Update: Sun News Network has gone off the air. Read for story here.
Television entrepreneur Moses Znaimer is hoping to expand his reach on the TV dial by acquiring the money-losing Sun News Network from Quebecor Inc.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, Mr. Znaimer is eager to make a deal that would see ZoomerMedia Ltd., a company he controls, buy the news and opinion channel before the year is over. Mr. Znaimer currently has exclusive negotiating rights, and the price of the purchase would be low, the source said.
Once the architect of CITY-TV, Mr. Znaimer now owns a stable of TV, radio and other media properties targeting an audience aged 45 and older – what ZoomerMedia calls "the world's largest and most affluent generation." Buying the Sun network would give him another foothold in television.
Mr. Znaimer did not return e-mails requesting comment, and a member of his staff said "No comment" when reached by phone.
Quebecor's vice-president of public affairs, Martin Tremblay, also declined to discuss any potential sale. "We have a policy to not comment on rumours concerning our mix of assets," he said.
ZoomerMedia's flagship channel is VisionTV, but its also owns One: Body, Mind and Spirit, JoyTV and HopeTV, as well as the Classical 96.3 FM radio station and other media assets. Sources said Mr. Znaimer appears to want to return to his roots, rebooting in some fashion the CITY-TV model that made him a household name in Canadian television.
Part of Sun News Network's appeal is that it has a Category C broadcasting license, which means all TV distributors must offer the channel to customers, both on a standalone basis and in bundles of news channels, thanks to new rules set late last year by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
ZoomerMedia would have to maintain the channel as a national news outlet, or risk losing that privilege by applying to change the terms of the license. As it stands, only 10 per cent of the channel's monthly programming can be in a genre other than news.
Sun News Network's future has been in question since early October, when Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced it was buying the Sun chain of newspapers from Quebecor as part of a $316-million deal.
The Sun TV network had drawn on the Sun papers' resources for editorial content.
At the time, Postmedia president and CEO Paul Godfrey said his company hadn't considered Sun News Network as part of the purchase because "it wasn't for sale."
He said Postmedia would license the Sun name to the channel for one year.
Even before the Postmedia-Sun Media deal, however, Sun News Network had struggled financially.
The channel launched in 2011 and its outspoken, opinionated slant has drawn numerous complaints from viewers and rebukes from regulators, often over segments and on-air comments by Ezra Levant, one of its most recognizable hosts.
Over the next three years, it posted losses of $46.7-million, according to CRTC figures, losing $14.8-million in 2013, when the channel generated less than $8-million in revenue from 4.8 million subscribers.
Over the past year, Quebecor has reshuffled its media assets with the Postmedia deal, which is still awaiting regulatory approval, and a separate sale of 74 community newspapers to Transcontinental Inc.
In November, Quebecor also bought 15 magazines from Transcontinental, including The Hockey News and Canadian Living.
Mr. Znaimer controls 64.3 per cent of ZoomerMedia's common shares through a company he owns called Olympus Management Ltd. Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. holds 26.9 per cent of common shares through a subsidiary, and the remainder are widely held.