re creating more Buzzfeed-like videos, so they don’t necessarily have people in them but more crafts laid out for you, or shareable, snackable, DIY stuff.

Crafting the pitch: Talent is so critical for lifestyle content. In our case, we want people to work with us beyond linear – they really have to live and breathe the concept. If producers are coming with the people who can really do the crafting, the baking or whatever it might be, that’s critical.

Building a Makeful community
Blue Ant Media has big ambitions for Makeful’s online presence. The goal of the currently-in-beta/development is to connect “makers” from across Canada by allowing them to create profiles to showcase their projects. The online community also allows users to upload video content, and features interstitial content from the linear channel. To build up the network’s user base, Blue Ant Media spent several months connecting with “makers” across Canada to get them to create profiles for the site, and have raised awareness about the brand by launching maker-focused events, such as a holiday-themed workshop at Yorkdale Mall in December. The online community is slated to launch in full later this year.

Peace Point and Blue Ant tailored Cabin Pressure to showcase design stars Colin and Justin in a more rustic environment

Peace Point and Blue Ant tailored Cabin Pressure to showcase design stars Colin and Justin in a more rustic environment


Programming strategy: We were originally aggressive about targeting a female demographic. As time passed, we tracked more 50/50, or 60/40 female/male – we adjusted to make sure we could speak to a co-viewing audience. Colin & Justin’s Cabin Pressure is a series that nicely balances the wants and needs of a co-viewing audience. The building and DIY elements of bigger projects mixed with fine decor tips give an end-to-end view of a new-build makeover. Other tactics Cottage Life uses to appeal to a co-view audience include marathons and block scheduling strategies. We’ve learned that while food is a big category in [Cottage Life] magazine and online, it didn’t play out as well on TV. Where we have made our biggest moves is investing in talent. Colin and Justin, Brojects – those are two great examples.

Living the brand: We’ve remained true to Cottage Life and what that brand suggests: weekend living. If every day was the weekend, how would you spend it? You wouldn’t be doing chores, you’d be doing things that give you pleasure. Originally we were trying to stick to “cottage life” – on the lakeside, on the dock – and now we’ve embraced the weekend.

Digital strategy: Brojects is a good example of our digital offshoots. It’s such a fun and quirky show and our audience really likes those extra DIY videos and [offbeat] projects like a dock bowling alley or shot skis. We also have a team internally that is producing at least five original standalone videos a week published online and on YouTube for Cottage Life [that are not directly associated with a linear TV property]. It’s a very aggressive shorts strategy.

Budget and licence fees: We’re looking to launch productions on Makeful at between $60,000 to $100,000 a half-hour – that’s our lifestyle range. On Love Nature, let’s just call it $100,000 [per hour] and up. It’s a massive range and when we are working on international coproductions, [the budgets] are quite significant. Licence fees for Cottage Life are around $30,000 to $40,000; similar on Makeful. Love Nature is $100,000 and up.

Building a hit series
When a show shines on a channel, both broadcasters and producers win. We catch up with Peace Point’s Les Tomlin and Blue Ant Media VP of original content Sam Linton about how the series came together and why it works for Cottage Life’s multiple outlets.

How did Cabin Pressure arrive at Cottage Life?
LT: We had developed a pilot for another network with Colin and Justin about four years ago, which didn’t go to series. Blue Ant had an interest in Colin and Justin, so they came to us and said they’d like to do a home reno show built around cottages. So we co-developed this series with Blue Ant and Colin and Justin.

SL: It has two of the categories we know our audiences want to see: real estate and design. Colin and Justin had genuinely fallen in love with Muskoka and the cottage lifestyle. We thought this would be a special series because they were personally invested – this was their place – and the viewer could enjoy the journey of watching them renovate a place they were invested in. It had real stakes.
How did you work together on the multiplatform strategy?

LT: When we develop a project, we view it as a multimedia brand: a linear series, online web components, branded entertainment, publishing and merchandise. In the case of this series, we provided Blue Ant with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. Their digital team used that footage to create custom multiple platform content, including branded-entertainment pieces for the sponsors.

SL: In addition to the TV series, Colin and Justin have written articles for the magazine, performed on the main stage at the Cottage Life trade shows and delivered a series of short-form content for our website and YouTube channel. The boys have lots to say and the digital platform is perfect for tidbits and DIY videos to round out the experience for the TV viewer.

Brojects in the House

Brojects in the House


Original programming strategy: We are doing co-treaties and Canadian original production and while we’re doing some content in-house, we’re leaning on the production community. We’re also producing everything in 4K. However, not everyone can make blue-chip wildlife productions, so it’s key for us to work with producers that know how to do it, where to shoot and how co-treaty scenarios work. We want all the money to go on screen.

USP: [Prior to Love Nature's launch] there was not a lot of traditional documentary product where nature is the star versus a person. We don’t want to strip people out, but to produce content that puts the focus back on nature. We [also] have an online community, an SVOD product and a big original production slate. That is the unique offering that we’re not seeing anywhere else.

Digital strategy: A lot of what we’re getting [for digital] is content from the field. The crews have unique experiences, from monkeys attacking the camera to lions stealing sleeping bags. We’re getting directors’ tapes too because we like to hear from the creators. We are also creating ‘slow TV,’ like footage of drones flying. A lot of this can be cut down into short content initiatives.