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Porn Gone as SexTV to get a female-friendly makeover

from www.theglobeandmail.com – Like the heroines of the chick flicks it will soon broadcast round the clock, Corus Entertainment is looking for a little less sex, and a lot more romance.

On March 1, Corus will launch W Movies, rebranding its channel SexTV. Corus bought that specialty channel, along with Drive-In Classics, from CTVglobemedia last July for $40-million. Corus has already announced that the latter will become the Sundance Channel, and now with W Movies, the company plans to broadcast Hollywood romantic comedies and tearjerkers 24 hours a day. The lineup will kick off with movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Working Girl and Steel Magnolias.

“This channel will give us more of an opportunity to … capture a significant portion of the female audience,” said Susan Ross, Corus’s executive vice-president of specialty and pay television. Corus already owns the female-focused W Network, and intends the new channel to work as a movie-only extension of that brand.

It has been a tough year for risqué entertainment. Playboy and Penthouse magazines have been gathering dust on the newsstands and their circulation is down. Last month, the creator of the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise, Joe Francis, and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt proposed a $5-billion (U.S.) government bailout for the porn industry, after a year that saw DVD sales fall by 22 per cent. Now, SexTV will make way for a more profitable genre.

Television broadcasters do well to recognize the importance of women as media consumers. Canadian women tend to watch less television than their American counterparts, according to Toronto-based media analysts Solutions Research Group, but are highly engaged with their favourite programs. And Canadian women spend more time watching television than men, according to the most recent research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada.

Women have proven valuable for Corus. Even in the midst of an advertising downturn in 2009, which saw ad revenues drop 6 per cent across the television division for the fiscal year, revenue rose for Corus’s channels that target a female audience.

“For a long time there’s been that sense that advertisers would pay more for women,” said Amanda Lotz, a professor of communications studies at the University of Michigan, who studies the role of women in television.

Although TV audiences tend to skew older than the most desirable demographic for advertisers – consumers 18 to 49 – movies may be one way to reach that market. “Most of the Hollywood box office is well targeted within that group,” she said.

But Prof. Lotz pointed out that in the United States, the proliferation of women’s channels could be a challenge for the specialty TV business, since the market is becoming more fragmented.

Slice, which is owned by Corus rival CanWest Global Communications Corp., fills its schedule mostly with talk shows and reality fare such as Real Housewives of Orange County or Project Runway. CanWest also has a female-focused channel in Showcase Diva, which shows a mix of TV series and movies aimed at women.

Corus already owns three female-centric channels – W Network, CosmoTV and VIVA – all of which also show movies. But Ms. Ross said the new channel will not conflict with that programming.

“Our research and ratings have shown that our most popular blocks for women are movies,” she said. There will be no movie scheduling changes at any of Corus’s portfolio of women’s channels.

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