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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Vintage TV Canada - another one bites the dust (it seems...)

    No pun intended in opening this post with a title of the classic song from Queen...

    Here is some news that has been going around for quite some time now, particularly over the past few months. Definitely sad and unfortunate, but not entirely surprising, all things considered.

    What I suppose hurts even more is that something like this happened to a channel that was worth keeping on the air. And this is coming from somebody who never had a subscription to this channel because it was never offered with my television provider.

    It offered some original programming, but also content that was not only refreshing but sorely lacking over the past few years, especially for a genre like music that's been fading on linear television platforms in favor of streaming services in recent years. And most of all, it catered to the proper audience, the majority of which grew up in the late 20th century and enjoyed watching music videos, back in the early days of MTV and MuchMusic.

    Over in the UK, Vintage TV has gone into administration (another term for insolvency, bankruptcy, or Chapter 11 as it's better known in the U.S.). Apparently, this is not the first time they have been in this situation as they have had a history of financial difficulties.

    When Vintage TV first launched over eight years ago, it seemed like nothing could go wrong and gave the illusion that things were running smoothly. Over time, its viewership grew but as soon back as 2014, a petition was issued to prevent the owners from going into administration, and that could have sealed its fate early on. In its early years, Vintage TV arranged for deals to carry the channel beyond the UK, in other markets within Europe, along with the Middle East and Africa. They also had carriage deals with major television providers in the UK, including one that distributed the channel over the air. Eventually, that experiment would continue overseas, and that's when they first entered the Canadian market in 2016. Carriage was limited at first, with agreements reached with Shaw to carry the channel on Shaw Direct satellite and Shaw Digital cable. Almost a year following its launch in Canada, Rogers signed on. It also expanded to Shaw BlueSky, their cloud-based TV platform. It was offered for the most part on Shaw within the basic packages and as a Pick and Pay channel. Shaw Direct also offered it as part of their Music theme pack. Menawhile, Rogers offered it on most basic packages, as part of their Music & Entertainment theme package, but not as a standalone or Pick and Pay channel.

    Very early on, Vintage TV launched with a CRTC license exemption, given that it had less than 200,000 subscribers. Earlier this year after being added on Rogers, they reported passing that mark and were approved a license by the CRTC. So one would have figured that it was only a matter of time before other major providers would add the channel to their lineup, including Bell, Telus, Cogeco, Eastlink and Videotron. Being with Bell, I was bracing for the possibility that it would finally happen. Looking back at it now, that probably should have been a lot sooner rather than later. Of course that was never the case.

    Over the summer, many things started happening. A number of providers in the UK started to drop Vintage TV from their lineup.

    At the same time, the channel's operators were working out a way to make it available for streaming online. Interestingly enough, that was when I finally had the opportunity to sample the channel for the first time. For about a week or two, I was instantly hooked and impressed with everything the channel had to offer - themed music video blocks even featuring rare classics that I have not seen in a very long time, some original shows including interviews with artists and celebrities talking about their musical preferences. And because this was the original British feed, there was a five hour head start without any Canadian content restrictions. I did sample some of the Canadian content on their website over a year ago and it was interesting. Needless to say, it was a treat to watch, especially being a longtime fan of music originating from the UK. Also, getting to see music videos of singles from earlier decades going back to the 1950s was different, even though most of my guilty pleasures came from the 1980s and later.

    But that's when all good things started coming to an end for the channel, as the online stream would be unavailable on an intermittent basis. On the Canadian side, nothing was posted on both their Twitter and Facebook pages after the second weekend of August.
    For the next month or so, the remaining providers in the UK (Virgin and Sky) also removed the channel from their lineup. Vintage TV claimed to have reached an agreement with Sky, even indicating on their website that a deal was reached and that the channel would be back on the air shortly. But that never happened, as their debts kept on mounting and were overdue on numerous payments. And the funding that was necessary to keep the channel in operation, regardless of the platform stopped. And the problems were not only limited to the UK, but also there was a burden taking on the Canadian operations as well, with 1/3 of the ownership attributed to the original UK owners, who supplied most of the programming. In terms of CanCon, it was essentially local versions of the original shows carried on the British feed, but I believe they were in the process of adding more original shows featuring Canadian artists just as the problems started looming.

