Grappling with plummeting advertising revenues, Rogers Media is cutting jobs across its conventional TV operations, with its Omni stations hardest hit.
The company, which also owns Marketing, is cutting 110 positions and eliminating newscasts on its multicultural Omni stations. Omni currently offers newscasts in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Italian.
Under the new programming, Omni will launch interactive current affairs shows that will broadcast in Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi.
The Italian newscast is being scrapped entirely and replaced with a popular novella series from overseas.
The cuts come amid a challenging environment for conventional TV as a whole, with recent CRTC numbers stating Canada’s 92 local stations attracted $117.1 million less in ad revenue last year. Local airtime sales fell 5% to $333.5 million, while national sales fell 7.8% to $1.17 billion.
Speaking during license renewal hearings last year, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley told the federal regulator that its City and Omni channels faced “very serious” financial challenges.
He said Omni in particular faced a “financial crisis,” with advertising on the service dropping by approximately $45 million to less $35 million in just over two years. “Let me be totally clear, Omni is not a viable business unless we can do something together to reverse its financial situation,” he told the Commission.
Pelley said Omni’s multicultural programming, including news, has traditionally been funded largely by U.S. strip programming like The Simpsons and Two and a Half Men, which accounted for as much as 70% of its revenue.
He said revenue stream had fallen by 62%, – $40 million – since 2011, as those programs become widely available (a viewer in Calgary, for example, had access to Two and a Half Men on six U.S. border stations).
He also said Omni has been hit hard by an abundance of choice, noting that Canadian BDUs currently carry more than 130 Canadian and foreign ethnic specialty services.
Viewership has dramatically evolved since Rogers acquired the first Omni multicultural channel in 1986.
“For a lot of older immigrants, that was one of the channels we were watching when we first came to Canada years ago,” said Peter Chiu, program director at The Cross-Cultural Community Services Association, a service in Toronto that helps newcomers settle in Canada.
“But a lot of immigrants are also getting their content online now.”