CanWest Global Communications Corp. provided the first glimpse of its convergence future yesterday, showing media buyers fused content that includes digital newspapers, video-on-demand and product placement in a new reality TV series.
"The vision for us and the company is integration," Rick Camilleri, CanWest's chief operating officer, told the annual Canadian Media Directors' Council conference. "We want to become as important to your success as you are to ours."
In his high-tech presentation, Mr. Camilleri unveiled a series of new merged media platforms and products designed to boost the Winnipeg company's audience reach and woo advertisers.
This summer, the company will begin the electronic overhaul of its 11 daily newspapers. The proposed new "digital newspapers" will include full-motion video that promotes CanWest's TV properties and advertisers. In theory, the revenue-generating digital audience will be built on the newspaper chain's existing audience base with tiered subscriber rates for access and information.
"Ultimately, the hope would be with our on-line strategy is [that]the days of giving away the newspapers for free on-line, that cannibalizes circulation, that's going to come to a close. The way we're going to engage readers is adding on rich media content," Mr. Camilleri said.
In June, the Global TV network of 11 TV stations will broadcast Train 48, a reality-based series that will run every weeknight. The series will follow the daily commuting drama of eight Canadian men and women and will include "subtle product placements," Mr. Camilleri said.
Over time, the company plans to make much of the Global TV schedule available via video-on-demand. Future TV newscasts will feature a map of the globe with a point-and-click function to access specific news and information, a service that will eventually be made available to TV viewers and Web surfers.
Mr. Camilleri declined to disclose when many of the new TV and on-line services would be available or detail advertiser interest. He insisted that capital costs to CanWest would be "minimal."
"What we've done now is we're building the prototypes. We're starting to talk to advertisers and partners," he said.
To date, communications companies have had mixed success blending media properties and products to drive revenue. In the United States, Chicago-based Tribune Co. has increased its on-line revenue through interactive advertising.
In Canada, BCE Inc. rolled out a suite of convergence products in 2001 but has since refocused operations on its core telecommunications business. In November, entertainment company Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. took a $2.1-million charge on U8TV:The Lofters. The reality TV show about eight Toronto roommates was on-line 24/7 with highlights featured six nights a week on TV.
At an earlier session at yesterday's conference, the heirs of some of Canada's largest family-controlled media companies assured the audience that they are self-made executives.
"Early on it did offend me when people would assume the only reason I was in the business was because the last name was Slaight," said Gary Slaight, chief executive officer and president of radio giant Standard Broadcasting Corp. Ltd. and son of broadcasting entrepreneur Allan Slaight.
"At this point in time, based on what we've done with our company and the success Allan and I have had building the company, I no longer feel that way," Mr. Slaight said.
Drew Craig, president and chief executive officer of Craig Media Inc., said he and brothers Boyd and Miles "did a lot of things wrong" early in their careers.
Father Stuart Craig "gave us just enough rope to let us make some mistakes and pull us back. But I think with the foundation that we got . . . it allowed us to build the company," Mr. Craig said.