CTV, CanWest, Chum spend coin at Screenings

When it comes to the L.A. Screenings, you can count on the Canadians.

The Canucks, the only buyers who do all of their U.S. program shopping at the market, sealed a flurry of deals worth upwards of $200 million on the final weekend of the 12-day confab, which runs through Thursday.

“I think everybody got what they wanted,” said Susanne Boyce, senior VP of programming for CTV. Boyce’s team managed to bag the much-sought-after new skein “The Fugitive,” which boasts the creative team from both the original series and the movie.

CTV, which owns the rights to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” will come back with four nights a week of the phenomenally successful gamer. The strength of “Millionaire” and the rest of the lineup, which includes “E.R.” and “Ally McBeal,” took some pressure off the new series, Boyce said, so the net went down there needing only a couple of new shows.

Can do demos

CanWest Global is meeting the “Millionaire” challenge with an aggressive strategy that includes theme nights, big names and targeting a younger demographic. CanWest national VP of programming Doug Hoover came back from his shopping spree with plenty of big-name projects for the small screen, including David E. Kelley’s latest, “Boston Public”; James Cameron’s “Dark Angel”; Dick Wolf’s “Deadline”; “The Bette Show,” from Columbia TriStar; and “Don’t Ask,” a Carsey-Werner comedy that Global picked up on the strength of its star, “Roseanne” veteran John Goodman.

The web sees the older demographic that’s been spotted following “Millionaire” as CTV’s Achilles heel. “Our way of competing with that is to go with a much younger demographic,” skewing for auds 18-49, Hoover said. “When everybody else zigs, zag.”

Part of that strategy, he says, is to schedule theme nights. The skeds aren’t locked in yet, but at this point, Tuesday and Thursday are all comedy nights and Friday is fright night, with “Fearsum” — a high-tech sci-fi offering from the makers of “Blair Witch” — and the horror offering “Night Vision.”

Chum change

For its part, Toronto-based Chum Television was “just down here primarily trying to hold our own, not lose any of our shows and stay out of the line of fire between CanWest and CTV,” said Jay Switzer, Chum Television’s senior VP of programming. The Chum TV group was able to hold onto its successful “Buffy” and “Angel” shows, Switzer said, and bring home “Roswell,” which it tried for, unsuccessfully, last year.

Although the group, which owns City-TV and other affiliates, does not usually focus on half-hour shows, it picked up the Aaron Spelling sendup “Grosse Pointe.” Chum Television also bought “Level 9,” from Paramount.

Winnipeg-based CanWest is on the cusp of taking over the conventional TV assets of Vancouver-based WIC Western Intl. Communications, but until it gets the go-ahead from Canuck regulators, the two must work separately. “We’re in a trust situation,” noted prexy and CEO Art Reitmayer, “which makes life a little more interesting.” WIC has a lot of returning shows, he noted, so it was looking for a few new programs to flesh out holes in the sked, which is still being assembled. WIC picked up a number of comedies, including the CBS Monday night offering “Yes Dear,” NBC’s “DAG,” Touchstone’s “Geena” and “Welcome to New York” from CBS.

More and more shows are turning up at the screenings without a pilot, Hoover noted. They’re offered and sold, instead, on the strength of the names behind them and a demo or script. “They’re starting to do that more with big-name producers,” Hoover said. “Knowing the quality is going to be there, it’s a matter of timing more than anything else.” That was the case with “Boston Public,” which came with just a script, as well as “Deadline,” which appeared with just a demo reel. “There’s talk of them doing fewer and fewer pilots and more presentation tapes,” he said.

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