Posted January 25, 2021 • Last updated January 27, 2021

This Week in WCIW #6

News about Paramount+, "Beartown", "Search Party", "The Muppet Show", and more.

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We're going to give another go at the weekly update thing. The last time we did this was in May of last year. We're obviously not going to recap everything that's happened since then – just the past week – but we are intending this to be a bit more regular going forward.

The main change is that you can now subscribe to This Week in WCIW as an email newsletter. If you're seeing this on the website, you can click the Newsletter link on the left sidebar (you might have to click the hamburger menu at the top), or just click here.

For the time being, there is no charge to subscribe. However, we still have hosting costs to cover, and we'd prefer not to be too reliant on affiliate commissions from only one or two companies. So consider this fair warning that down the line, future weekly updates may become part of an optional paid subscription. Our intention is that everything that's free to view on the site today will remain that way, but the subscription may also encompass additional new resources. We'll share more details as warranted.

The mountain is calling?

You might recall that this past September, ViacomCBS announced that it would be launching Paramount+ as its new "big" streaming service, absorbing existing services like CBS All Access and adding more content from sibling outlets like Paramount Pictures, MTV and Comedy Central.

While CBSAA has been available in Canada for some time, its lineup has always been a bit, well, streamlined compared to the U.S. product. You can see the full list here. A few of the shows are premieres, but most are classics, or else became available after a window on another Canadian TV channel. And it has not been bolstered with content from other ViacomCBS units – which makes sense considering that most of those brands have their Canadian rights tied up with Bell (MTV, Comedy Central, Showtime) and Corus (Nick, CMT, and most of the CBS lineup).

The international version of the September announcement indicated that CBSAA would be rebranded in Canada, but was silent on what it would be rebranded as. Now we know: it, too, will become Paramount+ on March 4, the same day as the U.S. rebrand. But as far as programming goes, "an expanded offering will be available later in the year".

What the "expanded offering" actually means in terms of Canada is not yet clear. There's now an investor event lined up for February 24 to go over VCBS' full streaming strategy, so we might find out more then. Evidently, however, it will be similar enough to the international product that they feel comfortable calling it "Paramount+". (That and, well, there's probably some minor savings from not having to maintain a separately-branded app just for one country.)

Will ViacomCBS actually bite the bullet and pull back the rights to its catalogue from Bell and Corus? Probably not in full – a streaming service can't replicate the reach of the Canadian broadcasters' linear channels. The "expanded offering" may well just be a few extra movies from the Paramount library. But considering that they're using the opportunity to regain control of Showtime's output in countries like Australia, it wouldn't shock us if that ultimately ends up being the case in Canada as well.

Programming news

  • Netflix Canada's February arrivals have been posted on this Twitter thread. We're not going to list every single new offering there (especially when most of its originals are available worldwide) but we've noticed there appears to have been a change in the pay-1 rights for Canadian distributor VVS Films. Rogue and Ava were added recently, while After We Collided is coming in February. Previous VVS films, like the original After, debuted on Prime Video in Canada (and many are still there). Rights in all cases are English-language only; Super Écran continues to have French-language rights.
  • We also noticed that Parks and Recreation is returning to Netflix Canada in February. Like Superstore (which arrived on Netflix Canada in January), it's an NBCUniversal-owned series which, at least for now, will be available on both Netflix and Prime Video in Canada (while Peacock remains absent here).
  • Crave's February listings confirm that it will be picking up HBO Nordic hockey drama Beartown (Björnstad) premiering on Monday, February 22 (same day as HBO U.S. / HBO Max). It will also finally pick up HBO Max (formerly TBS) dark comedy Search Party, with all four seasons to date available on Thursday, February 4. Other notables include documentary sequel The New Corporation (Feb. 12), Miss Juneteenth (Feb. 17),  and Jon Stewart's Irresistable (Feb. 26).
  • Disney+ will be adding all five seasons of The Muppet Show on February 19. A longer list of releases was sent to some media outlets, but nothing has been listed yet for the launch of Star on February 23.
  • Telus Presents, the free on-demand selection for subscribers to Telus' Optik TV service in Alberta and B.C., has added a few new selections. The most notable is arguably Perpetual Grace, Ltd., a (so far) single-season drama which debuted in the U.S. on Epix in 2019 to many good reviews but low ratings. Like other Telus Presents series like I Hate Suzie, it's not available to Telus customers elsewhere in Canada, but other Canadian services should be able to pick up non-exclusive rights down the line.

Other notes

  • Bell Media, which recently got a new president in longtime BCE executive Wade Oosterman (replacing Randy Lennox), continues to shake up its management ranks. After changes at the VP-and-up levels earlier this month resulting in several departures of executives, some as far back as the Baton/CTV and NetStar days, a number of channel and station-level managers have now been laid off as well.
  • Meanwhile, Bell is shutting down the Book Television and Fashion Television channels on February 21. Both launched as "category 1" must-carry digital channels in 2001, but neither one ever broke through in terms of viewership. As far as we can tell, neither channel has originated or otherwise debuted any new programming in years, and their current schedules have only tangential, if any, relationships to books or fashion. On his site Fagstein, Steve Faguy goes into further depth on the financial motivations for cutting them off now, and potential future targets as consumers move away from traditional TV bundles.

Recent updates on WCIW

  • There are new posts about The Little Things (coming to PVOD in Canada on January 29) and Animaniacs (available on demand to Teletoon subscribers, including via StackTV).
  • The overall HBO Max post has been updated with the news about Search Party noted above, as well as Full Bloom (which debuted this past week on CTV Drama).

We'll try to do this again next week. See you then!

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