News Promotion: How It’s Done Up North

With news operations in Canada accumulating more and more honors for television news and its promotion, let's take a look at some examples from Shaw Media's Global News, winner of awards from both the RTDNA (an Edward R. Murrow Award) and PromaxBDA.

Television stations from Canada won awards–gold, silver or bronze — in 29 of the 54 categories at the PromaxBDALocal Station Summit in June in Las Vegas. They swept the awards in two of the categories — Holiday/Seasonal/Special Event Program and Daytime Program.

And Global News, owned by Shaw Media, won the 2013 Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall News Excellence in Network Television, a category dominated by U.S. networks for decades. Global News is the first Canadian network to earn that recognition in the award’s 42-year history.

With all these awards, it made me wonder, what’s TV news and TV news marketing like in Canada?

Global Morning News

So I talked to John Doyle, TV critic for Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and Jason Keown, senior director of marketing for Global TV, both based in Toronto.

The one major difference is evident in primetime entertainment. Whereas in the United States, you have network programs that air only on their own networks — Hawaii Five-O on CBS, Modern Family on ABC, Parks and Recreation on NBC and Glee on Fox — in Canada, you might watch any combination of these shows in prime on the Canadian networks.


“All of the programming from the U.S. networks spills into Canada,” Keown says, “but we look to simulcast as much as possible.”

In addition to Global, the other major networks broadcasting in Canada are CTV, owned by Bell Media; City, owned by Rogers Communications; and CBC, Canada’s public network, akin to PBS here in the States, “but more mainstream in its programming,” according to Keown. Doyle describes CBC’s programming as “a hybrid of public, commercial and sports.”

Global has 14 stations in cities including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton.

Most of the local news programs in Canada air around the same time as those in the U.S., except at 11 p.m. when some networks air national news followed by local news at 11:30.

In Toronto, Global airs local an hour-long local newscast at 11. What an interesting concept — watching Brian Williams, Scott Pelley or Diane Sawyer at 11 instead of in the early evening.

“Canadian news is more traditional,” Doyle says, “they rarely change their format or their anchors. That helps build loyalty. There’s less focus on crime and ambulance chasing.”

Global National, Mike Drolet

But just like in the U.S., Canadians also have an appetite for watching news on their own schedules, according to Keown.

“There’s more opportunity for news consumption with digital and mobile, so viewers can watch any story any time on digital.”

Global News

“In the U.S.,” Keown says, “there are many more local TV news operations in many more markets, sometimes very small markets. That smaller footprint allows for more hyper-local coverage. In Canada, it’s more spread out so often a particular station may be the only choice for news in that province. They need to have a broad appeal geographically so with more content, there’s less focus on crime. Plus, there’s more international and national stories on local Canadian news.”

Global News, Ground Force

“Canadian viewers are very sensitive and interested in the weather,” Keown says. 

Canadian on-air weather personalities tend to be the ones out in the community meeting people, he adds.

“In weather promotion, it’s longtime trust. When it turns serious, the weather people must go from light to serious.”

“In terms of marketing, Doyle explains, “the Canadian networks focus on reliability and the veteran status or experience of their people.”

“In marketing,” Keown says, “you must demonstrate reliability, that you trust us to give you the facts, but you also need to have presenters with personality that viewers find likable. Authenticity and personality is all you have.”

Global TV, Crazy Politicians

 “Canadian TV news marketing is more image and less topical,” according to Keown. “We’re looking for the more long-term benefit rather than one newscast.”

Let’s see, news viewers who want news when and wherever they are, are very interested in the weather forecast, and appreciate getting the facts by someone they like and trust.

Canadian news viewers aren’t a whole lot different than American news viewers after all.

Market Share by Paul Greeley is all about marketing and promotion at TV stations and appears every Monday. Read other Market Share columns here. If you have some ideas or stories you want to share, please let me know. You can reach Paul Greeley at [email protected] or at 817-578-6324.

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