Chum, CanWest Global buy aggressively

It was an ultra-competitive L.A. Screenings for the Canuck broadcasters, with all the key players shelling out big-time for Hollywood fare.

Aggressive buying by Chum and CanWest Global largely accounted for the increased volume.

Toronto-based Chum now has a much larger appetite for series to feed its mini-network of stations in Ontario and British Columbia, and CanWest Global is buying in volume for its two webs, Global and CH.

CTV was fairly selective as it has only one network, and it is coming off a season chockfull of hits, all poised to return in the fall.

Craig Media was expected to be a more aggressive buyer as it is launching Toronto/one in the fall, but the growing Calgary-based broadcaster was not that active.

The real firefights were between the big boys CTV and Global, which continue to battle for the top series.

Scars from action

It was very competitive, said Adam Ivers, VP of programming at Global. “I can show you the battle scars,” said Ivers. “The best shows rise to the top, and prices were inflated because of the competition.”

Sitcoms have long been Global’s bread and butter, and the web snared a couple of the more prominent new offerings, including the Charlie Sheen vehicle “Two and a Half Men” (sold by Warners); NBC production “Happy Family” (sold by MGM), starring John Larroquette and Christine Baranski; and NBC’s “Coupling” (sold by Universal).

CanWest Global also picked up a number of one-hour dramas, including “Las Vegas,” with James Caan, also sold by MGM, which will air on CH; Rob Lowe series “The Lyon’s Den” (sold by Fox); and CBS’ “The Handler” (sold by Paramount), which focuses on a FBI agent who teaches agents how to be good detectives.

CanWest Global has, in addition, bought David E. Kelley’s “The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” (Fox is the distrib) and the “Out of Sight” adaptation “Karen Sisco,” licensed by Universal.

Both air at 10 p.m. Wednesday in the U.S., “Poland” on CBS and “Sisco” on ABC.

Airing gambits

Canadian nets like to air the U.S. series in the same timeslot as the Americans in order to maximize ad revenue as the Canadian webs can bump the U.S. signal here in Canada if they air simultaneously.

That’s why “Poland” and “Sisco” will both air at 10 p.m. Wednesday, one on Global and the other on CH.

The CanWest execs have yet to decide which will go on which network.

Global also snapped up the gritty USA Network six-hour drug-smuggling drama “Traffic”; Warner Bros. drama “Tarzan and Jane”; Fox’s “Miss Match,” starring Alicia Silverstone; and Fox’s edgy series “Skin,” (licensed by Warners).

CTV bought much less than CanWest Global but did nab some high-profile titles, including CBS/Warner Bros. production “Cold Case.”

The odd wrinkle is that the Canuck web already has a similar show in the Canadian-produced “Cold Squad,” which is also about reactivating investigation of old open cases.

‘Whoopi’ sells

CTV acquired the Whoopi Goldberg sitcom “Whoopi” from the only indie distrib with a primetime candidate, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach; Warner Bros.’ “The O.C.”; and sitcom “I’m With Her.”

The Bell Globemedia-owned web also bought “Joan of Arcadia,” about a teenage girl who talks to God, from Sony.

CTV programming prexy Susanne Boyce said she was not overly impressed with this year’s selection.

“This was a very flat year,” Boyce said. “We were fortunate not to have to buy much because it was a weak year.”

Chum acquired more series this year, mostly for its mini-network of five New VR stations in Ontario and the New VI in Victoria, British Columbia.

Chum’s buys were, as usual, mostly dramas. It picked up “Everwood” (which aired this past year on CTV), Warner Bros.’ “Fearless,” Paramount’s UPN series “Jake 2.0″ and “10-8.”

Chum also snapped up the Monday and Thursday editions of ABC’s newsmag “PrimeTime.”

Reality works

Chum-owned City-TV, now in both Toronto and Vancouver, has scored big recently with reality, and its top reality series are returning, including “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” sold by Warners, and “Temptation Island” and “Joe Millionaire,” licensed by Fox.

Chum also renewed Warners’ “Smallville” and Paramount’s “Enterprise.”

The smaller webs are producing higher quality fare, which is good news for Chum, since that’s where it does much of its shopping, said Ellen Baine, the newly appointed VP of programming at Chum TV.

“UPN and WB are doing better shows every year, and that works really well for us,” Baine said.

In other Screenings news, several major studio distributors told Daily Variety over the weekend that they were “real close” to doing deals for one or another series, but so far had nothing to announce.

Although foreign buyers seemed relatively pleased with the fall primetime series on offer, the chief buyer for Italy’s commercial broadcaster Mediaset, Gabriella Ballabio, wondered aloud how the disproportionate number of series and movies that Warners and Fox now represent would affect future volume deals with all the Hollywood players.

Uneven spread

“Warners and Fox are responsible for 60% of the pilots. The product, whether series or feature films, are unevenly spread around now, so that you don’t get a mix of movies and series for each of the studios you may have a long-term deal with,” Ballabio said.

Finally, among indie distribs who set up shop at the Park Hyatt and Century City Hotels during last week’s screening marathon, business was relatively sluggish, especially since so few Latins had money to spend.

However, Pedro Leda, whose Leda Films reps a number of Hollywood distribs south of the border, closed deals for Steven Spielberg’s cable series “Taken” in Latin America with Mexico’s Televisa, Argentina’s Telefe and Fox’s regional satellite-delivered Latin American entertainment channel.

(Elizabeth Guider and Eileen Tasca contributed to this report.)

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