Stingray To Acquire ‘Much’ Channels From Bell Media

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It was announced today (June 21) that Montreal’s Stingray Digital is set to acquire four music speciality channels from Bell Media today. MuchRetro (originally launched as MuchMoreRetro), MuchLoud, MuchVibe and Juicebox will soon have a new look.

The channels were launched by CHUM in the early 2000s when MuchMusic (now Much) and MuchMoreMusic (now M3) saw a decline in music video programming. These channels were developed to cater to different genres in 2001 with the debuts of MuchLoud and MuchVibe and then nostalgia in 2003 with the launch of MuchRetro. Bell acquired all these assets in 2004.

Juicebox was originally MTV2 when CHUM purchased the network (along with the original MTV Canada) and rebranded the channel as PunchMuch in 2005. The channel was rebranded as Juicebox in late 2011 and began focusing on children and pre-teen audiences rather than an all-request service.

“These services are a perfect complement to Stingray’s strong mulitplatform music portfolio,” said Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke in a statement. “Divesting these channels enables us to focus our resources on Bell Media’s leading slate of speciality service while maintaining our Music First commitment with our portfolio of radio, TV, and digital platforms, including the upcoming launch of iHearRadio in Canada.”

Bell Media announced a parternship with the American company iHeartMedia to launch the iHeartRadio brand in Canada this year. This past weekend’s annual video awards ceremony was rebranded as the “iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards.”

Turcke continued that “Both Bell Media and Stingray recognize the tremendous potential for Canadian content services operated by broadcasters of all sizes. This transaction helps foster a more competitive broadcast environment and ultimately creates more choices for consumers by capitalizing on both companies’ strengths.

These channels join Stingray’s (which originally launched as Galaxie) portfolio of television music services in Canada that include Stingray Ambiance, Stingray Lite TV, Stingray Concerts, Brava and Djazz.

Eric Boyko, Stingray’s co-founder and CEO adds that “In an industry where consolidation is the watchword, and where growth and scale define success, the acquisition of premium quality music content is our primary strategy. I am thrilled to have come to an agreement with Bell Media to acquire MuchLoud, MuchRetro, MuchVibe and Juicebox. This transaction with Bell Media paves the way for independent media companies like Stingray to propel their global expansion.”

Yes, global expansion. Stingray will be exporting these channels south of the border. “The major advantage for us to export these channels with Comcast on the X1 platform, said Boyko in an interview with The Global and Mail. Stingray expanded a distribution agreement with American giant in May.

Stingray has reiterated the original channel descriptions, which they’ll be sticking with, for their acquisitions:

MuchLoud caters to fans of hard music everywhere, it delivers the best in alternative, metal and punk music videos, featured alongside exclusive artist interviews, specials, classic archival material and up-to-the-minute concert info.

MuchRetro features classic (songs more than five years old) music videos and related programs, including music and pop news or commentaries, interviews, concerts, profiles, and specials, as well as music-related feature films and series or programs.

MuchVibe is devoted exclusively to hip-hop, R&B, soul & reggae music Videos, interviews, and concert specials.

Juicebox is a music video channel devoted to kids; it features parent-approved videos from today’s biggest stars, 24-7.

We reached out to Stingray’s marketing director Julie Benoit with some our own questions.

Existing channel subscribers shouldn’t expect big change. Look for the transaction to go through in the next two to four weeks. “The channel names and logos will change, but the programming will stay the same. Our goal for the next few months is to completely refresh programming with special blocks, stunts and themes, including exclusive artist interviews. All channels will also be redesigned and feature a brand new look.”

Look for the format to stay the same: “Fans of music video channels are looking for 24/7 video flows, no interruption, no reality shows, no ads. We will refresh the programming grid with new content blocks, stunts and themes. New content will be added weekly. We’ll also be adding exclusive interviews and music sessions with artists, from our Stingray PausePlay series.”

As for if Stingray has had any talks with Bell Media to acquire Much, M3, MTV or MTV2: “Not for now.”

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About Author

Jeevan Brar is a digital content producer and freelance entertainment writer based in Toronto. Jeevan has managed The TV Watercooler since 2008, the Canadian blog has focused on daytime soaps, primetime hits and reality TV guilty pleasures. The blog has also connected Canadian soap fans with exclusive interviews with the cast of enduring daytime dramas The Young and the Restless, Days of our Lives, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful. 'Like' The TV Watercooler on Facebook. You can also follow Jeevan on Twitter and Google+.

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