Canadian Magazine Industry News
14 December 2012,     TORONTO
Q&A: Al Zikovitz on Blue Ant Media's acquisition of Cottage Life Media
Al Zikovitz
Al Zikovitz
Last week, we reported that Blue Ant Media had acquired Cottage Life Media and its consumer publications and websites Cottage Life, Cottage, Outdoor Canada and Canadian Home Workshop, along with Cottage Life Media books, custom mags, apps and consumer shows. For more on this development, we spoke with Cottage Life Media president and chief executive officer Al Zikovitz.

Masthead: What does this deal mean for you, Al? Are you staying on at Cottage Life Media?

Al Zikovitz: Of course, very much so.

And you're planning to stay on there for the foreseeable future?

Yes, I have a 5.5-year contract to stay here. I'm going to carry on doing what I've always done and I carry on as president and CEO of Cottage Life Media.

Tell us a bit about how the deal went down.

Blue Ant owned 15% of Cottage Life Media back in July of last year. As of Dec. 1, they own 100%. We announced it to our staff here [two weeks ago] and to Blue Ant's staff on Wednesday [last week]. We just couldn't get all the right people together at the same time to make the announcement, so we said nothing to the public until we let the Blue Ant staff know first.

Is staff remaining the same, or can we anticipate some shuffling?

No, everything just carries on the way it was, but some of the departments will be working much closer together now—I know we'll be working closer together with their digital team. We'll use the strengths of both departments to move forward. Everybody's job title is staying the same.

What new developments does this lead to?

It's no secret. We want to launch a Cottage Life television channel in September. I think advertisers—and readers—are using multimedia and demanding multimedia a lot more for their information, and to get their messages out there. I think we're at the forefront in that we will be able to offer all of that starting next year. For any advertiser who wants to make a serious impact to this market, with one buy they can reach this market through television, web, social media, magazines, consumer shows. You name it, we can do it for them.

We had produced our own television shows before, and we realized television does play an important role in communications with the public. And now we have the wonderful opportunity to bring that back again and control it ourselves. We did that for 13 years. We had Cottage Life television, Summer's Best Television, World of Wakeboarding Television. We produced all of them in-house ourselves and sold them, and then we pulled out because there was a point when we had trouble controlling our own content. But now we can control our own content.

Will the new channel's content be very similar to what you were doing before?

The content will be the sort of content that cottagers can relate to. We'll be producing some of our own shows, but we'll be buying a lot of shows as well. There could be barbecuing shows, cooking shows, entertaining shows, renovation shows, real estate shows. Plus we bought Cottage magazine out west a month ago, and so the television channel's content will be national right across Canada.

Do you have a launch date set?

We expect it to be launched on Sept. 13 of next year.

Who's in charge of the channel?

Blue Ant is in charge of the channel. They own seven other channels right now—it's a young company [started in 2011] by Michael MacMillan, who was the founder and CEO of Alliance Atlantis. He sold that one [in 2007] and now he's president and CEO of Blue Ant. I've known Michael for a good 15 years, and we both have the same vision. So it's working perfectly. It's an ideal marriage for us.

Will this be an entirely new channel, or will Blue Ant be rebranding one of its seven channels?

I'm not sure what I can say about that. They will not be rebranding one of their other channels, nor will it be a brand new channel. You're going to have to read between the lines, I'm afraid.

Gotcha. What has the response been from advertisers?

They don't call me direct, but I've heard from a couple of them saying 'congratulations, what a great idea and we love it.' There has not been one negative comment. Advertisers are really looking for something more than just an ad, and we now have that ability to offer them a lot more. Blue Ant is really strong in digital and social media. We do it quite well already ourselves, but I think combined, we've got a powerhouse going here.

We're still trying to pull it all together and we don't have all the answers yet, but we're working on it. There's a wonderful opportunity for cross-platform promotion within ourselves [for our own properties], as well. I'm having trouble finding a negative about all this. It's all working beautifully for us right now.
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