Canada: Chum changes strategy

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

MONTREAL — This is shaping up as a year of ferocious competition in the Canuck broadcast biz.

For the past couple of years, Bell Globemedia-owned CTV has dominated the ratings thanks to its ownership of U.S. franchises such as “CSI,” “Law & Order” and “American Idol.” Last season, CTV aired 16 of the 20 top-rated shows in Canada.

But rival broadcasters CanWest Global and Chum are not taking this CTV romp lying down. Both nets made it clear at May’s L.A. Screenings that they would be buying more aggressively in a bid to take a bite out of CTV’s popularity.

In the past, Chum has been happy to remain more of a niche player, catering to younger, hipper auds. This year was the first season it vied directly with CTV and CanWest for the A-list series.

CanWest also has an enormous amount riding on the results of this season. The Winnipeg-based broadcaster is upbeat that it can bounce back after a rough couple of years caused by the loss of key skeins such as “Frasier” and “Friends.”

CanWest, which runs the Global web and the CH weblet, has a slew of new high-profile U.S. series on the way this season, notably “Prison Break,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Threshold,” “Fathom” and “Bones.”

Chum’s top new U.S. series include Chris Rock comedy “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Supernatural,” “Hot Properties” and “Just Legal.”

CTV is not resting on its laurels, however. Though its sked is already chock-full of hits, the web picked up some of the year’s most-buzzed-about new shows including “Close to Home” and “Commander-in-Chief.”

Programming topper Susanne Boyce says the more vigorous competition among the main Canuck players is healthy for the country’s TV scene.

“I think it’s fantastic,” explains Boyce. “Competition is always good for the industry but we’re all different broadcasters. Everyone has their own personality and so you just try to focus on your own viewers. Maybe there are new viewers out there for everybody.”

The Canadian networks don’t do much buying in the fall since they’ve already done most of their shopping for the season at the L.A. Screenings, and Mipcom is not a big buying market for the Canuck nets. The only Canadians acquiring product at Mipcom will be the specialty networks.

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