On-ice action heats up pubcaster ratings

MONTREAL — Ratings are up bigtime for Canuck pubcaster CBC, which is having its best fall season in five years.

The Toronto-based network’s market share so far this fall is 9.3, up from 7.9 last year.

Speaking just after Tuesday’s launch in Toronto for the winter schedule, CBC-TV general manager Kirstine Stewart said, “We had more consistently higher-rated shows. Now we have a 1 million-plus club with ‘Heartland,’ ‘Rick Mercer Report’ and ‘Battle of the Blades.’ When you have more consistency with more shows across the network, it lifts everything up.”

On-ice action was one of the hot draws. Reality contest “Battle of the Blades” has been a big hit in its first season, averaging just under 2 million viewers.

The show pairs star figure skaters with brawny ex-National Hockey League players in a figure-skating competition, and it quickly became a water-cooler hit.

“People who don’t watch figure skating or hockey watched the show,” said Stewart.

CBC’s flagship Saturday NHL broadcast, “Hockey Night in Canada,” also lifted its numbers significantly, soaring from around 1.2 million viewers last fall to about 2 million this fall.

Business-themed reality show “Dragon’s Den” was also a success, pulling in an average aud of 1.8 million.

There is more hockey-themed fare on the way this winter, most notably “Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story,” a two-part biopic about the early life of the former Boston Bruins coach who is now “Hockey Night in Canada’s” star commentator.

There is also “Death Comes to Town,” an eight-part series from the reunited Kids in the Hall. Skein is a comic gender-bending murder mystery featuring the comedy troupe that first came to prominence on CBC in 1988.

Other new series include Montreal-shot “18 to Life,” a “Juno”-like sitcom about two 18-year-olds who marry on a dare, and “Republic of Doyle,” a Newfoundland-set series about father-and-son detectives.

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