Thursday, March 12, 2009

Je me souveins: Obit TV

The cost of printed obituaries is skyrocketing, newspapers in major markets are being abandoned, and obituaries are even being prepared for both newspapers and broadcast television. So, how can we keep our death news and revitalize TV? Montreal entrepreneur Gerald Dominique has an idea, the obituary channel. Germany already has a death oriented television channel, and if Dominique's plan works out, Canada may be next.

There are certainly many options for listing obituaries local funeral home sites, as well as national and worldwide sites like , Legacy.comMaking Everlasting Memories, andIn Loving Memory, but the real draw for obituaries is a local and immediate one. We want to know who in our own community has passed away, and when the services will be held- no matter which funeral home is serving the family. The old joke of years past of reading the obituaries in the paper to see if we are still alive may no longer make sense to a new generation who will turn on the TV to see if they are still on the right side of the ground (do you realize how hard it is to convince someone born after 1980 that TV wasn't always in color and we used to get up to turn the channel to one of the other two choices?).

Here is an excerpt from an article on CTV:
MONTREAL — A Quebec entrepreneur is planning to bring obituaries out of the back pages of newspapers to a new home on the small screen.  Gerald Dominique hopes "Je me souviens" -- a niche network dedicated to broadcasting digital obituaries -- will be ready to begin broadcasting by the summer.  The French-language speciality channel will charge a fee to broadcast obituaries, prayers, hospitalization notices and messages of thanks.  The Quebec entrepreneur obtained a licence in February from the CRTC and has designs on expanding the channel to the rest of the country, under the moniker "Remember the Name."  "The goal of this channel is to tell stories," Dominique said in an interview with The Canadian Press.  "How many stories are lost all over the world each year -- great stories about people's lives -- those are the stories we hope to tell."

Dominique said he'd often hear about people passing away but that the information would be fragmented or cursory.  "There is always the exchange of information (among friends and family) , but it never makes it into the paper which offers only one dimension of the story and it costs a fortune," Dominique said.  "I felt the need to do more."

Dominique said the TV obits will include sound, music, photos, video, text and testimonials and will cost about the same as a newspaper obit.  Eventually, there will also be obits and memorials for more famous personalities, including political figures and celebrities.  Dominique estimates there are about 56,000 deaths yearly in Quebec, and even a fraction of those stories could provide the revenue he needs.

Obituary television is relatively new.

Etos TV, one of the world's first television networks devoted to death, launched last year inGermany with quite a bit of fanfare.  That network shows pictures and video clips of the deceased for a fee and broadcasts documentaries on related topics. It is backed by an association that represents German funeral directors.

Dominique, 44, who describes himself as a self-educated entrepreneur, is firming up plans for the launch.  He doesn't have the same type of financial backing yet as the Germans do, and Dominique acknowledges he will need some assistance.

"Certainly I'd like to have some help -- I'm not sure what kind -- but I would need some help," Dominique said. "But if the planets align, I should be on the air in July."

for the full article, visit CTV News at

Gerald Dominique

From The Montreal Gazette:

Dominique, who works as a web designer and consultant, noted the idea of putting obituaries on television came after he attended several funerals over the years that left him longing for more. With his channel, Dominique wants to give family and friends an opportunity to broadcast more information about their deceased loved ones — for an undisclosed amount of money.

David Foot, a University of Toronto economics professor and author of Boom, Bust and Echo, noted baby boomers, who are the largest demographic group in Canada, have a big influence on the funeral services market. "The baby boomers are dealing with their aging parents. So this is targeting the boomers for their parents funerals and their parents' friends funerals," he said.  Foot also noted that people in their 70s and 80s are also likely to watch a channel such as that because they watch more television the older they get.  "What I don't know is the psychological impact of something like this. Are people going to find it morbid or respectful?"

 Nathalie Samson, secretary general of the Quebec Corporation of Funeral Directors, shares the same concern.  "It would have to be done in a very tasteful way," she said. "But it could be a good idea because we see more and more tribute videos and photographs at funeral homes and on YouTube," Samson pointed out.  Trends regarding the funeral industry in Canada show families are seeking personalized and meaningful ceremonies that celebrate the life of the deceased, she noted. Her association, as well as the Quebec Cooperative of Funeral Homes, have not been contacted by Dominique about the TV obituary project.

 Dominique said he talked to a few funeral home owners who "really liked the idea".  "I think there is definitely a market for this. Funeral homes and related services don't have anywhere to advertise," he said, noting that it represents a market of $320 million a year in Quebec.  Viewers who tune into Je me souviens would also see documentaries on the life of popular or important individuals.

"My goal is that no death goes unnoticed," Dominique said.

For this full article, visit the Montreal Gazette at

1 comment:

Patrick McNally said...

Already, the obit channel has been recognized by our culture's true arbiters, the comedians.
Here, via The National Post:

"The Toronto Maple Leafs have inked a deal to have their playoff games broadcast on the new Obituary Channel." -- Comedian Torben Rolfsen, on the Web site of Vancouver's The Province.

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