To say it’s been a fast and furious kind of year for Toronto, Canada-based Corus Entertainment may be an understatement. The first big change occurred in March when former head of Corus Kids Doug Murphy succeeded John Cassaday as president and CEO of the media conglomerate. Then came Corus’s landmark licensing deal in April for the Canadian English- and French-language rights to Disney Channel’s content, along with the streaming and ad-supported VOD rights for certain titles in the Mouse House’s programming portfolio.
Not long after the announcement, while Corus was working on the launch strategy for Disney Channel Canada, the company saw its VP of Kids & Family programming and original productions, Jocelyn Hamilton, depart after 25 years to helm eOne Television, Canada as president. (At press time, Corus was still conducting a search for her replacement.)
And in late August, some serious exec shuffling took place. Among the moves, VP of Corus Kids Colin Bohm was promoted to EVP and head of Corus Kids; Maria Hale was upped to EVP of television, and perhaps the biggest change saw former Nelvana EVP and current CTO Scott Dyer add Nelvana president and EVP to his title. Nelvana Enterprises co-heads Andrew Kerr and Antoine Erligmann, and Nelvana Studios VP and head Irene Weibel retained their positions. “One of the big parts of Corus Kids’ strategy going forward is expanding our content ownership, and our principle vehicle of that is the Nelvana business,” says Bohm. “[Dyer's appointment] is about bolstering what is already a strong executive team.”
On the channel side, Corus pulled the plug on Teletoon Retro, which went off air on September 1, the same day Disney Channel Canada launched. And on September 3, Corus-owned Cartoon Network Canada expanded its distribution to more than five million subscribers in Canada after pickups from cablecos Rogers, Shaw and Shaw Direct, replacing Teletoon Retro on the dial. As part of the move, Cartoon Network Canada became the exclusive home to CN originals Adventure Time, Clarence, Steven Universe and Teen Titans Go!. Corus-owned Teletoon, meanwhile, switched out the CN original shows that largely made up its evening schedule for new weeknight programming including Inspector Gadget (DHX Media), ALVINNN!!!! and the Chipmunks (Bagdasarian Productions), Australian series Get Ace and new episodes of Lego Ninjago. In addition, content sourced from the new Disney acquisition, including Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble, moved to Teletoon’s new superhero block.
According to Bohm, all of the changes will help position Corus Entertainment for growth and bolster its already comprehensive lineup of kids and family offerings. “The biggest opportunity is for Corus to be the kids category leader in Canada, and adding Disney Channel is an important piece of the puzzle,” he says. “Our affiliates appreciate our new commitment and investment in world-class brands and programming to support and turn their business in today’s evolving landscape.”
And with the addition of Disney, Bohm expects a significant increase in advertising opportunities. “From a reach perspective, when you add Disney programming into our complement of existing services, the scale is an incredible opportunity among moms and kids,” he says. “We’ll now be reaching 90% of moms with kids under the age of 12 in Canada on a monthly basis.”
Addressing the Cartoon Network and Teletoon changes, Bohm says some of the decisions were made based on age-appropriate content. “First, we’ve repositioned Teletoon to take it a little bit younger,” he notes. “So, as we looked at the portfolio lineup, some of the edgier stuff that is on Cartoon Network doesn’t really feel like it belongs on a five to eight channel. And second, we wanted to create that really authentic Cartoon Network experience [on CN Canada].”
As for Corus’s YTV and Nickelodeon Canada content, Bohm says the addition of Disney Channel will have no effect on how they are scheduled. “Our Nick content won’t change at all, other than we’ll continue to see more great new Nickelodeon shows coming soon,” he says.
Looking ahead, Bohm says Corus is confident in its new direction, but definitely feels the weight of responsibility that comes with carrying the Disney brand. “In addition to all of the challenges and logistics of launching a channel in fairly short order, when you look at the bigger picture, there is a big responsibility in managing the Disney Channel brand. We have a fan base with very high expectations.”