    Perhaps another factor that determined its fate are the changing market conditions impacting music video channels, amidst competition with digital streaming services. In the UK, particularly this year, a number of channels either shut down or convert into entertainment-based channels (like MTV, Much, MusiquePlus, MusiMax and CMT in recent years).

    So going forward, where does that leave Vintage TV both in the UK and here in Canada? Both versions have their website still up and running, but their guide is out of date, with listings scheduled from February 2017...

    In Canada, for subscribers who had the channel through Shaw and Rogers, they have been bombarded with an endless loop of the same programs, documentaries, and infomercials with all the music videos having been scrapped. The channel's ID on most electronic program guides goes by something called CH M. Recent reactions and posts on their Facebook page pretty much say it all.

    Back in the UK, with the company behind Vintage TV now in the hands of their creditors, the same company that initially offered the channel to livestream online is looking to revive it as a full-time music video channel called Vintage Music.

    They will sever ties with the former Vintage TV channel, once the administrators have worked out selling off their remaining assets, including their library of original content. That means also selling off their stake in the Canadian version of the channel.

    Vintage TV Canada just had their CRTC license approved last January, it will not expire until August 31 2024. As it stands, 2/3 of the channel is Canadian-owned, so the remaining 1/3 will have to be sold off to another party.

    Following this unfortunate development, this suddenly leaves plenty of questions and inquiries including:
    - Are there any interesting parties within or outside Canada who would be interested in taking on a channel whose venture crumbled so soon?
    Personally, I don't think any of the big media conglomerates such as Bell, Corus and Rogers should even be considered, given the number of properties they own and that would just add another zombie channel to their portfolio.

    How about some of the major independent companies? I would not feel so keen on Blue Ant Media being interested, seeing what they did with channels like AUX (which started off as a music channel, then became more of an entertainment channel with programming replayed on their other sister channels, and then rebranded A.Side TV).

    I think that would probably leave Stingray as a viable candidate given their expanding portfolio of music products and services offered across a wide variety of platforms that are not limited just to Canada but the international market. Even with the competition they face with the popularity of streaming services (Spotify, YouTube), they seem to be doing reasonably well, so far. However, I think they might want to be more cautious about just acquiring properties left and right, seeing how they recently bought Newcap Radio, marking the company's first entry into the terrestrial radio market, and seeing whether that acquisition will generate an overall profit or not for the company in the first few months. Acquiring a property burdened with massive debts would seem questionable at this point, but under ideal circumstances, I would not mind them wanting to acquire Vintage and rebrand it into a music-based service that would be financially viable and most importantly, add content beyond what they are already offering.

    If none of the above work and falling short of any other parties or buyers within or outside the media landscape, it's probably best to cut their losses and quietly shut it down. Unless someone is really interested, has the proper content and resources to make it work successfully both from a financial and commercial perspective.

    And if there's a challenge to put out there, offer something original. Not something that has been shown multiple times on other channels. Be willing to spend wisely and responsibly to offer a service that will make all parties interested, not just the people running the operation, but consumers as well. Yes, I know, it almost seems like wishful thinking, but when done right, it can work. To start off, how about taking this original Canadian production and making it a flagship component of the programming schedule:

    It's almost 2019. Make sure that when operating a TV channel, it is available for broadcasting in HD and not just SD. Some channels out there are already running in 4K. Apparently, Shaw Direct was supposed to add an HD feed in November, but it was too little, too late after the channel reached its untimely fate.

    Overall, I guess we will only begin to know more in the new year, once the UK operation has been fully sold to another party. What had started off as a promising channel become a zombie channel in such a short period of time.
    Last edited by lostjon; 12-26-2018 at 04:13 PM.



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