The Weekly Briefing


Robyn & Roger

Corus Entertainment’s Country 105 (CKRY-FM) Calgary is the lone Canadian nominee for Radio Station of the Year – Large Market at the upcoming 55th Academy of Country Music Awards. Country 105’s Robyn & Roger in the Morning are also nominated for On-Air Personality of the Year – Large Market. Winners will be announced in Las Vegas on Apr. 4 with the ACM Awards telecast to air live on Apr. 5. Find the full list of nominees here.

The Crystals Awards, which annually celebrated the best of radio creative in Canada, won’t be returning in 2020. The event has been sponsored by Bell Media Radio Sales, Canadian Broadcast Sales and Target Broadcast Sales for the last decade. Without offering a reason, the awards committee says the event won’t be going ahead this year.

The CRTC has denied a technical application that would have seen Dufferin Communication’s Proud FM (CIRR-FM) and Z103.5 (CIDC-FM) Toronto stations flip frequencies to boost Proud’s signal in Toronto and the other station re-focus on serving Orangeville. The applications resulted in a joint intervention from Corus Entertainment, Bell and Rogers Media, in addition to opposition from CKMO-FM, Brock University Student Radio, the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA), and Bayshore Broadcasting. The CRTC ultimately concluded the proposed changes would undermine the integrity of the commission’s original licensing process for each station.

Steve Waxman, music industry veteran and longtime VP of National Publicity for Warner Music Canada, has launched The Creationists, a podcast featuring interviews with different creators talking about their process. The premiere episode features Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy on songwriting and the story behind the hit “5 Days In May.” The Creationists is available everywhere podcasts are found.

Forbes has published a list of top earning podcasters with Joe Rogan leading the pack at a cool $30 million. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the hosts of My Favorite Murder, are in second place at $15 million, while veteran Nashville jock Dave Ramsey, who has founded the Ramsey Podcast Network, comes in third at $10 million. Dax Sheppard earned $9 million from the Armchair Expert, while former ESPN commentator Bill Simmons rounds out the list in fifth place and $7 million in earnings. Forbes’ estimates reflect pretax earnings in the period from Jan. 1, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020, and are based on data from Apple, Stitcher, Magellan AI, Edison and Pollstar, and interviews with industry insiders.

Spotify now has 124 million paid subscribers, according to its Q4 2019 financial report – up 29% compared to Q4 2018. The report also indicates 44.8 million of Spotify’s 271 million total users worldwide now listen to Spotify podcasts, with a year-over-year increase of 200% in podcast listening hours. Spotify indicated that podcast listening is helping convert free-to-paid users on the platform, however just 1% of the streamer’s revenues can be attributed to podcasting.


Kevin Horner

Kevin Horner, 60, suddenly on Feb. 2. A graduate of SAIT’s Class of 1987, Horner started with CTV Calgary (CFCN) part-time while still a student and went on to a 33-year career with the station as a news photographer. He retired from the station just over two years ago. Horner is remembered by colleagues as a tech enthusiast and early adopter, whose generosity was legendary.

Cecil William Browne

Cecil William Browne, 90, on Jan 2. Browne grew up in Ottawa where his father worked in the federal government communications department, responsible for granting TV and radio licenses. Following Browne’s graduation from Ryerson Polytechnic, his own broadcasting career spanned 40 years, starting at CBC-TV Ottawa. Browne was a cameraman on one of the first live TV broadcasts in Canada and went on to produce and direct sports telecasts for CBC Sports, ranging from CFL, Major League Baseball and Hockey Night in Canada games to curling, track and field, and skiing. Browne worked on eight Olympic Games, in addition to Pan Am Games and Commonwealth Games. He also produced documentaries, including series Bytown Sketches, showcasing Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley.


Super Bowl LIV broke the all-time Canadian audience record, drawing an average of 9.5 million viewers across CTV, TSN, and RDS, according to preliminary Numeris data supplied by Bell Media. Bell says nearly 18.7 million unique viewers – 51% of the Canadian population – tuned in to watch some part of Sunday’s NFL championship game. Audiences peaked at 12.1 million viewers during Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s high-energy halftime performance. Those ratings push the broadcast to the most-watched of the 2019/20 season and most-watched Super Bowl broadcast ever, beating the 2016 record of 7.32 million viewers. Read more here.

Telefilm Canada has unveiled a new three-year strategic plan. The four priorities of the new plan are to Enhance the values of the “Canada” and “Telefilm” brands; Attract additional funding and investment; Revise the organization’s funding allocation approach; and Optimize operational capability. As announced at its annual public meeting in December, Telefilm will also modernize its Success Index in order to optimize its financing programs. Industry consultations will take place from May to June 2020. Dates and locations will be announced shortly.

