Vertically Integrated Studies

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In Fall 2012, I took CC 8844: Intro to Broadcast Management (Managing In The New Broadcast World) with Doug Barrett. While not an out-of-program course, its home is the Schulich School of Business’ MBA program — so not the standard ComCult course. My aim was two-fold, add a course with a strong, practical component to my MA and provide an increased holistic understanding of the Canadian telecommunications market. It has been one of the best courses in my program and fully achieved both goals.

Going into the course, I knew that I had a strong foundation in the carriage-side of things but I really wanted to ensure that I had a strong grasp on the content-side. Most other students (from the MBA program) had a content background (work with production companies, reporter for a major newspaper, etc), so I was able to effectively provide some technical input when we discussed topics like OTT services. I also was able to provide a pretty detailed response as to why moving to completely wireless home connectivity was unlikely with current infrastructure/business models.

While carriage was confirmed, I was happily surprised to see that I already possessed a pretty strong understanding of the content side of telecoms in the North American market. My voracious feed-reading habits (going to miss you, Google Reader!) include a number of content-specific sites (like paidContent) and a lot of cross-over from more carriage-focused feeds. But the course further increased my knowledge in a number of areas, especially in terms of Canadian-specific production issues such as funding and tax credits, indie producers, etc.

The course structure had numerous guest lectures from across industry (independent production CEO, former CRTC Director, broadcasting executive, etc). The guest lectures were topped off with a meeting with at CBC HQ with Hubert Lacroix, President & CEO of CBC, which was fascinating to receive such an insider perspective of one of the most important Canadian institutions. In addition, one of the course assignments was interviewing an industry executive. The opportunity to meet twice with Corrie Coe, SVP Independent Production, Bell Media was excellent both for her insight of Bell and speaking with an executive of her stature. The “real world” component that the guest lecturers offered definitely contributed to my enjoyment of the course.

One of my challenges for the course was how to write about telecom issues in a broadcasting course. The track I took was looking into how the possibility of full foreign-ownership liberalization of telecommunication carriers (whether telecos or cablecos) might impact the Canadian market, since we have so much vertical integration. I think Canada is closer to allowing for foreign ownership of carriers but seems to be a lot less political will and public desire for fully opening the broadcasting sector.

The below chart is taken from my term paper, which I think highlights that content ownership is really about driving carriage provision. Corrie Coe’s comments about corporate culture upon BCE’s re-acquisition of CTV assets also contributed to this thinking. While not important for the paper, this chart also highlights just how important wireline (tv, telephone, internet) is to the industry, even if traditional voice-services are declining.

CC8844_ 2011 Revenues of Major Canadian Telecommunications Providers

+… Data compiled from companies 2011 Annual Reports; data does not include inter-segment eliminations
* BCE revenues includes Bell Aliant in Wireline
** Shaw revenues include Corus in Media; Satellite distribution in Wireline

Overall, an excellent course and one I’d recommend to any ComCulter that is looking at working in broadcasting or film/TV. And as most analyst opportunities in Canada tend to cover both carriage and content, it was a great fit for me too.