MONTREAL — Canuck broadcaster Corus Entertainment has inked a three-year output deal with HBO Enterprises that will give Corus movie net Superchannel access to HBO programming, including “The Sopranos.”
Corus is also set to sell its 50% interest in the Family Channel.
Superchannel, owned until last year by WIC, had been mired in a legal dispute with HBO over the past five years sparked by the availability of HBO via gray-market satellite dishes in Canada. As a result, Superchannel was unable to air any HBO product.
Corus acquired Superchannel as part of its deal last year with CanWest Global to carve up the assets of WIC. Corus recently settled its legal issues with HBO, agreeing to drop the WIC-initiated lawsuit against the U.S. network, and that agreement paved the way for the new deal with HBO.
“This is huge for us,” said Paul Robertson, president of television at Corus Entertainment. “We were concerned about depriving our audience of ‘The Sopranos.’ The show has gained tremendous momentum, and we felt we were really not serving our audience. So we felt we had to put aside our differences with HBO.”
Superchannel is a pay TV movie channel serving Western Canada. The deal with HBO will give Superchannel access to a wide array of movies, series, comedy programs and miniseries produced by HBO. The only other pickup so far confirmed is the Bruce Springsteen HBO concert special taped last year at Madison Square Garden.
“The Sopranos” will make its bow on Superchannel April 1, the same day the network is relaunched as Movie Central. The revamped pay TV service will include an expanded lineup of six thematic movie webs.
Corus also announced that it is selling its 50% stake in the Family Channel in accordance with an order last year from federal regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Corus is controlled by Calgary’s Shaw family, which also owns Shaw Communications, one of Canada’s leading cable operators.
The CRTC is looking into the issue of whether cable owners like Shaw should be able to control specialty channels. Shaw and other cable companies like Rogers Communications have lobbied the CRTC to convince the regulator to allow such arrangements.
Corus’ stake in the Family Channel is worth between C$88 million ($58 million) and $73 million. Astral Media owns the other 50% and has the first right of refusal on the sale of the Corus stake.