The Government of Alberta has introduced a new film tax credit to replace the digital media tax credit it cut in the last budget. Capped at $10 million per production, Alberta-owned productions, that include at least one Alberta-based producer, will be eligible for a 30% tax credit. Other productions may claim up to 22%.


The Ontario Securities Commission has issued a permanent cease trade order (CTO) against Kew Media Group. The multi-genre content distributor has been reviewing its financials following the departure of its former Chief Financial Officer Geoff Webb, who had been with the Toronto-headquartered company since 2017.

CVD VFX, a Vancouver full-service visual effects studio, known for its work on series like Stranger Things, Westworld, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, has been acquired by Crafty Apes, a VFX company with studios in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. Founded in 2014, by Chris van Dyck, who will stay on as studio head, CVD specializes in photoreal CG and compositing, game cinematics, and concept and design services for film, network episodic and streaming content producers. Tim LeDoux, co-founder and senior VFX supervisor, said the expansion into Vancouver is part of the company’s ongoing strategy to enter attractive new markets. Read more here.

Thunderbird Entertainment Group has announced the expansion of its kids and family division, Atomic Cartoons, with the opening of an animation studio in Los Angeles – it’s first in the U.S. The L.A. studio will be led by Matthew Berkowitz, Chief Creative Officer, Thunderbird and Atomic Cartoons. Aaron Behl and Kristin Cummings, Co-Vice Presidents, Atomic Originals, will also hold senior leadership roles. The new studio will house the Atomic Originals team, which has produced projects including The Last Kids on Earth and Hello Ninja, both currently streaming on Netflix. Its primary focus will be on on pre-and-post production – including writing, directing, storyboarding, design, casting and recording, and editorial. Thunderbird says the studio’s first project is already in production for an unnamed global broadcaster. Atomic now has capacity for 880 crew members across its three facilities. Read more here.

Bell has struck a last-minute carriage deal to keep AMC in its cable package. While notifying customers the channel would disappear from its offerings Feb. 1, Bell has confirmed the channel will continue to be part of its cable lineup. Videotron and Rogers were able to reach similar 11th hour deals with the channel.


Wattpad stories She’s With Me by author Jessica Cunsolo and H.J. Nelson sci-fi series The Last She are being developed for TV under the Toronto headquartered self-publishing plaform’s first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television. In addition to the Sony partnership, Wattpad is developing Portuguese-language film and television content for the Brazilian market under a partnership with Wise Entertainment.

CTV has announced broadcast details for the 92nd Oscars. The lead up to the event begins on CTV with red carpet special, ETALK Live At The Oscars at 5:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. PT, followed by live digital show, ETALK Live From the Oscars Balcony at 6:30 p.m. ET / 3:30 p.m. PT on Twitter and Ben Mulroney anchors ETALK’s prime interview position – second only to host U.S. broadcaster ABC – conducting one-on-one interviews, while Danielle Graham and Lainey Lui report from the balcony position. Following the Oscars, ETALK’s coverage continues from L.A. on all platforms, with Liz Trinnear reporting from Elton John’s annual post-Oscar bash, and updates from the Governor’s Ball and Vanity Fair party.

Kurt Smeaton, Mark Montefiore, and Chuck Tatham

CTV original series Children Ruin Everything is currently casting and set to begin production this Spring in and around Toronto. The new, half-hour comedy from New Metric Media is created by veteran comedy writer and producer Kurt Smeaton (Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience), joined by writer Chuck Tatham (Modern Family, Arrested Development) executive producer Mark Montefiore (Letterkenny, What Would Sal Do?) and producer Beth Iley (Killjoys). Bell Media Distribution will distribute the series internationally, with New Metric acting as sales agent. 

Bell Media has confirmed Smithsonian Channel’s pickup of Season 3 of original factual series Disasters at Sea in the U.S. market. With Seasons 1 and 2 already sold to more than 100 markets worldwide, the hit docuseries is now in post-production for a third season for Discovery Channel.


Scott Brothers Entertainment has announced its co-developing a new preschool animated series with Sinking Ship Entertainment. Builder Brothers’ Dream Factory will centre around 10-year-old Drew and Jonathan Scott [commonly known as the Property Brothers] who will help solve neighbourhood problems using “imagination, creativity, grit and heart – coupled with a big dose of ‘twin-spiration.’” 

Sinking Ship Entertainment (SSE) has announced that Amazon Prime hit Just Add Magic has been sold to Nickelodeon in an international pan-territory deal. The kids’ live-action 6 –11 serialized mystery series is based on the popular Cindy Callaghan book of the same name. Produced by Amazon Prime and distributed by Sinking Ship Entertainment worldwide, the series follows the adventures of Kelly Quinn and her two best friends after they discover a recipe book full of magic recipes. Nickelodeon has picked up Pay TV rights to the series.

