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Dealbreaker tunes out Canada’s MTV auds

Exit from marketplace only temporary

TORONTO — MTV is pulling out of Canada at the end of June, while it mulls another way back into the Great White North.

MTV Networks Intl. said Tuesday that it is ending its agreement with Calgary-based Craig Media, which launched MTV Canada and MTV2 as digital channels in 2001.

MTV’s contract with Craig permitted it to ax the agreement if Craig was sold. Craig was bought by Toronto-based Chum in late 2004.

Chum has 12 local and 21 specialty channels, almost half of them music channels. Before the takeover, Chum complained to Canada’s broadcast regulators that Craig was competing with Chum’s music channels. Foreign channels are forbidden to compete against existing homegrown channels under Canuck broadcast law.

Regulators agreed, and Craig was ordered to rejig its MTV programming mix.

MTV brass said MTV was not abandoning Canada. “This is not an exit plan,” said Rob Hooper, VP marketing and communications for MTV. “We have a long-term commitment to Canada, and we are going to announce our plans in the next few weeks.”

MTV syndicates “Newlyweds” “The Osbournes” and “Punk’d” to Canadian broadcasters CTV and Chum’s CityTV, and it will continue to do that.

Chum said the digital channels are available in only 800,000 households, a tiny audience even by Canadian standards. According to Nielsen, they attract an average of 700 viewers. The digital channels will continue in a new form.

“They’ll be MTV one day and then whatever the new licenses are the next,” said Chum VP communication Mary Powers. “It’s just the branding that will change.”

MTV Canada is licensed as a youth culture channel and MTV2 as a musicvideo channel.