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ABC nabs CTV’s ‘Shirley’ for vacated ‘Home’

It’s taken five years, but ABC has finally signaled the end of its daytime ratings loser “Home” and instead will program the 11 a.m. hour with “Shirley,” Canada’s highest-rated talkshow.

ABC will shelve “Home” on April 9 to make room for the audience-participation talkshow.

According to Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin, senior VP of daytime programs for ABC, the talkshow should perform better with ABC’s affiliates because many are airing talkers as a lead-in to “Home.”

“‘Home’ just wasn’t attracting a large enough audience,” Dwyer-Dobbin said. “We think ‘Shirley’ has a much broader appeal, ‘Home’ was much more targeted.

“Home” was launched on the network in January 1988. Despite changes in hosts and format, “Home” never really caught on with viewers. Moreover, it airs against CBS’ powerhouse gameshow “The Price Is Right.”

Indeed, station clearances for “Home” were at about 77% of the country. In the following half-hour, ABC’s soap “Loving” is cleared in 88% of the country, while the rest of the network’s daytime schedule is aired on virtually all of its affiliates.

For a while there had been discussions at ABC about the potential of programming the slot with a soap. However, those plans are on hold for the time being.

Dwyer-Dobbin confirmed those talks, but added that the network was committed to “Shirley.” She declined to discuss the length of the agreement.

“We’re giving it an extensive commitment,” she said. “We hope that ‘Shirley’ will work but we don’t rule anything out.”

The ABC purchase of “Shirley” is the first foreign sale of the one-hour, participatory talkshow for private Canadian network CTV. U.S. distrib is D.L. Taffner.

Arthur Weinthal, CTV’s VP of entertainment programming, says with the momentum from the U.S. sale, CTV hopes also to snag buyers in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

Weinthal tags it the biggest sale ever of a Canadian-produced show. He says ABC has committed to more than 200 hours. He also cites it as the first Canadian-produced series to be purchased by one of the three major U.S. nets for their regular daytime schedule.

He says while ABC will be launching a personality who’s new to the U.S. marketplace, the American web is getting a show that already has proven it can sustain audiences. Over the last 3 1/2 seasons, host Shirley Solomon has become a familiar face on Canadian daytime TV. And the show has continued to build audiences since it went on air in the fall of 1989. Last season, audience share for viewers 25-54 increased by 47% from the previous year, per A.C. Nielsen data.

Dwyer-Dobbin agrees. “The program is something that can fit our needs and is something we don’t have to break in.”

The show, which is produced by Toronto-based Adderly Prods., will continue to be produced out of its downtown Toronto studio. “The show’s roots will not be disturbed,” says Weinthal. “The qualities that have made ‘Shirley’ successful are what attracted ABC to the show in the first place, and maintaining these roots is crucial to its continued success.”

In the weekly daytime race, ABC is second in household ratings to CBS, though in the key 18-49 women demographic ABC is first. According to Dwyer-Dobbin, the goal is to strengthen the rest of its daytime schedule–“Loving””All My Children ,””One Life to Live” and “General Hospital.”

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