Nelvana has greenlit Season 3 of Miss Persona (60x7min), introducing new characters, music, and themes, and a returning cast featuring entertainer Fred Penner, Alyson Court (Big Comfy Couch), Joe Motiki (The Crawlspace), puppeteer Mike Petersen (Fraggle Rock, Toopy and Binoo) and former WWE wrestling champion Anthony Carelli. The new season will also feature cameos by Emma Wiggle and Steve “Ed The Sock” Kerzner playing “Ted The Sock.” Featuring 60 original songs, the new season is set to premiere Fall 2020 on Treehouse.

Distribution360 has announced a number of international deals for its factual titles. In Canada, Blown Away (10 x 30’) the Netflix Original competition show about glass-blowing, created and produced by marblemedia, has been licensed to Bell Media for its Z-Tele French-language channel. Also in Canada, Rogers Media/SCN has licensed scientific discovery show Innovation Nation (6 x 30’). In the U.S., Court TV Mystery (fka The Escape Network) has picked up two true-crime titles, Crime Stories (76 x 60’) and 13 Seconds: The Kent State Shootings (1 x 60’). Distribution360 has also sold Crime Stories (18 x 60’); Legend Hunters (9 x 60’), Terror in the Woods (8 x 60’), Britain’s Ultimate Pilots: Inside the RAF (4 x 60’) and Red Arrows – Inside the Bubble (1 x 60’) to China’s Vobile. Meanwhile, Phoenix TV in Hong Kong has acquired London’s Modern Buildings.

The National Screen Institute (NSI) has announced that its NSI Online Short Film Festival is concluding after 11 years. Despite its popularity, the festival operated at a loss. The over 1,000  curated Canadian short films featured in the festival will still be available to stream on the festival website.

The Youth Media Alliance (YMA) is inviting children’s media creators to submit their application for the YMA Thérèse-Pinho Scholarship, in memory of kids content producer Thérèse Pinho. The scholarship aims to encourage children’s media creators to learn about multiplatform writing through an intensive workshop to be held at Pixcom in Montreal. Each year, the scholarship gives three to five French-speaking scriptwriters, directors or producers, currently working in kids media in Canada, the chance to work with industry experts for two days (videogames, interactive experience, webseries, AR, VR, podcast, social media content). Workshop fees as well as travel and lodging expenses for participants living outside Montreal will be covered. Applications are due Mar. 6.


TikTok is now one of the top mobile ad networks for advertising ROI, according to Singular’s 2020 ROI Index. The marketing data and analytics company looked at $6.3 billion in ad spending and 2.2 billion app installs across 550 networks to identify the top global ad networks for ROI in mobile user acquisition. While Google and Facebook still lead in volume and adoption and ROI, Singular says TikTok has emerged as a top platform with ad spending multiplying 75 times from May to November, thanks to growth of 614 million users in 2019. Read more here.

Disney+ now has 26.5 million subscribers, according to the company’s first-quarter fiscal earnings report. That’s higher than the 20-25 million subscribers anticipated in the streaming platform’s first three months. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime – which includes Prime Video – has hit the 150 million member mark worldwide.


Media Technology Monitor’s newest report series Technology through the Ages highlights ownership and use of media technology across three generations: Millennials (18-38), Boomers (55-73) and Seniors (74+).  Among the report’s findings are that 96% of Canadian Anglophone Millennials own a smartphone, making them 23% more likely than those 39+ to own one; Millennials are keen audio listeners with 96% of Gen Zs (18-29) and 91% of Gen Ys (30-38) streaming audio online. YouTube is their preferred platform; 55% of Boomers are engaging in social networking online, with Facebook remaining the preferred platform; and 93% of Seniors subscribe to a traditional TV service such as cable, satellite, or IPTV. On average, Seniors report spending twice as much time watching linear television than younger Anglophones. The results are based on the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 mixed-methodology survey (telephone and follow-up online surveys) of 12,380 Canadian respondents across the country.


Reynolds Mastin and Canadian Heritage Min. Steven Guilbeault

Canadian Heritage Min. Steven Guilbeault says he’s aiming to have a broadcast reform bill tabled in the House of Commons by June. Speaking at the Prime Time in Ottawa conference in a fireside chat format with Reynolds Mastin, CEO of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), Guilbeault did not get into the specifics of which recommendations from the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review, the government might act on. But he praised the panel for what he described as “a colossal job.” “If it was only up to me, I’d say we’d have a bill tabled in the House of Commons in the next few weeks, but it’s not just up to me. We are in a minority government, we don’t control the parliamentary agenda as much as we would if were in a majority context, but as fast as I can, we will be tabling a bill,” said Guilbeault, who added that realistically he anticipates that happening sometime during the current parliamentary session. In the meantime, he told Mastin that the government will be looking at measures that can be undertaken without legislative changes. Read more here.

