Merger hovers over Canadians
MONTREAL — There are big changes on the way in Canuck TV, but these seismic shifts appear to be making little impact on the upcoming fall season.
The big shake-up on the horizon — CTV Globemedia’s takeover of rival broadcaster Chum — has yet to receive approval from Canadian watchdog the CRTC, with the regulator expected to rule on the acquisition at the end of the summer. So for the moment, both CTV and Chum continue to act independently of each other and both bought separately at the recent L.A. Screenings.
CTV is hoping to maintain its top position with such franchises as “CSI” and “Law & Order,” while Chum’s fall schedule has a few edgier offerings, including a number of new U.S. series, notably NBC’s comic spy thriller “Chuck,” the CW Network dramatic comedy “Reaper” and the sci-fi series “Kyle XY.”
Chum tends to pick up fare that appeals to its target audience of young, hip viewers, says Ellen Baine, veepee of programming at Chum Television. That’s why she liked both “Chuck” and “Reaper.”
“They’re both about geeks or nerds who become heroes,” Baine says. “So they resonate with our audience.”
Meanwhile, the other players in the Canadian TV landscape, CanWest Global and pubcaster CBC, are also making their primetime plans for fall, with CanWest eyeing a slew of new U.S. dramas and pubcaster CBC betting it can build on the phenomenal success of its hit sitcom about Muslims in small-town Saskatchewan.
CBC has an ambitious lineup that features nine new series, including Showtime skein “The Tudors” from Canuck shingle Peace Arch; the Phil Keoghan-produced reality series “No Opportunity Wasted”; and talent-search show “Triple Sensation.”
But the CBC’s highest hopes are riding on the second season of “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” In her first year on the job as CBC head of programming, Kirstine Layfield rushed the light sitcom about the trials and tribulations of Muslims in a tiny prairie town onto the CBC schedule in January, and the move was a masterstroke: It quickly became the pubcaster’s biggest hit in years.
Layfield says the biggest change at CBC next season is the move away from movies and miniseries — which had been the staple of the CBC sked for years — toward a focus more on long-running series. Layfield notes that the network has unveiled its fall schedule only, and that it will be announcing a separate winter schedule in November, which will include seven more series.
There will be more dramas than usual on Global and E! (formerly CH), the two networks run by CanWest Global. In the past, CanWest Global has relied heavily on sitcoms, but it acquired only one new U.S. sitcom this year. That was one of the most touted new shows however — the Kelsey Grammer laffer “Back to You.” Most industry-watchers say CanWest Global has fewer sitcoms on the sked in large part because there were far fewer comedies on sale at this year’s L.A. Screenings.
CTV has reportedly picked up both “Big Shots” and the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice,” but the web was being unusually tightlipped about its new American acquisitions. CTV and CanWest Global will unveil their fall schedules thisweek.