Teens Follow Degrassi to MuchMusic. But What’s Happening to Canada’s Music Station?

Degrassi’s move to MuchMusic was a win-win for CTV. The 10th season premiere, kicking off a reformatting of the series as a nightly soap, drew 218,000 viewers to MuchMusic Monday according to overnight estimates. A quarter million viewers across Canada was about what Degrassi was down to Sundays at 7 on CTV. Overnight, the teen soap goes from being the lowest-rated show on the main network to one of the highest on the specialty brand. If you’re Principal Skinner “Snake” (Stefan Brogren, right), that’s gotta be a good thing.

Monday’s 10th season opener ranks as the fifth biggest single show audience on MM this year. New episodes continue this week tonight and Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on the CTV specialty station.
Airing a teen soap on what was once known as “the nation’s music station” may just be the tip of the iceberg in how far CTV wants to stretch the MuchMusic brand. Degrassi, in fact, fits under the current licence definition. Thanks to “The Zits”? Take a look at the whoppers CTV sold the CRTC to justify jamming these non-music programs onto Much in the past:

Paris Hilton, one of CTV’s favourite songbirds

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Anthony Head, who plays Rupert Giles, was in a band named “Two Way.” The band released a 45 single with three songs.”
Paris Hilton’s My New BFF: “Paris Hilton has released her self-titled album ‘Paris’ and several singles, ‘Stars Are Blind,’ ‘Turn it Up’, ‘Nothing in this World’ and ‘Screwed.'”
Vampire Diaries: “Candice Accola, who plays Caroline Forbes, released an album in 2007 titled, “It’s Always the Innocent Ones” on the label Beverly Martel Music.”
In other words, dig up any obscure music business link and you’re in. Under these guidelines, Much could probably have rerun episodes of Baretta by citing Robert Blake’s pet phrase, “And dat’s da name of dat tune.”

CTV has asked the CRTC to widen the limits of its MM licence in order to offer more non-music fare and turn it into more of a “lifestyle” offering. They’re seeking among other things, to cut the number of videos played in half and “relax” their Canadian content obligations. Opposition to this move from outside parties–especially from Rogers and various music associations–seems to be mounting at the intervention stage.
There has been a lot of brand busting on the specialty tier of late, as confused consumers are no doubt aware. TSN showed “Kingpin” Tuesday night, and while a Bill Murray movie is welcome anytime on any channel, it’s not exactly a live sporting event. It does seem at times as if the specialty tier has descended into a free-for-all, anything goes, wild west kind of place.
There are some rumblings that CRTC head Konrad von Finckenstein is losing patience with all the rule bending and may soon decide to make an example of somebody, similar to the swift smackdown of Quebecor’s brazen bid for a category one all news service licence. The Much application, coming less than a year before a full licence renewal hearing for the station, may be the example waiting to happen.
CTV argues that MuchMusic has been in steep decline over the past five years both in audience and revenue and a format shakedown has to happen now. The station was widely viewed as a cash cow in the CHUM/City days but still enjoyed a 14% profit before taxes in 2009, the worst year of the recession. The crazy big tune in for the recent MMVA’s and the Degrassi number suggests, however, that the station can still pull the kids. Over to you, Konrad.

4 Responses to “Teens Follow Degrassi to MuchMusic. But What’s Happening to Canada’s Music Station?”

  1. CTV can try to spin that number as much as they want (and they tried really, really hard in the release they put out) but the reality is that only 218,000 watching a much hyped show is not worth cheering. Degrassi will presumably only go down from here and should die a quick death when the season runs out.

    And while we are at it, enough with the junk that this Degrassi is some great show that defines Canada. It’s not. All the show is is a bunch of bratty, mostly unlikeable, stereotypical teens all thrust together in a cookie cutter school with stereotypical “crisis” happening every damn week. There’s nothing groundbreaking or original in it at all. Maybe the original one served some purpose 30 years ago but all this show is doing is contributing to the total destruction of MuchMusic.

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  2. The CRTC should have addressed this license-stretching issue a long time ago & I’d love to see them start with History Channel & move on to both Much Music & Much More Music.
    As a history geek I get infuriated every time I take a look at History’s current offerings. I can only think of one show History has broadcast over the last year that I’ve been excited about watching – a wonderful show called “Saving Places” – here’s the URL if anyone is interested. http://www.savingplaces.ca/index.php
    I was most amused when I clicked on the “partners” tab on the website – here’s a direct quote: “History Television is the main financial partner of Saving Places, and has have committed to airing the series in Prime Time – which are the peak viewing hours.” The show aired @ 7:00pm Saturdays!!??
    And how did I find out about the show – well, certainly not from any CanWest promos, but thankfully from a Heritage Newsletter I subscribe to. And oh yeah, there are only 3 episodes produced & I’m still waiting for History to respond to my email asking if there will be more episodes & when/if the show will be airing again – argghh.

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  3. A few years ago, someone commented that CTV buying MTV was like picking up a box of Betamax tapes at a garage sale for a great price…

    I think they should just number TV “stations” now from 1 to 5000. Most of us can just search for the actual shows we want to watch anyway…(god help those over-the-air folks, though).

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  4. I think the CRTC’s recent ruling on CBC’s Bold channel was the first example of the CRTC making an example of somebody.

    MuchMusic is a teenage lifestyle channel and should be removed from the “must carry” cable channel designation if they get their way to reduce more music programming and Can-Con.

    Canada desperately needs a new nation’s music station though.

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