Fuel the Fire TV expanding to the US market

Fuel the Fire TV will have 13 episodes of the show airing for US audiences over the next few months. In photo is host of the show Neil Debassige and pro staff member Aaron Case.

MANITOULIN – Fuel the Fire Television (FTFTV) productions will be expanding its market area and in turn promoting the Manitoulin Island area by having 13 episodes of the show running in the United States (US) for audiences there, over the next few months.

“One of our goals is to expand our brand and grow our viewership and promote and highlight Manitoulin Island,” said Neil Debassige of M’Chigeeng, producer/host of Fuel the Fire TV on Manitoulin Island. “We will have a total of 13 episodes airing on television in the US.”

Mr. Debassige explained, “The World Fishing Network is owned by the Outdoor Sportsman Group in the United States which also runs the Outdoor Channel in the U.S. and The Sportsman Channel Canada here.”

“Our partnership with them has opened the opportunity to grow the brand of FTFTV and bring our program to a larger audience: that being the captive TV market in the US,” said Mr. Debassige. “What many people don’t know about the outdoor networks is that they are pay for play, not pay to play. That means that we secure our broadcasting contracts through a production company, which in our case is Fuel the Fire TV Productions Inc. We produce the program on our own finances, and we generate revenue through advertising. We secure advertising minutes and approach interested companies looking to grow their own brand through advertising.”

“Being a small Manitoulin business in an ultra-competitive market has its challenges. For instance, we want to showcase what the island has to offer on an international stage but realize the budgets are strapped and times are tough all around,” continued Mr. Debassige.

“When we started, we wanted to spread out and make ourselves known in fishing, hunting, outdoor sports,” said Mr. Debassige. “And we wanted to prove our brand could be around for more than one or two seasons,” he said, noting that many similar shows cancel after a short period of time. I don’t think everyone realizes how expensive it is to put something like our show on television.” 

“One of the ways we got around a lot of the costs of hosting a show on television is that I did most of the editing for the first four years of the show, and part of our production team did the fine tuning and technical work on the show,” continued Mr. Debassige. 

“Ultimately, the original goal of the FTFTV brand is to get more people outdoors,” said Mr. Debassige. “We want to fuel the connection to the environment, to food security, and to conservation. Bringing attention to Manitoulin as a destination is an added bonus as really, our main industry is tourism and we have a lot to offer.”

“Now that we have five FTFTV seasons and 65 episodes under our belt, we are ready to take a leap into the US market on a trial basis. Sportsman Channel Canada is always looking for more Canadian content to meet their broadcasting goals and have encouraged us to consider an FTFTV Fishing Series,” said Mr. Debassige. He explained, “they are branding this series as new to the US market, therefore allowing us to air reconfigured episodes on a trial basis in the US. We have 13 episodes lined up and being edited through our contract with a new Manitoulin business, Zig Zag Media, owned by Jonathan Zagula of Kagawong.” 

“Mr. Zagula has several years in the film industry, working with Weengushk Film Institute in M’Chigeeng and was also employed to help with season five of FTFTV. The partnership is a win-win scenario for Mr. Zagula, who has always had a passion for the outdoors that was only heightened after moving to Manitoulin Island,” said Mr. Debassige.

“We are excited in this new venture and looking to highlight the skills of existing pro staff members like Aaron Case of Ontario Fishing Guys and Luke Wassegijig of Wass Tours in Wiikwemkoong,” said Mr. Debassige. “Existing partnerships with business owners like Arthur Trudeau of Mukwa Adventures in Sagamok and representative companies like Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Manitoulin Streams, and Destination Manitoulin will also be highlighted.”

All 13 episodes originally aired on season one of FTFTV and will air weekly on Monday evenings in the US. This series began on December 27 and runs until April 21. The fishing being featured takes place almost all exclusively on Manitoulin Island and the North Channel, and FTFTV joins forces to present episodes titled Wikwemikong Manitoulin Ice Derby, the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic, back country large-mouth bass fishing, hard water walleye adventure, offshore Florida fishing with Bolo, chasing chinooks, Manitoulin multi-species, 3 captains-2 fish, fresh-water salmon, Manitoulin Island ice showdown, Lake Mindemoya fishing, and fishing with friends. 

“If the program is well received, we will be looking to branch out and help bring other local tourism destinations to a bigger stage and help grow their business. We are always looking for new and exciting partnerships,” added Mr. Debassige.