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG), the union representing CBC/Radio-Canada employees, is urging caution when considering the recommendations issued by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. While the report recognizes that CBC/Radio-Canada is underfunded compared to its counterparts in other countries, Kim Trynacity, CMG President at CBC/Radio-Canada, says any changes that are implemented must boost the public broadcaster’s ability to deliver on its mandate, not deplete it. “There are many recommendations, and caution will be key,” Trynacity said in a statement. “Certainly, the call to drop advertising from the network over five years is premature given the continued and ongoing financial struggles to operate without stable, adequate, long-term funding. That’s why we are urging a careful review of the possible impacts before going ahead with the proposed measures.”

The CCTS (Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services) is now enforcing the CRTC’s Internet Code, which took effect on Jan. 31. The mandatory code of conduct applies to large internet service providers and their flanker brands and affiliates, including Bell Canada (and Bell MTS, NorthernTel, and Télébec), Cogeco, Eastlink, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw Telecom, TELUS, Videotron, Xplornet and Northwestel. It encompasses all retail fixed internet access services like cable, fibre, DSL, fixed wireless, and satellite. The code applies to individual customers only, however small business customers can still file complaints with the CCTS if they have billing, contract, service delivery or credit management disputes with their internet service providers.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) says it’s pleased that the general exception for Canada’s cultural industries was maintained with last week’s ratification of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). Among the provisions of the so-called “new NAFTA,” internet platforms will be protected from liability related to third-party information they publish; customs and other charges on digital products like music, games, videos and ebooks will be prohibited; and Canadian copyright protection will extend from the current 50 to 70 years past an author’s death.

Western Association of Broadcasters (WAB) has announced its call for nominations from its member stations for its 2020 Gold Medal Awards celebrating broadcasting excellence in the Prairie provinces. Awards are handed out in the following categories: Gold Medal Award for Community Service (separate nominations accepted for Radio and TV), Gold Medal Award for Digital Innovation, Leader of Tomorrow and Hall of Fame. View awards criteria here. The deadline for submissions is Mar. 27. This year’s WAB President’s Dinner & Gold Medal Awards Gala will take place June 11 at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Sportsnet and Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communications & Design, FCAD, have announced the Sportsnet Diversity and Gender Equity Initiative, set to launch for the Fall 2020 semester. The initiative is aimed at empowering students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in sport media. Sportsnet has committed $100,000 to FCAD’s Sport Media program to provide scholarships to four students, plus year-round diversity workshops at the university’s Global Experience Sport Lab (GXS). The scholarships wil be awarded to two high-performing third year students and two students entering the program who identify as a woman, Indigenous and/or a member of an equity-seeking group. Sportsnet will also provide resources and mentoring opportunities to foster a culture of diversity in the workplace for Sport Media students.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Landsberg Award is now open to applications from working journalists – staff or freelance – doing research, analysis, and reporting through a gender lens on women’s issues. Journalists working in print, broadcast and online news are eligible to apply. The recipient will receive $5,000 from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Last year’s winner was Connie Walker, now developing a podcast for Gimlet Media, for her work as an investigative reporter and host of CBC podcast Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo, exploring the story of Cleo Semaganis, a young Cree girl scooped from her parents, who died years later in the United States. Deadline for applications is Feb. 21.


Quebecor has launched the Quebecor ID product family, a line of media placement, programmatic and audience solutions appealing to the advertiser looking for precise, targeting capability. Among other solutions, Quebecor ID uses smart synchronization between television advertising and search engine marketing (SEM), to offer ad buyers the ability to synchronize the timing of web advertising with television commercials in order to maximize the chances of converting viewers who are surfing on their smartphones while watching TV.

MEDIAPRO Canada has been selected by the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) as the supplier for all games to be aired live on the CBC in 2020. MEDIAPRO will supply all the technical facilities, production crew and transmission services at venues across Canada, producing seven regular-season games from May through July as well as the season-ending CEBL Championship Game in August. MEDIAPRO entered the Canadian broadcast services market in April 2019 as part of its global expansion drive.

LISTEN: SAIT Broadcast Systems Technology instructor Garry Shepherd is our guest on the latest episode of Broadcast Dialogue – The Podcast. The last broadcast engineering program of its kind in the country, Shepherd talks about shaping the next generation of broadcast engineers and some of the non-traditional places they’re landing.

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