Canadian upstart goes Hollywood

CTV competing with 16 hours of U.S. fare

MONTREAL — In recent years, the competition in the Canuck broadcast biz has essentially been a two-way battle, with ratings leader CTV duking it out with Global.

Now a small but feisty third player is poised to shake up the TV scene this fall.

The five Citytv stations are going up against CTV, owned by CTVglobemedia, and Global, owned by CanWest, sporting more than 16 hours of U.S. fare that will air in simulcast with the American networks.

The simulcast is what every local network wants. It allows them to put their feed on the U.S. channel in Canada, meaning the Canuck web runs its ads on two channels simultaneously.

Citytv’s more aggressive approach comes courtesy of Rogers Media, the country’s top cable operator, which acquired the stations in Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary from CTVglobemedia in 2007.

Rogers is dropping Citytv’s old movie-driven sked in favor of a model focused on high-profile Hollywood series, like CTV and Global.

“We didn’t see a huge upside to being a movie channel,” says Malcolm Dunlop, exec VP of programming at Rogers Media Television. “We think we can be competitive, and we’re shooting for Global and CTV.”

New U.S. shows snared by Citytv include CBS’ “Accidentally on Purpose” and “How I Met Your Mother,” NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and “Community” and ABC’s “Cougar Town.” Citytv also bought “The Jay Leno Show,” which will run nightly at 10, the same time as on NBC.

Many in the local production community are unhappy about Citytv’s shift in direction because, say producers and writers, the mini-network is neglecting its previous role supporting Canuck films.

Citytv is not likely to catch No. 1 network CTV, and most feel it has its sights more set on giving Global a serious run.

It managed to snap up some of the American shows because Global’s cash-strapped parent CanWest did not buy them for its secondary web, E! Network, which is on the block.

“That offered an opportunity for Citytv to get in the game,” says Barbara Williams, exec VP of content at CanWest Broadcasting. “Basically, they picked up E!’s leftovers.”

She’s not worried about “Leno” playing on Citytv. Global plans to counterprogram with younger-and femme-skewing shows in that timeslot, including “Brothers and Sisters,” “The Good Wife” and “Melrose Place.”

Williams and her colleagues bought a hefty slate of U.S. fare for Global, including “The Good Wife,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Glee” and “The Cleveland Show.”

Beleaguered CanWest bought a little less this spring, in part because it has more returning hits than last year, including “House,” “NCIS” and “Bones.”

One of the surprising developments this fall is the small number of new U.S. shows on CTV.

It bought only two new American series, and one, “The Dr. Oz Show,” will air at 5 p.m. weekdays. The other acquisition was “The Vampire Diaries,” which will run Thursday nights.

“We don’t need much,” says Susanne Boyce, president of content at CTV. “The shows that are dominant are the tried-and-true shows. So it’s not about buying new; it’s about buying smart.”

CTV tops the ratings thanks to shows including “The Mentalist,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and the “CSI” shows.

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