The real reason behind the sudden executive purge at CTV

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In the past few weeks, incoming Bell Media president Wade Oosterman cleaned house after the departure of Randy Lennox.

Among those shown the door were most of CTV’s senior programming and communications execs including Mike Cosentino (president, content and programing), Tracey Pearce (president, distribution and pay), Corrie Coe (senior vice-president, original programing), Nanci MacLean (vice-president, Bell Media Studios and president, Pinewood Toronto Studios), Scott Henderson (vice-president, communications) and Kevin Goldstein (vice-president, regulatory affairs.)

That group was followed last week by Lis Travers (vice-president, CTV News Channel and CTV News.ca), Anton Koschany (executive producer of W5 and the elections unit), Grant Ellis (general manager, BNN Bloomberg) and Edwina Follows (general manager, Discovery Channel.)

All of the aforementioned are highly respected and accomplished broadcasters.

Meanwhile, others within the organization had their roles reduced. Wendy Freeman, for example, once president of CTV News, is now vice-president of news.

Their departures will trim millions from the balance sheet, but that’s not the only reason behind the cuts. In Bell’s words: “Any changes in roles would reflect our strategy to make Bell Media easier to work with while driving content and platform innovation.”

So what is Bell’s strategy?

Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, and Oosterman, also vice-chair for BCE and Bell, have apparently decided broadcasting has a limited and decidedly less profitable future.

When George Cope took over as CEO of Bell in 2005, wire line revenues (home and business phones, pay phones) accounted for nearly 40 per cent of Bell revenue. Cope recognized Bell was a rapidly declining business and urgently needed to restructure and shift to more profitable markets.

So he proceeded to sink billions of dollars into cell networks, fibre connectivity, internet services and bought content (CTV) to drive sales of TV and mobile subscriptions.

Last time I checked, wire lines amounted to just five per cent of Bell’s revenue while mobility, internet and TV subscriptions made up the majority of the rest.

Bell’s strategy has always included a regular culling of the herd and shuttering business units that don’t produce a healthy return on investment. In the past 20 years, television and newspapers have taken a bath on advertising revenue, thanks largely to Google and Facebook.

It appears Bell has decided that online subscriptions — not broadcasting — are where the eyeballs and bucks are heading. As a result, local news, sadly, has become a ghost of its former self.