Despite launching in the middle of a federal election, the new Sun News Network has so far had little impact on the Canadian news scene.
The Quebecor venture launched April 18 after months of “Fox News North” buzz and had an estimated 37,000 viewers across Canada tune in for its initial half-hour, when it hit the airwaves with a splashy promise of “hard news and straight talk.”
Showcased commentator Ezra Levant’s The Source rated highest with an estimated 31,000 viewers on opening night, according to BBM Canada overnight estimates provided by sources.
That total had fallen to 12,000 by Wednesday, with less than 1,000 viewers in the coveted 25-to-54-year-old demo. By this Monday, a week after launch, Levant’s show was up to 19,000 viewers.
By the end of Sun News’s first week, shows featuring Winnipeg-based radio host Charles Adler and Ottawa-based journalist Brian Lilley were drawing 4,000 and 5,000 viewers across Canada in their evening slots (Adler had opened the week with 31,000 viewers and Lilley with 17,000).
A Sun News Network spokesman said Wednesday that he had no comment on the network’s first-week ratings.
When compared against other news programming on the dial, Sun News is not rating highly. While Sun News commentator Theo Caldwell was drawing 11,000 viewers at 7 p.m. last Friday, CBC News Network had an audience of 263,000 viewers across Canada. CNN’s estimated audience in Canada at 7 p.m. on Friday was 38,000 viewers.
The marquee evening newscasts in Canada consistently draw in the half million to 1.3 million viewers range per night.
CBC has so far been a constant target of Sun News. Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau has repeatedly asserted that CBC News Network and other Canadian news services are “uninspiring” and had sent Canadian viewers “fleeing to American networks to get their fix.”
Sun News Network is being offered free for six months to Shaw and Videotron cable subscribers. Carriage deals are also in place with Bell and Cogeco. The station is also offered on basic cable in southern Ontario on the old Sun TV channel on Rogers Cable.
Montreal-based media giant Quebecor owns the Sun media chain in English-Canada, as well as the Videotron cable TV operator in Quebec and the TVA French-language network as well as numerous other French-language media properties.