Allarco exits creditor protection, rebrands Super Channel

President Don McDonald discusses creating a more distinctive pay-TV brand, working with indies after its large-scale licence divestment and its commissioning strategy.
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Super Channel has unveiled a rebranding of its flagship channels (SC1 and SC2) as its parent company Allarco exits a 23-month period under creditor protection.

SC1 has been rebranded as Super Channel Fuse, with the channel now focusing on adult-focused programming, including premium series (such as Homeland and American Gods), as well as movies, docs, stand-up comedy, sports and concerts. SC2, meanwhile, has been renamed Super Channel Heart & Home and will focus on co-viewing programming like When Calls the Heart and family-oriented MOWs. They join Super Channel’s e-sports channel Ginx Esports TV and movie-centric Super Channel Vault, both of which were launched last spring. The rebrand of SC1 and SC2 is scheduled to come into effect on June 4.

The rebrand comes nearly two years after Allarco filed for creditor protection, citing financial pressures including the increased cost of programming. In the months following its May 2016 filing, Super Channel disclaimed roughly 100 of its licence agreements, both from Canadian and U.S. companies and underwent a corporate restructure, which saw the departure of former president and COO Malcolm Knox. In the time since, Don McDonald has been named president and CEO of the company and, most recently, Melissa Kajpust was promoted to VP, programming. In February, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Judicial Centre of Edmonton approved a “plan of compromise” that saw Allarco pay $2.95 million to 142 affected creditors. On April 5, Allarco’s CCAA proceedings were officially terminated.

Playback Daily spoke with president and CEO Don McDonald about Super Channel’s rebrand, the end of its CCAA filing and what’s next for the pay TV operator.

PB: What was the strategy behind the rebrand?
DM: As we exited out of CCAA we decided we needed to finish our rebranding of our channels to give us four distinct and unique channels that would make us totally distinct [from what] we were prior to CCAA. We had to set ourselves apart from our main competitor, which is The Movie Network (TMN). All along we were looked at as similar to TMN or Movie Central, so when people are making the selections on wanting premium movies, they would often first default to TMN. What we needed to do was come up with some unique content and a unique focus to make us different.

PB: Who are the new subscribers that you are trying to attract?
DM: 
Each of the channels will draw on a different demographic. Heart & Home is a more wholesome channel focused on females, 35-85, but primarily for an over-50 audience. As well, they can also be worry-free about any content on that channel that might be offensive to younger children that might be watching. Ginx is focused on gamers, in particular millennials living at home. For traditional pay TV lovers we have Super Channel Fuse, which will have premium content like Homeland, Mr Mercedes and Ice. And the fourth is Super Channel Vault, comprised of 300 movie titles, most of which are former blockbusters. Backstopping all that we have a robust on-demand channel that has 1300 hours of content. Once a show airs, it goes to the on-demand channel and typically is available for the whole licence period.

PB: How have your subscriber numbers fared during your period under creditor protection? 
DM: We’ve had subscriber growth through the period, and we’re just over 500,000 at the moment, so we’re optimistic as we’re moving forward.

PB: After entering CCAA and disclaiming a number of contracts with Canadian indie producers, how will you go about regaining the trust of the independent production community in Canada?
DM:
 I know that many of them are upset and all I can say is we’re very apologetic that this happened. Unfortunately, back in 2016, when we went into CCAA, we had a very tough decision to make. We either went into CCAA or went bankrupt, and the owners of the company decided to give the CCAA a try because we felt that we could turn this business around. If we went into bankruptcy then everyone would have lost. So we have to be forthcoming, have to be working with the community, and ensure that we select the right content that’s going to make our subscribers and the production community have a mutual benefit.

PB: What are you doing to ensure the company doesn’t enter CCAA again?
DM:
We are very tightly monitoring and controlling our spending. We’re going to continue to grow our subscriber base by offering unique and distinctive content, and ensuring we have engagement with those subscribers to make sure they’re aware of the content we have.

PB: Are you looking to commission more Canadian content going forward?
DM: 
Absolutely. We will still have a CPE expenditure requirement, and my guess is that it’s going to remain at 30%  currently that’s our level. We will be commissioning new series and new movies as we go forward. I’m very optimistic that we’ll be active in that.

PB: Is there any particular type of content you’ll be focused on commissioning?
DM:
It’s a split of features, docs, and series. On the Heart & Home channel there’ll be quite a bit of MOW content. There’s a lot of that being produced in Canada now and I think we’re very active on that. We’re certainly commissioning TV series, too  When Calls the Heart is one of them, and we’re speaking with other producers on a couple of other projects. It’s the same thing for Fuse [channel] and Pure is an example of one we’ve gone into in a significant way. Melissa Kajpust [VP of programming] is looking at a number of Canadian series that we’re looking to commission as we move forward.

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