BCE Inc. is sweeping out the executive team that ruled CTV for more than a decade, signalling an urgency to remake Canada's largest private broadcaster as the television industry enters a critical new era.
The network revealed the departure of the five high-profile industry veterans in an internal memo, including one of its top decision-makers on programming, paving the way for a new team that will lead it into a new world of digital and mobile content and a heated battle for Hollywood hits with Shaw Communications Inc., the new owner of Global.
As part of the shuffle, the telecom giant placed Gary Anderson, the man in charge of Bell's widely-used Sympatico website, in charge of CTV digital content. Much of BCE's rationale for the $1.3-billion purchase is a bet on convergence -- on the ability to distribute CTV shows, including its sports content, through cell phones and laptops, where viewers are increasingly inclined to watch them.
The changing of the guard was not a major surprise to industry watchers. At the time of the BCE purchase, Ivan Fecan, chief executive officer of CTVglobemedia Inc., announced he would retire as soon as the deal closed. The departing executives worked closely with Mr. Fecan and most were not expected to stay on without him.
Kevin Crull, a BCE import who is the new chief operating officer of CTVglobemedia, made the announcement about the changes to his team in an e-mail.
"Combining forces with Bell puts us in a great position to navigate today's dynamic media landscape. New technology, new competition, and new business models all present tremendous challenge and opportunity," Mr. Crull wrote. "This position of strength is a perfect place to launch the next chapter of this outstanding organization. Today is a very big day in that evolution."
The executives leaving CTV include chief financial officer John Gossling; executive vice-president of corporate affairs, Paul Sparkes; president of creative, content and channels, Susanne Boyce; executive vice-president of digital media Alon Marcovici; and executive vice-president of human resources and operations, Dawn Fell.
The departures come as all the broadcasters prepare to travel to Los Angeles in the spring to bid on American shows, the cornerstone of the TV schedule and consistently among the highest performers in ratings - and therefore crucial to attracting ad dollars.
Spending on foreign programming by the broadcasters has been going up every year, according to regulatory data. While Mr. Crull will need to find ways to save money for BCE at its new broadcast operations, he will still have to compete during the annual pilgrimage to negotiate with Hollywood studios. And with Shaw's deal to buy the Global TV network, CTV is facing down competitors with deeper pockets than ever before.
"In the next year or two, it's going to be maybe even more competitive than it has been," said Dennis Dinga, vice-president and director of broadcast investments for media buyer Universal McCann Canada. "Shaw's going to want to establish them as the number one player, CTV's not going to give up their status as number one. And Rogers is starting to flex their muscles too."
That means costs for programming in the short term are likely to go up, said one media analyst speaking on condition of anonymity.
"From the position of pure corporate survival, does [Mr. Crull]want to see their ratings performance go down on his watch? No. They are going to have budgetary issues, all of them."
CTV is sending a new group to that fight. Mr. Crull also announced that the company will create a "programming council" to put extra emphasis on selecting and creating hit shows. It will be chaired by senior vice-president of programming Joanna Webb, who left her job at Corus Entertainment Inc. last September to work at the broadcaster, and Mike Cosentino, who has been a senior vice-president in the programming department at CTV since 2006.
Mr. Cosentino has worked closely with the departing Ms. Boyce on programming, and in the past few years has been one of the executives travelling to Los Angeles each spring to negotiate with Hollywood studios for shows to air on the main conventional network, CTV. Ms. Webb's focus is on specialty properties such as the Discovery Channel, MTV Canada, E!, and Bravo.
Still, one broadcast programming veteran who spoke on condition of anonymity, questioned whether the new team, under BCE, would have the same freedom to make decisions Ms. Boyce did -- including spending money on rights to U.S. simply to keep them away from competitors, as the company did for years.
"Ivan and Susanne were really a masterful programming combination, and that's part of the reason CTV did so well," the source said. "There were a couple times where there were some big gambles to be had, and Ivan was the head of the company and could make those decisions easily. The question will be whether a committee under a division can make the same decisions as authoritatively."
