Peladeau’s March: The Future of Media in Canada

Yesterday I attended Sun Media President and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau’s speech at a Canadian Club of Ottawa luncheon.  In the speech, Peladeau outlined Quebecor’s (Sun Media’s parent company) history, its business case, and what the future holds for media in Canada.

I have to admit that I enjoyed the speech.  Peladeau unabashedly defended his company and laid down the gauntlet for its competitors (mainly the three telecom giants BCE, Rogers, and Telus, and other Canadian media outfits Canwest, Postnews, and Torstar).  It was a warning shot to say that Quebecor and Sun Media are ready to play and, based on the company’s past performance, competitors should watch out.

Two aspects of the speech were most interesting.

First, Peladeau argued that Quebecor’s convergence strategy has been the key to its success and will ultimately be the principle that keeps the company strong in a difficult economic climate.  He argued that in the past, Canadian media companies could ignore technology and view it as a competitor or even a hurdle.  However, in the 21st century, old thinking is not an option.  Either Canadian media companies integrate technology into its operations, or they die.  Pretty harsh but insightful thoughts.

It is at this point that Peladeau’s thesis takes hold.  To be successful, media companies must converge.  This means that their operations cannot focus on a single area of the media world (such as newspapers or television) but most offer its customers a wide range of products.  In Quebecor’s case this means offering customers an integrated package of products that includes entertainment and news (TVA and Sun Media), wireless services (launched a few weeks ago), and cable and internet services (Videotron).

The point of convergence, according to Peladeau, is to integrate “the vast array of content produced by all our subsidiaries.”  Quebecor’s model is being replicated by other media companies.  He noted, “the acquisition of Global by Shaw, the more recently announced acquisition of CTVglobemedia by BCE, or that of NBC Universal by Comcast are all clear demonstrations that these entities have no future if they stand alone.”

Second, the elephant in the room and what everyone really came to hear about was Sun TV News.    Peladeau laid it all out saying:

“There is no secret deal regarding Sun TV News between Quebecor and Prime Minister Stephen Harper or any other member of his government.

There is no connection of any sort between Sun TV News and Fox News, although our shareholders would no doubt be very pleased if our new channel could be as successful as Fox News.

Will Sun TV News be an all-news channel that openly adopts right-of-centre perspectives? To get an idea about the style of Sun TV News, look at the Sun newspapers. Are they on the right of the political spectrum? Yes, but Sun papers can also be described as populist, irreverent, sometimes provocative but always close to their readers.”

The question remains: Is there room in Canada for a right-of-centre, all-news channel?

I think there is and here’s why.  It’s not because Canada is naturally a conservative country or that the current media options are biased against them (I’ll leave others to make the case either way).  The reason why I think the Sun News TV idea could be successful is because of Sun Media’s mantra in running its other media assets: give the people what they want.

Despite our desire for informed, quality news programming, the reality is that most Canadians don’t tune in.  Peladeau noted that more Canadians are tuning into Larry King Live than Power and Politics.  To be fair to P & P, they are on at different times and most often than not have very different content.

But if Sun TV News can offer Canadians an alternative –  current affairs/news programming that is more interesting and engaging – then they can be successful.  Competition is a good thing – it will force CTV and CBC to up their game and produce content that attracts an audience.

Quebecor has the resources and if history is a guide, Peladeau seems to have the gonads to be bold and different.  Apart from its populist or right-of-centre tilt, my hope is that the convergence followed by Sun Media makes its entrance into television news more interactive, engaging, and insightful for its audience.

I am not afraid of Sun TV News and I don’t think others should be either.  We need to give Canadians some credit and let the market decide if the programming the new channel offers is what it is looking for.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

Sean on Twitter David on LinkedIn David on Google Plus