Monday, March 27, 2006

SUN TV STILL A FLOP

Read on Antonia's blog that Channel 52 has had yet another bloodbath. Thirteen people, including techies, reporters and producers, all taking the down elevator to the cab.

Channel 52 is of course SUN TV, owned by Quebecor (Toronto Sun), which used to be called Toronto 1. Toronto 1 was of course a miserable flop, so much so that it sunk the company that owned it. Craig sold its entire empire to CHUM because of the debacle that was Toronto 1, and the station has been known as SUN TV since the fall.

Anyway, the tone of that blog post I linked to is that a bunch of union people seem unhappy that they lost their jobs, plus the folks at SUN TV supposedly promised a lot of local programming that they failed to deliver on. They had put on Inside Jam! but that show has been drastically cut back, and will now only air on the weekends. The whole tone is that the people who run SUN TV are a bunch of liars who have broken all their promises, which I think isn't fair to the new owners.

First of all, these union people should have been happy to have jobs to begin with after what happened to Toronto 1 in the first place. They could have closed the whole station down after what happened, but Quebecor kept it open and tried to make a go of it. They ought to be commended for making the best out of a bad situation. If Quebecor hadn't bought it, everyone at that crummy station would have been on the street, guaranteed.

Second, the reason SUN TV failed to deliver on all their promises of local programming has a lot to do with what the new owners inherited. Quebecor inherited the worst TV station in the country in Toronto 1. The local programming they inherited- news program Toronto Tonight, The A-List etc.- were expensive ratings losers, and the entertainment offerings were blasted by the local TV critics. The problem Toronto 1 had, which SUN TV hasn't been able to get around, has been the fact that all the other stations in town have locked up the most attractive first-run series, movies, and sports offerings. SUN TV is basically left with the table scraps, which means no one will tune in, which means ad revenues are down. Plus, this is an over-the-air station, not a cable station, so they can't capitalize by charging cable fees or any of that. So they are stuck with their crummy ad money coming in, and there's simply not enough of it to be able to do the kinds of things they would want to do with it, like spend it on local productions.
SUN TV is making hay these days by showing cheap junk like Jerry Springer, old movies that used to run at the local drive-in, plus old TV series like Baretta and King of Kensington. They're running old Ed Sullivan shows at 6PM and I actually think this is an improvement! I happen to like tuning in to this "retro" stuff. I'd take good retro television over crummy new programs any day. It's pretty obvious SUN TV are doing this in order to keep expenses down, because advertisers flew the coop. Maybe one day they can put on some more local programming, but I think they know that it is going to take longer than expected to turn this station around. I think they had banked on Inside Jam! being their big flagship show and something they could build a lineup around, but then Global countered with Entertainment Tonight Canada and that just killed them. So the whole strategy went up in smoke and they are reeling from that. And I'm sorry, but their sports show The Grill Room is just plain awful. A lame ripoff of Michael Landsberg's TSN show. The only reason that show is on is so they can say to the CRTC what good guys they are, putting on a locally-produced show, when they ought to just forget it.

The station is simply in survival mode right now. The Star can criticize this station and its programming all they want, but SUN TV is simply not making much money and their hands are tied when it comes to improving the station in a hurry, unfortunately.

Of course, I think they're still bitter at the Star because they didn't win the license for Toronto 1 in the first place. But let's face it, if they had run the station they would have had the same problems acquiring programming. It's easy to say you'll put on better locally-produced shows, but those shows might get some pretty bad ratings and can be expensive to produce. The Toronto TV market is completely saturated and advertising money would have been tight, regardless. Plus there's all those stations from Buffalo beamed into town. Toronto is simply overrun with TV stations. Anyway, that's my SUN TV rant.

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