Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wanted: A Saviour For CHCH

Who the heck is going to buy Canwest's E stations, including my fave, Hamilton's historic CHCH? News broke last week that the E's were on the block. A few years ago, CTV and Canwest were throwing billions at TV properties. Now, well let's just say it's not a seller's market.
Hamilton Talk Radio's Scott Thompson got into this with me today on CHML. You can listen in here.
The first independent TV station in Canada, CHCH began as a CBC affiliate in 1954. Back in the '70s and '80s, it was an important player in Canada's largest market, simulcasting American hits like Love Boat and Knots Landing while offering a blockbuster line up of feature films and made-for-TV-movies. Then there were all those fun, eccentric home grown local productions, Party Game, Tiny Talent Time, Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Smith & Smith, The Comedy Mill and the original Red Green Show. The little station on Jackson Street really cranked out the Cancon.
In the early '80s, it was Canada's superstation, the lone independent on the Cancom satellite menu. For a great overview of 'CH's rise and fall, check out this comprehensive story by a guy who was there, former TVTimes editor Eric Kohanik.
The channel got wrecked as various owners moved it farther and farther away from its Hamilton roots. Branding it ONtv and E! was like McDonald's suddenly calling themselves "Large Hamburger Chain." All the local flavor went out of the place, save for a few pockets of personality like Live @ 5:30 with my buddies Mark Hebscher and Donna Skelly.
My suggestion on the radio today that it could still be a good business if a local interest could return it to its roots. I know RIM co-founded Jim Balsillie is seen as the answer to every financial dead end in Canada, but if he ever did land that long rumoured NHL franchise, and if it was based in southwest Ontario, CHCH would be a nice place to watch the games. Just sayin'.
TUESDAY NIGHT RATINGS: repeats of Rick Mercer and 22 Minutes drew 791,000 and 526,000 (BBM/NMR overnight "commercial" estimates). New horse opera Wild Roses rustled up 404,000.
American Idol, as usual, grabbed most viewers Tuesday night with 2,206,000 tuning in on CTV. Less than half hung around for Fringe at 9 p.m. (1,055,000). Law & Order arrested 747,000 at 10.
Global was very much in the hunt with Idol-proof NCIS at 8 (1,531,000). 90210 at 9 (517,000) and Project Runway Canada at 10 (292,000) kept the lights on, at least.
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