Company eyeing primetime

TORONTO — Shareholders can expect CTV to move into entertainment production “in a meaningful way” this year, according to president and CEO Ivan Fecan, speaking at the company’s annual meeting, held in Toronto Wednesday.

“We expect to move into entertainment content production in a meaningful way in 2000,” Fecan said in a speech to shareholders and journalists. He declined to elaborate later, because, he said, “it’s a competitive issue.”

“We wanted to signal to our shareholders that while we continue to be strong in news and sports content, it’s our intention to get into entertainment content in the next year — meaningful entertainment, primetime production,” he said.

Fecan’s speech was more of a pat on the back with regard to how far CTV has come since becoming a “widely held public company” 23 months ago. The network has solidified nationally, raised almost $800 million in capital, launched four specialty channels, gone digital and beat out rival CanWest Global for the coveted specialty powerhouse NetStar Communications, pending regulatory approval.

But those in attendance were as interested in the possibility of CTV being taken over than vice-versa. Fecan noted only that takeover overtures are “always a possibility” for widely held public companies.

CTV released its first-quarter earnings the day before the annual meeting. Revenue and net earnings were down slightly as a result of a dip in revenues for its conventional TV operations and interest expenses from the company’s acquisition of NetStar.

Revenues for the three months ended Nov. 30 were C$151.6 million ($104.6 million), compared to $106.9 million for the first three months last year. Revenues from conventional TV operations were down 4%.

Net earnings for the quarter were $9.8 million, down from $11.2 million a year earlier. Earnings per share were 16¢, compared to 26¢ in the same period last year. The weighted average number of shares increased from 42 million last year to 57 million this quarter.

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