Citytv scrambles to fill slot as NBC's experiment ends

MONTREAL — For Canada’s Citytv, the worst part of the Jay Leno-NBC drama is that “The Jay Leno Show” was garnering good auds for the broadcaster, in sharp contrast to the ratings situation south of the Canadian border.

“We were actually quite happy with the performance of ‘Jay Leno,’ ” says Malcolm Dunlop, executive VP of programming at Rogers Media, the Canuck broadcaster that owns the Citytv channels. “It met our expectations in terms of ratings. So we were quite disappointed. It did well as a lead-in to our newscasts.”

Rogers Media had snapped up Canadian rights to the 10 p.m. NBC show last year to anchor its Monday-to-Friday primetime schedule on its five Citytv channels, which operate in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Like its U.S. counterparts, Citytv had to scramble fast to find fare to fill the suddenly vacated 10 p.m. slot. On Jan. 18, the mini-network announced that it had found replacements for Leno, with “Chuck” airing Mondays, “Parenthood” Tuesdays, “Ugly Betty” Wednesdays, two episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” Thursdays and award-winning Canadian drama “Murdoch Mysteries” Fridays. This new schedule will kick into effect March 1, following the Olympics.

The loss of “Leno” was not the only bad news for Citytv recently. On Jan. 19, Citytv announced it was restructuring its news ops, cutting several news shows and laying off about 60 staffers. The cutbacks are only the latest example of the financial crunch facing conventional broadcasters in Canada.

And what does Dunlop think of the huge Leno-Conan O’Brien kerfuffle in the U.S.? He has a one-word take on all the machinations: “Bizarre.”

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