BUSINESS

Success of 'Property Brothers' a lesson learned as Corus develops reality slate

11/20/2014 10:54 EST | Updated 01/20/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Hit reality shows like "Property Brothers" have convinced Corus Entertainment (TSX:CJR.B) to invest more in producing TV series that it owns.

Chief operating officer Doug Murphy told the audience at an investor day on Thursday that new video-on-demand services are driving an unprecedented interest in fresh programming and that has taught the company about how to develop future series.

"Content producers and owners alike are experiencing an exceptionally dynamic and growing marketplace for their shows," he said.

"The growth of audiences globally on these proliferating digital platforms renders hit content more and more valuable in years to come. It is a very bullish environment to be a content owner."

In some ways, this is a lesson learned for Corus, which let one of the biggest reality shows on television get away.

"Property Brothers," which follows Canadian twin brothers as they help homebuyers renovate, was commissioned and developed by the company several years ago, but Corus didn't take an ownership stake in the series as part of the agreement.

That meant the company didn't see a dime when the relatively low-budget production became a global sensation and money started pouring in from international broadcast sales and spin-off series "Buying and Selling" and "Brother vs. Brother."

"Property Brothers," which began airing on the W Network nearly four years ago, also airs on HGTV in the United States, networks in Australia and New Zealand, and has been dubbed into Spanish for other markets.

The show is also carried by Netflix in some regions and is available on Amazon's streaming service. Both deliver lucrative and consistent revenues from past seasons of the series.

Besides international sales, Corus doesn't own the rights to the "Property Brothers" concept either, which can eventually be sold to outside production companies who want to make localized version of the reality series for other countries.

Hindsight has given Corus a different perspective on how it develops programs.

Last month, when executives for the company attended the MIPCOM industry trade show in France they saw a dramatic shift in demand for new series, Murphy said.

"We witnessed a whole slew of new buyers from subscription video-on-demand companies around the world who are buying library content," he said.

"Increasingly they're looking for original shows that live solely on this non-linear platform."

Corus hopes to capitalize on the interest by shopping around for a Canadian production company that has a library of unscripted content that's up for grabs.

Aside from its radio stations, cable channels and reality shows, Corus owns animation house Nelvana, but has mostly stayed away from making shows skewed towards more adult audiences.

On Tuesday, the company announced plans for five new series, which included home-renovation series "Mad House" and food competition show "Restaurant Revolution."

While the shows are still in the development stage, the company intends to air them on its cable channels, including W Network, CMT, the Canadian version of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, CosmoTV and ABC Spark.

With more control over the release platforms,Corus can make money from TV airings before rolling out the shows on various on-demand services that will "maximize revenues and drive ratings by following our audiences wherever they want to go," Murphy said.

Two other Corus series are already in production, game show "Cash Mob" and snake-wrangler reality series "Mississippi Snake Grabbers."

The company plans to stay within the realm of reality TV, which can be made on a smaller budget "on par with what we're comfortable with in our kids animation business," Murphy said.

Nelvana hopes to add 125 to 150 episodes each year to its library of 4,200 episodes of animated and children's programs.

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