Two of the most high profile members of Mr. Crull's new team should give a hint of Bell's pressing priorities. Phil King, who was already head of sports and conventional programming, takes on duties for independent Canadian production; and Rick Brace, who had moved to the financial side of CTV and is a past president of TSN, returns to head up specialty programming and in-house production.
Both have deep roots in sports programming, says Stephen Tapp, a broadcast industry veteran who has worked with both Mr. King and Mr. Brace and is the current CEO of Mash Media, a marketing agency. Mr. Tapp said that as the broadcasting industry increasingly turns to mobile devices like the iPad or BlackBerry, sports content - as well as big ticket shows, such as American Idol - remains an integral part of the mix.
"Sports has a very important part in the mobile world and online world," he said.
However, Bell's rivals are also pushing into the wireless sports in search of viewers and ad dollars. Rogers Communications Inc. has already pushed out an iPad app for its Sportsnet's Hockeycentral. Shaw Communications Inc., a Calgary-based cable company that recently bought CanWest Global and is currently building a wireless network, recently filed an application with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to launch a sports network of its own.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT CTV
A number of senior executives are departing
Mr. Gossling, a chartered accountant, was named CTVglobemedia's chief financial officer in March, 2008. At the time, president and CEO Ivan Fecan told staff that Mr. Gossling was "both a terrific leader and a team player."
Prior to joining CTVglobemedia, he served as vice-president of financial operations at Rogers Communications Inc. from 2005 to 2008, following a five-year stint as chief financial officer of Rogers Wireless Communications Inc.
He also held a variety of positions at professional services firm KPMG between 1985 and 2000, eventually becoming a partner in KPMG's U.S. Capital Markets Group.
Since 2007, Mr. Sparkes has been CTVglobemedia's regulatory, government and public affairs guru as its executive vice-president of corporate affairs. His previous role with the company was senior vice-president, corporate and public affairs.
Known for his political connections, particularly to the Liberal Party, Mr. Sparkes joined CTVglobemedia in June, 2001. Prior to that, he held a number of senior jobs with both the federal government and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
That included a three-year post as director of operations to former prime minister Jean Chrétien and executive assistant to Newfoundland and Labrador premiers Clyde Wells and Brian Tobin.
Appointed president of creative, content and channels of CTV Inc. in Oct. 2007, Ms. Boyce was largely credited for bolstering its lineup of top-rated television shows.
She was not only in charge of its flagship CTV Network, but also its stable of conventional specialty channels including A Station Group, the Comedy Network, MTV, Much+Music, Space and Bravo!, among others.
A programming executive with a Midas touch, she also helped turn homegrown shows like Corner Gas and Degrassi: The Next Generation into ratings-grabbers.
In the decade spanning 1997 to 2007, she served in a number of senior programming roles at CTV. Prior to joining the company, she helped launch the Discovery Channel and worked in various senior production positions at CBC and CBC Newsworld.
As executive vice-president of digital media, Mr. Marcovici was in charge of directing CTV Inc.'s overall digital media strategy. His departure is striking because he only received that promotion in August, 2010.
Mr. Marcovici's elevation was largely viewed as a reward for leading digital strategy for the Vancouver Olympics broadcast under the consortium of CTV and Rogers Communications Inc. - a role he was supposed to continue for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In addition to his current role as president of sports and executive vice-president of programming, Mr. King is now also in charge of Canadian production.
BCE has earmarked $108.8-million for independently produced programs. Mr. King first began assuming more programming responsibilities last summer.
He was recently promoted from his former job as head of TSN, where he is credited for turning the niche broadcaster into a multimedia sports company. He joined TSN in 1989.
Mr. Brace, CTV's president of revenue and business planning, is shifting his focus to programming.
He will remain at the company to head specialty programming (excluding news and sports) and in-house production.
The Programming Council
This includes Mike Cosentino, who has been a senior vice-president in the programming department at CTV since 2006. He will co-chair the new programming council with Joanne Webb. His focus will be conventional TV channels.
A close associate of Ms. Boyce, Mr. Cosentino helped negotiate with Hollywood studios for shows to air on the main CTV network.
Ms. Webb, senior vice-president of programming, will focus on specialty channels. She joined the company last fall after leaving a top job at Corus Entertainment Inc.
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BCE-T 45.09 -1.162 % 566,704