BELL MEDIA - LogoAstral has officially joined forces with Bell Media after the latter’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Astral Media Inc.

“Our union with Astral is full of opportunity for our audiences, our industry, and our team members,” said Kevin Crull, President, Bell Media.

“Our objective is to create content and build brands that entertain, inform, engage, and inspire audiences through the platforms of their choice. We will deliver on our commitment to provide world-class content to our listeners and viewers, as we make significant investments in the Canadian broadcasting system.”

Independent cable television distributors are the latest group to join the opposition against the Bell takeover of Astral Media.

“If Bell is permitted to continue down this path, one of the first results will be the disappearance of small cable and telephone TV distributors, including many community cooperatives, municipalities and First Nations groups that serve rural and remote communities,” Alyson Townsend, head of the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance Inc. said in a statement.

The CCSA is comprised of 110 small telecom and cable distributors, all of whom oppose the bid.

Should Bell acquire the Montreal-based Astral, it would under-line its place as the country’s largest TV and media entity. Continue reading »

A public campaign has been launched by rivals of Bell Media owner BCE over the takeover of Astral Media.

Quebecor, Eastlink and Cogeco Cable said in a statement that if the deal goes ahead Bell would control all of the popular Canadian TV content and be able “to charge consumers any price they want to watch it”.

They also say that consumers may be forced into paying for Bell channels they don’t want to watch.

“Bell Canada’s proposed merger with Astral Media Inc poses a serious threat to the health of the Canadian broadcasting industry,” said Quebecor president Pierre Karl Peladeau. Continue reading »

Slow advertising sales have led to a drop in revenue for Canadian television and radio companies in the latest economic quarter.

Corus Entertainment posted an 11 per cent fall in specialty advertising revenue for its third quarter.

“Our specialty advertising revenues in the quarter were impacted by soft demand in the kids segment,” chief executive John Cassaday said in a statement.

Astral Media announced a drop in revenue also with television advertising revenue falling seven per cent. Continue reading »

Astral’s Playhouse Disney will follow suit with its U.S. counterpart and re-brand its English and French-language networks as Disney Junior in May 2011.

Continuing the promise to provide the best in entertaining, development-based programming for younger viewers, Disney Junior will launch with new series such as Jake and the Never Land Pirates and programming that taps into Disney’s rich legacy of classic characters as featured in such programs as Disney Poetry Shorts.

The re-branded multiplex channel will also expand on its educational mandate to layer in learning that focuses on social values, the environment and healthy living.

“Since its launch in November 2007, Playhouse Disney has continued to build its viewership, program offering and prestige,” said Joe Tedesco, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Family and Playhouse Disney. “The evolution of Playhouse Disney to Disney Junior comes at an exciting time and will add a new energy to the network while remaining dedicated to bringing highly entertaining, home-grown and Disney programming to Canadian families.”

Coinciding with the re-brand, Jake and the Never Land Pirates will premiere on Disney Junior in May 2011. The animated adventure has classic Disney characters Captain Hook and Smee joined by a new crew of kid pirates led by the courageous Jake. The series, which emphasizes teamwork, features original pirate-rock music performed by The Never Land Pirate Band and stars David Arquette as the voice of the lookout parrot, Skully.

Other new Disney programming set to premiere on Disney Junior includes Disney Poetry Shorts which showcases poems for children set against classic Disney animation and the short-form series Special Agent Oso: Three Healthy Steps encouraging healthy lifestyles for preschoolers and families.

These new series will join new episodes of popular series such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Jungle Junction and Imagination Movers. Original Canadian series on Disney Junior will include the popular Franny’s Feet, The Secret World of Benjamin Bear and new episodes of Stella and Sam.

(From a press release)

Astral’s Playhouse Disney premieres the new animated series Stella and Sam on Sunday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. ET.

The new series, based on the beloved books by Canadian author and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay, follows the backyard adventures of four-year-old Sam and his older sister Stella.

New episodes of the show will premiere on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. ET with episodes also airing on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. ET as well as Saturday and Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. ET.

With wild red hair and an imagination to match, nine-year-old Stella is truly a ‘star’ in the eyes of her four-year-old brother Sam. As they explore the world in all its seasons, Stella and Sam encounter backyard quests and comical mishaps.

Every day is a new adventure as Stella and Sam share the joy of discovering that they have what it takes to face the biggest adventure of all – growing up. Animated in an unique watercolour style that reflects the familiar illustrations of Marie-Louise Gay and featuring storylines that are inspired by the imaginative play of children, the series features 13-year-old Rachel Marcus and six-year-old Miles Johnson as the voices of the lead characters.

On children can venture further into the world of Stella and Sam with interactive adventures designed for children and their families to explore online. Also available on, families can learn more about show’s characters, play Stella and Sam games and download printable activities.

(From a press release)