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Specialty viewership stays on growth track

  The number of hours of television consumed per week by Canadians. Source: Statistics Canada.

  Satellite has grown. Cable has shrunk. Source: Statistics Canada.
OTTAWA - The viewership growth among Canadian specialty television continues unabated, says a report issued by Statistics Canada today.

Looking at total viewing in the fall of 2002 of pay and specialty channels - and Statscan builds its numbers from BBM - "year after year, Canadians have increased the proportion of their viewing time that they spend watching those stations, from 16% in 1998 to 25% in 2002," says the report.

That growth has come at the expense of the conventional broadcast stations which still accounted for more than half the viewing in 2002, but just barely, at 51%, compared to 56% in 1998.

The proportion of viewing time that francophones spent watching Canadian conventional television stations remained high (71%, of which nearly 80% was for programs of Canadian origin), but was nevertheless down from the 77% registered in the fall of 1998. For anglophones, the proportion stood at 45% (of which 43% was for programs of Canadian origin), compared with 49% five years earlier.

Francophones spent 22% of their viewing time watching pay-TV and specialty television stations (of which 53% was for programs of Canadian origin), compared with 13% in 1998. Anglophones spent 25% of their viewing time watching these stations (of which 41% was for programs of Canadian origin), compared with 16% in 1998.

As for specific genres, growth in the Canadian content of pay-TV and specialty television stations was observed for all types of programs (to varying degrees) except for Canadian music and dance programs, whose viewing share declined from 4.5% to 2.5% in four years.

"For Canadian conventional television stations, the decline in Canadian content is attributable to Canadian sports programs (down from 7.3% to 4.8%) and Canadian variety and games programs (down from 8.3% to 5.6%)," says the release.

Overall, viewing of programs of Canadian origin has remained relatively stable over the past five years at around 39% of total viewing, but this is higher than the 35% observed 10 years ago.

What's really growing in popularity is foreign academic instruction programs and Canadian documentaries. "The viewing time for academic instruction programs has doubled in the last five years, reaching 3.6% in the fall of 2002," continues the report. "This strong increase is largely attributable to foreign programs, which went from 0.7% to nearly 2% of total viewing. Anglophones are increasingly tuning in to this type of foreign programming; it accounted for 2.4% of their viewing time, compared with only 0.8% in 1998. Francophones, for their part, are spending more time viewing Canadian academic instruction programs (3.1% compared with 2.1% five years ago)."

More than 5% of the viewing of Canadian pay-TV and specialty television is devoted to academic instruction programs, compared with 2% in the case of Canadian conventional television.

Canadian documentaries also showed strong growth, almost doubling their share of viewers to 1.5% in 2002. This growth was observed among both anglophones and francophones.

Documentaries accounted for 6% of the viewing of Canadian pay-TV and specialty television, compared with 1.8% for Canadian conventional television.

Foreign variety and games programs are becoming increasingly popular (8.1% of total viewing, compared with 5.6% in 1998), at the expense of programs of this type originating in Canada (3.5% compared with 5.6% in 1998). This is the combined result of an increase in the viewing of foreign variety and games programs among anglophones and a drop in the viewing of this type of Canadian programming among francophones.

"The popularity of foreign variety and games programs may in part be due to the advent of reality TV, since it accounts for 35% of their viewership," says the report.

Unlike in the case of documentaries and academic instruction programs, the proportion of viewers watching variety and games programs is larger for Canadian conventional television stations (14%) than for Canadian pay-TV and specialty television stations (6.5%).

Overall, comedies and dramas (combined) account for the largest share (38.5%) of Canadians' total viewing, followed by news and public affairs programs (25.2%).

This predominance of comedies and dramas applies to stations in both categories of Canadian television. However, on Canadian pay-TV and specialty television stations, sports rank second (17%), while on Canadian conventional television stations, news and public affairs programs are in second place and are in fact a very close second (36%). In both categories of television, foreign comedies and dramas and Canadian sports, news and public affairs programs dominate.

The penetration rate of satellite service has grown, obviously, with Saskatchewan seeing the highest growth rate (35%) and British Columbia, the lowest (15%).

Meanwhile, the penetration rate of cable has steadily declined, falling to 68% compared with 77% in 1998. A decrease was observed in all provinces. In contrast to dishes, cable was most popular in British Columbia, with a penetration rate of 78%, and least popular in Saskatchewan, at a rate of 51%.

As far as number of hours watching, Quebecers are the nation's couch potatoes, consuming 23.8 hours per week, more than two hours more than the national average. The gap was greatest among those aged 35 and over.

Quebec francophones spent the most time watching (24.5 hours per week), while Quebec anglophones were, for the first time, those who watch television the least in Canada.

Children and teens spent less time in front of the tube - two hours less per week than five years ago. Men aged 18 to 24 continued to be the group least interested in watching television, at only 12.6 hours per week. At the other extreme, women aged 60 and over watched television the most (nearly 36 hours per week).

Overall, Canadians still spent a sizable portion of their time watching television, at 21.6 hours per week. The number of hours of television viewing has been relatively stable over the past four years.

To see more on this report, go to

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