GameTV revamps programming, executive team

Survey said… GameTV was in need of a refresh.

Originally launched in 2005 as the Casino Gaming Television network (CGTV), the digital specialty service reaches an estimated 9 million Canadian households but has traditionally struggled to generate advertising revenue. According to CRTC documents, GameTV earned just $628,454 in national advertising sales in 2009 (the last year for which figures are available) while losing $3.8 million.

The channel originally launched with an emphasis on the “casino lifestyle.” Televised poker comprised a significant portion of its programming. A subsequent rebrand as GameTV produced a greater emphasis on what president and CEO Mark Rubinstein characterized as “more mainstream programming with a thread of competition,” highlighted by classic game shows, trivia shows and a smattering of movies – an approach that has been further refined with the most recent re-launch.

GameTV. which is managed by Insight Sports, recently revamped its programming approach and has hired a new senior management team that includes new personnel in sales, marketing and programming.

“We found ourselves with a great channel that had one of the widest distribution footprints in the country, but the brand really hadn’t changed since 2005-2006,” said Rubinstein. “We thought there was an absence in the marketplace for a channel [in the] competition genre, and that caused us to both rethink the brand and put a new fresh face to it.”

The brand’s new positioning is “Fun. Entertaining. Competition.”

Earlier this month, GameTV introduced a new program schedule built around a nightly movie block featuring films with an emphasis on competition, popular recent game shows like Family Feud, and reality programming such as Footballer’s Wives. The daytime schedule, dominated by classic game shows and trivia shows, remains largely unchanged.

Rubinstein said the refresh has already produced “significant increases” among GameTV’s key demographic of adults 25-54. It is currently the 18th ranked digital network according to information supplied by Insight Sports. “It’s very encouraging, and we’re confident that will continue to grow significantly once our consumer campaign begins,” said Rubinstein.

GameTV first announced the refresh via a trade campaign running alongside a six-week consumer campaign built around a “robust” U.S. ad avails buy, and print ads in commuter dailies including Metro and 24 Hours. Out-of-home ads will debut at the end of the month focusing exclusively on the Greater Toronto Area – which accounts for more than half of GameTV’s audience – with hand picked locations both above ground and on subway platforms.

The campaign was created in-house, with media from Magi Communications.

The channel’s new hires include managing director of sales Nanci Stern, senior director of marketing Gary Sappleton and director of programming Ana Rodrigues.

Stern has more than 15 years of experience on both the client and media side of the business, and according to a release has built “solid corporate partnerships” with leading companies including Paramount, Viacom and Alliance Atlantis. Her career also includes “numerous” brand launches and re-brands, said the company.

“[Stern] was very successful on the sales promotion side and finding new ideas to get clients excited about effective marketing tactics,” said Rubinstein. “We’re very lucky to have her come over to head up our ad sales efforts.”

GameTV’s senior director of marketing, Gary Sappleton, arrives from Shaw Media, where he oversaw the company’s dramatic networks portfolio, which included Showcase, Action, Showcase Diva, Mystery TV and DejaView.

Rodrigues’ career includes stints as head of international programming for Rogers Communications and head of Latin American and Asian content sales for the former CHUM Limited.

“I thought those skill-sets and experience would serve us well as we reintroduce a brand that is somewhat known among consumers as well as the industry, but reinvent it in a compelling way,” said Rubinstein.

The company is “very confident” of hitting its advertising and viewing targets for the current broadcast year, said Rubinstein.

“Our expectation is that we will see double-digit viewership growth on the channel overall, that we’ll have double-digit growth in our core adult 25-54 demo, and that we will be successful in hitting a programming niche that will be increasingly attractive to marketing and advertising partners,” he said. “If we do those three things well, the rest will take care of itself.”

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