Bell Media Announces Commencement of the Bell Benefits

Bell Media Announces Commencement of the Bell Benefits as Key Canadian Programs Re-Ordered

- Bell Media orders new seasons of FLASHPOINT, THE LISTENER and THE BORGIAS for 2011/12 -

- Erica Durance cast in pilot for SAVING HOPE, which begins production along with fellow pilot STAY WITH ME -

- CTV orders Paul Gross project THE HORSES OF MCBRIDE -

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TORONTO, June 1, 2011 /CNW/ - Bell Media announced today the commencement of the Bell Benefits, as the company begins its search for the next great Canadian TV program or series. The announcement comes as CTV also independently orders new seasons of three scripted original series, as well as a new original movie, for 2011/12. Additionally, Bell Media announced the start of production on two previously announced pilots for the network, SAVING HOPE and STAY WITH ME.

The Bell Benefits is the $100 million programming investment in programs of national interest, resulting from BCE's purchase of CTV. In addition to its ongoing commitment to original production, Bell Media is now receiving pitches for Canadian scripted drama and comedy, as well as documentaries and Canadian award shows, to be supported by the Bell Benefits and produced by Canadian independent producers.

"We're open for business," said Corrie Coe, Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. "With the evolution of the Bell transaction over the past nine months finally complete, we are now in a position to begin moving forward with these tangible benefits and, in conjunction with our normal commitments and expenditures on Canadian programming, re-invigorating our independent production strategy."

** Media Note ** Download photos from Bell Media's original programming at bellmediapr.ca

Independent of the Bell Benefits, Bell Media also confirms today the order of new seasons from some of its current crop of homegrown hits.

The network has ordered 18 new hours (Season 5) of its hit drama FLASHPOINT. Canada's most-watched drama series aired in prime Tuesday and Friday non-simulcast timeslots this past Fall and Winter, averaging more than 1.5 million viewers. The order will bring the total number of episodes for the drama to 80, making it one of the longest-running original scripted series currently on Canadian television. The fourth season of FLASHPOINT premieres this Summer on CTV and will have a prominent place on CTV's fall schedule, to be announced tomorrow.

CTV has also ordered a third season of 13 episodes of THE LISTENER. One of the few scripted Canadian series to average more than one million viewers each week, THE LISTENER showed double-digit growth in its second season, up 17% among total viewers and a remarkable 47% among males 18-34.

Based on its record-breaking success on Bravo!, CTV has also ordered a second season of scandal and intrigue from THE BORGIAS, before its world network television debut on CTV on Tuesday, July 5 at 10 p.m. ET. The second, 10-episode season of the Canada/Hungary/Ireland co-production is scheduled to premiere in 2012 on CTV and Bravo!.

Also ordered for 2011/12 is the new original Canadian movie, THE HORSES OF McBRIDE. Based on a true story and in collaboration with Canadian icon Paul Gross, THE HORSES OF McBRIDE follows a father and daughter who inspire a community to save two horses trapped on a snowy B.C. mountainside and rediscover their love for a vanishing way of life in the process. Written and directed by Anne Wheeler (ENDGAME, THIS IS WONDERLAND), the movie is scheduled to begin production in early 2012.

As well, CTV announced today that previously announced pilots SAVING HOPE and STAY WITH ME will begin production in Toronto on June 22, 2011 and July 18, 2011, respectively.

Erica Durance (SMALLVILLE) will star in the pilot for SAVING HOPE, a sexy, fast-paced drama set in a Toronto hospital and produced by acclaimed Gemini award-winning producer Ilana Frank (THE ELEVENTH HOUR, OF MURDER AND MEMORY, ROOKIE BLUE) and written by Morwyn Brebner (ROOKIE BLUE).

In STAY WITH ME, from the celebrated Gemini award-winning writing and producing team Suzette Couture and Pierre Sarrazin (HAVEN, CHOICE: THE HENRY MORTGENTALER STORY), an at-home mother turned lawyer uses her wit and maternal intuition to find justice for her clients.

Today's announcement comes as CTV launches a Summer schedule highlighted by new seasons of additional hit original programs HICCUPS (May 30), COMEDY NOW! (June 4), DAN FOR MAYOR (June 5), and SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE CANADA (June 20).

Independently produced series ordered so far on Bell Media's specialty properties are new scripted drama HIGHLAND GARDENS (working title, 6 x 60 minutes, MuchMusic/ MuchMore) and the PYTHONesque animation and sketch comedy PICNICFACE (13 x 30 minutes, The Comedy Network). New orders for returning scripted series include international phenomenon DEGRASSI (Season 12; 40 x 30 minutes, MuchMusic), horror-comedy series TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL (Season 2, 13 x 30 minutes, SPACE), and cult-hit genre series SANCTUARY (Season 4, 13 x 60 minutes, SPACE).

About Bell Media

Bell Media is Canada's premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio and digital. With passion and an unrelenting commitment to excellence, Bell Media entertains, informs and inspires Canadians. Bell Media owns 28 conventional stations, including CTV, Canada's #1 television network and lead broadcaster of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and owns and operates 29 specialty channels, including TSN, Canada's #1 specialty channel and RDS, Canada's #1 French-language specialty channel. Bell Media also owns 33 radio stations, dozens of websites including the Sympatico.ca portal, and Dome Productions. Bell Media is owned by BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE), Canada's largest communications company. For more on Bell Media, please visit www.bellmedia.ca.

Source: BBM Canada, Audiences prior to Aug 31, 2009 based on BBM Nielsen Media Research Mark II meters.

For further information:

Jim Quan, 416.384.5311 or jim.quan@bellmedia.ca, or
Allie Page, 416.384.4596 or allie.page@bellmedia.ca