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This article was published 31/8/2016 (1410 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Question: When is a flagship national TV show not a flagship national TV show?
Answer: When it’s presented in a way that discourages half the nation from watching it.
That’s the odd situation created by last week’s launch of CTV’s heavily hyped new a.m. program, Your Morning, which arrived with much fanfare on the network’s stations in eastern Canada but was relegated to second-tier afterthought status in western markets whose CTV affiliates carry the locally produced CTV Morning Live program instead.
In Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and all points east, the première of Your Morning — a light and breezy, Today-style show featuring co-hosts Ben Mulroney and Anne-Marie Mediwake, news anchors Melissa Grelo and Lindsey Deluce and meteorologist Kelsey McEwen — was treated as a very big deal, an obvious attempt to create a major Canadian morning-TV presence in the wake of the recent and somewhat controversial cancellation of Canada AM.
But in Winnipeg and some other western Canadian cities, Your Morning is available only on CTV News Channel or on the various time-shift feeds of eastern CTV affiliates that are available in local TV service providers’ menus, while CTV Morning Live continues to air on the main network’s local stations.
Which brings one back to the question at the top of this column, and leaves one wondering what CTV is trying to accomplish with Your Morning. The packaging and promotion suggest an earnest effort to seize control of the morning-TV slot in this country, but the rollout leaves the impression the network can’t or won’t commit to a full-on attempt to own the timeslot.
Imagine if NBC aired Today on its main network in all markets east of Chicago, but relegated the show to its less-seen cable offshoot MSNBC in the Windy City and all points west. That, in essence, is what CTV is doing with Your Morning.
Now, the strategy isn’t new — CTV’s previous national morning show, Canada AM, also disappeared from the main network in 2011 when the broadcaster launched CTV Morning Live on its western affiliates, partly motivated by Bell Media (CTV’s parent company) having acquired the assets of CHUM/City. After the takeover, some Canadian cities had two CTV-owned local channels; the newly acquired stations were rebranded as CTV Two. In other centres, including Winnipeg, ownership of Citytv was transferred to Rogers Media (for the price of $375 million) as a result of a requirement by the federal broadcast regulator that Bell divest itself of Citytv stations in order to limit concentration of media ownership.
When the local CTV Morning Live programs were launched in 2011, they aired on the main CTV network in western cities, while Canada AM continued in its familiar spot in the east. There are also CTV Morning Live shows on CTV Two channels in Ottawa and Atlantic Canada, and the Toronto market is served by Your Morning on the main CTV network and a locally focused show on the Bell-owned CP24 station.
In replacing Canada AM with a new flagship program, CTV opted to continue the same distribution model across the country, focusing on local morning programming in the west and a "national" a.m. show in the east. Which is fine, except if the goal is to make the new show truly a national affair.
"The challenge is giving people live local programming as well as a live national perspective," said Scott Henderson, CTV’s vice-president of communications. "In addition to CTV News Channel, I know most people also have multiple channels within their (cable) packages that allow them to access feeds of eastern stations if they want.
"I think the strategy is to provide options."
The fact its main access point for Winnipeggers is on CTV News Channel (which, for Shaw customers at least, is a standard-definition channel, while the local CTV station is broadcast in HD) leaves it highly unlikely that viewers in this market will embrace — or, for that matter, even sample — Your Morning.
Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is for individual viewers to decide. TV-watchers here might prefer a local show over a national offering (one Twitter commenter remarked "I don’t want it — much prefer the local show in the 6-9 slot"), and early reactions to Your Morning have been, at best, mixed (Globe and Mail TV critic John Doyle declared Your Morning "a new entry in the annals of inanity on Canadian TV," concluding that "Bluntly, there is no substance to Your Morning. None.").
The qualitative merits of Your Morning will continue to be discussed as the show grows into its early-hours Canadian TV identity. The format will be tweaked, and the personnel will surely change, and maybe Your Morning will continue to improve. But as long as it continues to pursue two very different agendas in two different regions, CTV will never succeed in having one true national flagship morning show because half the country just won’t bother to watch it.
After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.
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