MONTREAL — The Canuck broadcast scene is suffering from a bad case of split-personality.
On one hand, the main conventional webs continue to generate decent ratings but the networks’ parents companies are being battered by the horrific economic times. The result is fastidious belt-tightening at CTVglobemedia, CanWest Global, Rogers and pubcaster CBC, all of which are facing declining advertising revenues.
But eyeing the top 20 ratings, it looks like business-as-usual. In one recent week, CTV — which has led the pack for the past few years — notched 14 of the top 20 most popular shows in the country, while rival Global nabbed five of the top spots. As usual, CBC’s only top 20 contender was “Hockey Night in Canada,” its flagship Saturday night National Hockey League broadcast.
Susanne Boyce, president of content at CTV, says it’s tough for everyone in the TV biz when the economy is contracting as it is now.
“It’s disheartening and no one’s fault,” says Boyce. “It’s like being on a sailboat in the ocean and there’s no wind. There’s not much you can do about it. Ratings are way up but you can’t monetize.”
The hot shows on CTV include perennial chart-toppers “Grey’s Anatomy,” “American Idol,” “CSI” and “Criminal Minds,” plus breakout hits “Fringe” and “The Mentalist.” The top homegrown performers for CTV are cross-border hit “Flashpoint,” “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” and gentle prairie laffer “Corner Gas,” which is in its last season on the Canadian network.
Global does well with “House,” “Bones” and the ever-resilient “Survivor.” Its leading Canuck contender is the Howie Mandel reality skein “Howie Do It” (which also airs south of the border).
There is some talk in the industry here that these tough times will lead to a deflation in prices that the networks pay for Hollywood fare. However, Barbara Williams, exec VP of content at CanWest Broadcasting, says it’s too early to tell how the economy will impact business at the upcoming May Screenings.
Williams says she’s not sure how the bad times will affect the genres of series aired across Canada, “but I think there is a view that people are looking for things that are lighthearted.”