Will consolidation benefit audiences? We’ll have to wait and C…(TV)

So the CRTC tap dance seems to be coming to a close (for now at least) and it looks like the fate of the CHUM Empire (?) has been decided. While I like to try and be the optimist – well, sometimes – I’m a little nervous about whats in the works following this monumental reshuffling of the Canadian media landscape.

It seemed for a little while there like CTV Globemedia was all set to unload the A Channel group of stations to Rogers and hold on to the coveted City TV brand, but the CRTC’s ruling put a cramp in that plan. Now Rogers will acquire City TV and with it, a strongly branded network of stations in key Canadian cities – something that has advertisers excited, to say the least!

But my interest really lies in what will happen to A Channel?

Once a collection of unrelated local stations that was re-branded to “The New” followed by the stations original call letters (The New PL, The New RX, etc) and then again to ‘A Channel’ when CHUM needed another ‘network’ for its cast-off acquisitions, its always been a bit of a floundering brand. Now, a second, or possibly third-rate network of stations is going to be owned by CTV, which already has a comparatively first-rate network of local stations. With local always having been an important focus of A Channel, the need for a re-branding seems clear, but what interest will CTV really have in making this effort? If they did take a chance, pay attention to this asset and try something innovative like CanWest has done in rebranding CH as E!, then my pessimism will be proven wrong. And I’ll be happy to be wrong.

I really just hope that CGM will do something with the A Channels in the way of a re-brand and not just leave them dangle as a competing network of average quality local programming to their existing national network. When consolidation occurs, there should always be an opportunity to benefit audiences by diversifying programming and targeting new and perhaps more specialized interests. But that’s when companies think audience first, which isn’t always the case.

So let’s hope that CTV does something to give us all a warm and fuzzy feeling about media consolidation and proves its upside by serving the Canadian audience, rather than taking the lazy way out and serving themselves.