3 min

SexTV axed after decade-long shuffle between broadcast companies

'Mainstream media is squeamish about anything to do with sex': BC sex party leader

SQUEAMISH ABOUT SEX. 'SexTV had no audience,' says Corus Entertainment Inc, which will replace the channel with W Movies, a film-focused vehicle. But local sex advocates say television has become too conservative and risk-averse. Credit: Television copyright 2010 Jupiter Images Corp; Logo courtesy of CTV Globe Media

After a decade-long shuffle between broadcast companies, a well-known sex-focused television channel will be rebranded this spring in an attempt to attract a “broader audience.”

SexTV: The Channel, owned by Canadian broadcast company Corus Entertainment Inc, will be replaced by W Movies, a film-focused sister channel of W Network starting March, says a spokesperson for the company.

“Launching March 1, 2010, W Movies will be the latest addition to Corus Entertainment’s portfolio of women-focused services. The channel will be a rebranding of SexTV and the programming will shift to focus on offering audiences entertaining, relationship-based films targeted to women,” Corus explained in a written statement.

“Based on research, the service will reflect a growing demand for movie channels that will benefit from a broader distribution and, as a result of the programming focus, a broader audience than SexTV was able to achieve.”

“SexTV had no audience,” a company spokesperson added.

The channel’s programs included the Sex Files, reruns of the Sunday Night Sex Show with Sue Johanson, the gay travelogue, Pink Planet and retro late-night soft-core blue movies. It was internationally syndicated, available on digital and satellite television and branded itself as a channel for “real stories about life and sex.”

SexTV: The Channel began in 2001 when CHUM, which owned CityTV at the time, was given approval from the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) to launch the channel as part of specialty programming designed to be “devoted exclusively to programming related to love, romance, marriage, relationship-themed game shows, sexuality and gender issues, family planning, relationship breakdown and magazine-style programming featuring romantic vacation resorts.”

In July 2006, CTV Globemedia (formerly Bell Globemedia) purchased CHUM for an estimated $1.7 billion. Last July, CTV sold SexTV for $16 million  along with a channel known as Drive In Classics for $24 million, according to CRTC records. CRTC approved the sale in November 2009.

The CRTC approved the licence transfer from CTV to Corus last November under the same terms and conditions as when it was launched.

The licence will be up for review Aug 31, 2010, the CRTC confirms.

In their report, the CRTC also expressed “general concern” regarding the quick transfer of a broadcast licence in the middle of a licence term and noted that an “examination” into why the licence has been consecutively transferred between broadcast companies in a relatively short time frame would be conducted.

SexTV had an operating income of $868,000 on $3.5 million revenue in 2008, according to CRTC financial statements.

“It was a good transaction for both companies,” says CTV Globemedia spokesperson Bonnie Brownlee, who wouldn’t comment further. 

But while terminating SexTV may make for a good business move, local sex advocates say the lack of sex-positive media reflects society’s rigid views of sex and television networks’ fear of taking economic risks.

“There isn’t a lot of sex journalism anywhere,” says John Ince, leader of the BC Sex Party. “The mainstream media is squeamish about anything to do with sex,” he explains. “[But] it’s not so much about the loss of a niche program [SexTV] that is the big issue here,” explains Ince. “The issue is why is the mainstream media not having any regular beats [about sex-positive issues]?”

“Television [has become] too conservative,” agrees David Paperny, executive producer of the Vancouver-based SM television series KINK. “There’s less diversity of voices on TV than there was five or 10 years ago,” he adds. “I’m finding that broadcasters don’t want as much sex. They don’t want to push the envelope,” he explains. “It’s disappointing that television media has become so frightened and worried about rocking the boat. It sucks!” he says.

Paperny blames a failing economy for the fear television networks have of “putting their asses on the line,” and says broadcast companies are taking fewer risks with what they air because of the looming threat to sponsorship and advertising revenue. Also, while video may have killed the radio star, the internet has potentially maimed the tube, explains Paperny. “We’re doing sex on the web, so fuck the television,” he says, adding that his future sex-focused programs will be offered only online.

Meanwhile, Corus says they do and will continue to offer sex-focused programming through their Cosmo TV channel.