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Corus Entertainment will own all six of the top six specialty channels watched by women - HGTV and W Network among them.Cole Buston/The Canadian Press

To justify his $2.6-billion purchase of Shaw Media, Corus Entertainment Inc. chief executive officer Doug Murphy is stressing two things: the power of women, and the importance of content.

Should the deal get shareholder approval, Corus will own all six of the top six specialty channels watched by women - HGTV and W Network among them. Advertisers love this segment of the population, because the vast majority of women are the CEOs of their households, meaning they're the ones who make most spending decisions.

As for content, Canada is littered with channels and streaming options, so it's easy to distribute shows. Making such shows is another story. Because it requires such unique skills, and because there is an abundance of buyers, anyone who produces good content can make impressive money.

This rationale might sound familiar, because it is. Eerily similar arguments were made when Shaw first built its media arm by acquiring CanWest Global Communications Corp. for $2-billion in 2010.

"Women rule the ad world," Kaan Yigit, president of Toronto-based Solutions Research Group, told The Globe and Mail following the CanWest deal, adding that advertising targeted to this group accounts for roughly 60 per cent of the industry's $3.3-billion total ad spend.

The thirst for content was even more powerful. Owning content was "the No. 1 driving force" behind the deal, then-Shaw president Peter Bissonnette told analysts and reporters. He went so far as to say content was "key to our vision for the future."

That bit about the future is no longer true, of course, otherwise, this deal would never have happened. But simply because Shaw has a new focus doesn't mean the 2010 strategy didn't make sense. If anything, it may have been deployed a bit too early.

The last few years have been tough for the television industry. Fewer Canadians are watching TV using traditional methods. Younger people, especially, download shows illegally using torrents, or they stream them online at all hours of the day.

Because fewer people are gathered around television sets at the same time, advertisers are strugging to figure out how to reach them, which means they're taking ad dollars off the table. In such a fragmented market, they are increasingly targeting niche markets that have dependable audiences. Women tick that box for Corus.

The content strategy is especially powerful right now. On a conference call Wednesday, Corus's CEO said there is currently a "content-hungry global marketplace." It's even bigger than it was when Shaw bought CanWest.

In 2010, the streaming site Hulu was cited as one of the future distribution models. Since then, the likes of Netflix and Amazon have become major players, and CraveTV and Shomi have launched in Canada. There's now such an appetite for shows that CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves recently likened the current market to a content bubble. Netflix alone is spending $5-billion on its own shows this year.

Buying Shaw Media isn't a sure bet for Corus. The TV business is changing so rapidly that no one has any idea what it will look like in five years. Even if telcos offer top-notch streaming capabilities, whether it is through web viewing or their own portals such as Shomi, it's tough to say whether ad dollars will flow to these platforms.

But when it comes to strategy, Corus is on to something.

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