Fight for specialties resumes

And they’re off.

Just hours after the Jan. 11 deadline expired for applications for the next round of specialty services, it’s shaping up to be a dogfight for new kids’ tv, news and sports channels.

By all reports, applicants were still scrambling to nail down proposals and ownership structures as of Playback’s press deadline Jan. 10. Those willing to release the names of proposed services were guarding the strategies behind their proposals with a ferociousness that indicates no one is buying the idea that the crtc will license all and let market forces decide which live and die.

Leaping fearlessly into the fray are Family Channel, ytv, Cinar Films and Nelvana with their application for teletoon, an animation service with roots in last year’s failed application for Fun tv. This year, ytv joins the triumvirate, taking a 26.7% stake in the channel, with Family Channel in for 53.3%. Cinar and Nelvana are in for 10% a piece, but each have the option to increase their holdings to 20%.

teletoon is proposing a $76 million expenditure on Canadian programming over a seven-year licence period with $42 million of that block going to new program production, says Barbara Baillie, director of communications for Family Channel. The business plan projects Canadian programming filling 50% of the broadcast day by year three of operation, rising to 60% by year six.

CanWest Global Communications comes out of left field to battle for the children’s market, with Kids tv amongst its three applications. According to Joanne McKenna, president of CanWest development and coo on all of CanWest’s proposals, Kids tv will be a commercial-free, violence-free service targeting preschool and primary grade kids aged two to nine.

Competition too comes from ytv and Vision tv. ytv is filing its own application for the YTV Childcare Network, a service aimed specifically at preschoolers ages six and under. Vision is the parent partner on The Children’s Television Network, a not-for-profit service aimed at children under 12. Janis Nostbacken, founding editor of Owl and Chickadee magazines, will lead the application, with board members on the application including Ernie Coombs, Rita Shelton Deverell, Dodi Robb, Robert Roy, and Vision president and ceo Fil Fraser.

In news, the CTV Network and cbc are squaring off. ctv is pitching for N1, a headline news service in partnership with Montreal-based tva. cbc is pairing with Southam for a headline news channel Southam Headline News with Peter Irwin, president of Southam New Media, and Newsworld head Slawko Klymkiw leading the pitch. Southam reportedly is the majority owner in the service, although the split percentages weren’t released.

WIC Western International Communications is too in the race with a news/sports information channel among its more than five applications. wic also confirms it has revived Second City Comedy Channel but won’t reveal more details until next week.

ctv is also taking on regional sports through its application for S3, a partnership with The Molson Companies, Rogers Programming Services and LMC International, a wholly owned subsidiary of u.s.-based Liberty Media. Labatt Communications through TSN is in with an application for TSN Plus. LCI is also pitching The History Channel, in partnership with A&E.

ctv will also pitch to have its newly licensed dth ppv sports and special events service, Sports/ Specials, licensed for cable distribution.

Baton Broadcasting Systems is filing at least three applications. The Comedy Network will be headed up by Comics’ producer Joe Bodolai. Talk tv, a talk show channel, will be spearheaded by Suzanne Boyce, an executive on Dini Petty credited with the show’s rating increase this season. The Outdoor Channel was still on the slate at press time, although a spokesperson for Baton could not confirm the application will go through. The pending Eaton take-over bid, with its strategic and financial benefits, could potentially strengthen these applications.

chum is thought to be filing at least five applications, one of which is Canada Learning Television, an educational service partnered with BBC Worldwide Learning which has 15% equity, chum 51%, Moses Znaimer 17%, Access Network executives Ron Keast and Peter Palframan 14%, and chum vp of television programming Jay Switzer 3%. chum executives refused to release any details on any of their applications prior to Jan. 11, but a comedy service and another music service are widely considered to be amongst their applications.

In addition to Kids tv, CanWest is pitching Prime tv, a service targeting the 50+ market, and The Mystery Channel, an entertainment service with a primary mystery theme featuring entertainment programming currently in syndication. All three services are wholly owned by CanWest and its subsidiary companies.

Atlantis Communications could not confirm its application for a science-fiction channel at press time, but does confirm that its subsidiary Life Network is partnering with companies including E.W. Scripts Company, a u.s media conglomerate, on an application for hgtv, a home and garden channel.

More information will be forthcoming over the next few months as the players prepare to take the stage at hearings set to begin in May. The crtc will gazette applications in March.