As CBC executives outlined their plans to begin “repositioning” the network last week, owners and executives at the rival CTV Television Network Ltd. were mulling over some unexpected repositioning within their own ranks. Toronto-based Baton Broadcasting Inc., the largest of the eight corporate partners that own the network, announced that it had acquired—subject to regulatory approval—two independent television stations in southwestern Ontario owned by the London-based Blackburn family.
Baton’s action took place just two months after it purchased the national telecast rights to the lucrative Toronto Blue Jays baseball games and in the same month as it bought several top-rated U.S. television shows, including Murphy Brown and Knots
Landing, that had been controlled by the network. And the purchase sparked renewed speculation that the company is planning to leave CTV to establish a competing network. Declared William McGregor, vice-president of Electrohome Ltd., a CTV affiliate and owner with stations in Kitchener, Ont., and Edmonton: “Every move they make suggests the possibility of them leaving CTV.”
But both Baton president Douglas Bassett and CTV president John Cassaday insisted that the network will remain intact. Last week’s deal “doesn’t change a thing,” said Bassett. Still, he also complained that CTV was not paying enough for airtime on his stations and those of other affiliates, and he made it clear that his company may make other purchases. Added Bassett: “We’d be interested in looking at any other opportunities for acquisitions as long as they are in television.”
For his part, Cassaday said that any speculation about a new Baton-controlled network was unfounded. “Mr. Bassett has been very vocal about his commitment to the network,” said
Cassaday. Since joining the network in February, 1990, Cassaday, 39, has been trying to revamp CTV’S corporate structure in an effort to quell persistent feuding between Baton and the other partners. Baton, which is 52-per-cent owned by Toronto’s Eaton family, is the largest of the eight, owning 11 of the network’s 25 member stations. But it has only a single vote on CTV’s board of directors, as do even the smallest partners. Bassett has repeatedly tried to arrange a structure that would ensure Baton control of the network.
In February, Cassaday convinced the partners to agree to a new arrangement that would have left Baton as a simple affiliate, running network programs on its stations for a fee. But that agreement collapsed last month. Bassett’s moves since then indicate that the repositioning at Canada’s second-largest television network is far from over.
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