Rivals forced to fill primetime with reruns

MONTREAL Canuck pubcaster CBC has overtaken commercial rival Global to become the No. 2-rated web north of the border for the first time since 1995 — and it has the Writers Guild of America strike to thank for its success.

The U.S. screenwriters’ labor dust-up forced Global to fill many primetime slots with reruns because it relies heavily on American network fare, while CBC aired original, homemade shows.

In the Oct. 1 to April 6 period, CBC scored an average primetime market share of 7.8, topping Global’s 7.4 share.

“We’re No. 2 and we try harder,” jokes CBC executive director of network programming Kirstine Layfield. “Just the fact that more people are watching Canadian shows can only be good.”

She hopes auds will stay with the local shows now that the Stateside skeins are returning.

“I think some people have changed their minds about Canadian shows,” she adds. “We’re telling stories that Canadians can’t see anywhere else, stories that are closely related to their daily lives.”

CBC’s top shows this season were the comedy series “The Rick Mercer Report” and “Little Mosque on the Prairie”; new drama about a cross-border security unit, “The Border”; and the reality show “The Week the Women Went.”

Layfield admits the Writers Guild strike helped CBC, but underlines that the other Canuck networks didn’t just roll over and leave the field to CBC. The pubcaster still had to compete with hit reality juggernaut “American Idol” on CTV and “Survivor” on Global.

A spokesperson for Global took issue with the dates CBC chose to look at in its ratings snapshot, noting that time frame comes after Global’s big September premieres and ends before the return of new episodes of American hits.

Even with the strike, commercial rival CTV — which also builds its sked around American fare — remained far and away the ratings leader this season in Canada, as usual. 

CTV prospered in spite of the strike because it had a bunch of strong series on the shelf ready to use, including “Oprah’s Big Give.” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Dexter,” “Eli Stone” and “Jericho.”

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