Toronto has always had a love affair with labels. What can you expect from the town that seized upon the idea of “no name” and turned it into a brand? Through our obsession runs the secret paranoia that our local product names just don’t cut the Heinz mustard compared to those from south of the border: while we stockpile President’s Choice Cola in our basements and slink into Mark’s Work Wearhouse under cover of darkness, publicly we storm the gates of American Apparel by the thousands, leaving a sea of emptied Pepsi cans in our wake. And though we may silently subscribe to Canada’s The Movie Network, we have always loudly coveted America’s HBO. Now, finally, thanks to the upcoming launch of HBO Canada on October 30, Torontonians are finally getting a movie channel that it will be cool to be seen watching. Even if the “new” channel is, in reality, simply PC Cola packaged in a Pepsi can.
Torontonians are not alone in salivating over the promise of this forthcoming network—our whole country suffers from a label fetish. “Canadians see great value in HBO’s distinctive brand,” says Paul Robertson of Corus Entertainment, the company that, together with Astral Media, will be presenting the new network. “It is very exciting to be able to deliver a robust inventory of HBO programming under an HBO-branded destination,” chimes in Charles Schreger, President of Programming Sales at HBO. The message is clear: Canadians need this new channel. Blinded by this need and the sleek name of HBO, it’s easy to forget that this “robust inventory” has already been available in Canada for years.
HBO Canada will be home to such shows as Curb Your Enthusiasm, True Blood, Big Love, Entourage, and In Treatment, all currently available on Astral’s TMN and Corus’ Movie Central. Subscribers to these channels will receive HBO Canada for free—only fair, considering it will, in effect, render these home-grown stations redundant. No longer need Canuck viewers feel like imposters, turning down the sound as the static-coloured logo that graces all HBO programming etches itself onto charlatan networks. Canadians may now feel free to crank up the volume, announcing to their neighbours that HBO is in the house!
The “previously unavailable” content that HBO Canada will be offering—mainly comedy shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher and Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger—will now also be available on demand on TMN and Movie Central for the first time. But why watch them there when you can see them on a new channel with a much sexier name? HBO Canada will also be earning its maple leaf by borrowing some of TMN’s Canadian series such as Durham County and Terminal City. Bad news for TMN, but good news for these award-winning shows—an “HBO branded destination” will surely mean a spike in their ratings, as viewers accidentally mistake them for American products and eagerly tune in.
Images courtesy of D. Cohen and HBO.