MTV comes north

Calgary - Craig Broadcast Systems Inc. and MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom International Inc. announced today that the two companies have formed a partnership to launch digital specialty services TV Land and MTV: Music Television in Canada this September - as well as three additional music genre-based MTV-branded services, specifically created for Canadian viewers.

MTV Canada will be Craig's re-named must-carry category one digital license that is targeted at teens. The license was called Connect through license hearings and approval. No word yet on how Chum Television, owners of Canadian music channel MuchMusic (and the subsequent regulatory protection from any competition in that genre) plans to respond. As well, MuchMusic carries numerous MTV programs such as the MTV Video Awards but it isn't known yet what will happen to those programming deals.

MTV Canada, says Craig, will be a youth oriented lifestyle channel targeting 12 to 24 year-olds. It will feature a mix of programming genres that will include animation, drama, movies, and documentaries, with a backbone of music-based content specifically programmed for Canadian youth.

With the shift over the years by MTV in the U.S. away from a steady stream of music videos and towards more scheduled original programming like "Road Rules", "Jackass" and "Real World", Craig Broadcasting is making the case that MTV Canada's programming is sufficiently different from MuchMusic that it doesn't pose a competitive threat to the Chum-owned music service. Plus, Craig's license says it can dedicate no more than 10% of its time to music videos. That still leaves over two hours a day to air videos, more than enough time to broadcast MTV's enormously popular music video program "Total Request Live" or, as it's better known Stateside, "TRL".

MTV: Music Television can currently be seen in more than 353 million households in 140 countries via 31 channels in 17 languages.

TV Land Canada, which will be a Craig-controlled category two digital service, will offer viewers a mix of Canadian and American old TV programming from all genres over the past 50 years. It will resemble the on-air format of its American counterpart, bringing the popular "Nick at Nite" anchor program over the border. The network will target 25 to 54 year-old viewers and will offer content from a variety of distributors, representing both Canadian and American programming.

Launched in 1996, TV Land is one of the fastest growing cable networks in the U.S. and is currently available in more than 62 million homes. The network features a variety of hit programming, including "The Andy Griffith Show" and "The Love Boat," all packaged in an on-air environment that celebrates the best of everything television.

The launch of TV Land Canada marks the popular cable channel's first venture outside the U.S., and represents a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to the Canadian market, said Craig's press release.

The introduction of TV Land into Canada may not bode well for DejaView, the new classic television category two digital specialty service which CanWest Global plans to launch in the fall as well.

The MTV channels will be complemented by the simultaneous launch of a locally programmed web site ( offering convergent entertainment experiences for Canadian youth.

The locally managed operation will originate from Craig's newly constructed state-of-the-art digital playout centre in Calgary. An operations team will be announced shortly, along with launch dates, programming line-ups and additional details of the MTV genre-based services.

"This alliance with Craig is a strategic milestone in the evolution of MTV Networks and is true to our philosophy of thinking globally while acting locally," said Tom Freston, chairman and CEO, MTV Networks. "The arrival of TV Land Canada heralds the classic TV channel's international debut and will offer Canadians the very best classic programming from both Canada and the U.S.

"The premiere of MTV Canada across multiple platforms will provide audiences with an interactive environment to experience MTV's ground-breaking content, including a mixture of Canadian and international artists, along with the distinctive global perspective that no other youth entertainment brand can offer," added Freston.

"We're delighted to bring the best of the MTV and TV Land services to Canada and to marry them with great Canadian programming on our new digital channels," said Drew Craig, president and CEO of Craig Broadcast Systems. "This announcement is terrific news for Canadian viewers, musicians and independent producers. In addition, the presence of TV Land and four MTV services also creates a major opportunity for Canada's cable and satellite companies as they launch enhanced digital television services this fall."

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