CBC staggers sked to rock rivals

Pubcaster tries to build 'momentum'

TORONTO — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will kick off a so-called five-season broadcasting year in a strategy that execs are counting on to give it an edge over the competition.

At Thursday’s press conference in Toronto, pubcaster brass described the five genre-based seasons that will anchor the year to follow: event television, comedy and drama series, holiday programming, news series and specials, and hockey playoffs.

CBC exec director of network programming Slawko Klymkiw said each of the seasons will have a better chance when the huge wave of the fall kickoff of the other webs has passed.

So rather than launching everything in September (or January), the CBC is staggering its schedule, starting with a blitz of special programming in September and October, such as two-part miniseries “Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion,” chronicling a 1917 disaster that killed more than 2,000.

In November, the comedy, drama and the current-affair season will kick off. Most returning shows, such as “Royal Canadian Air Farce” and “On the Road Again,” will mount one-hour specials.

New shows include “Ciao Bella,” a “Big Fat Greek Wedding” multicultural-style sitcom set in Montreal’s Italo community. Another round of new skeins, including “The Rick Mercer Show,” will hit the airwaves after Christmas.

Keeping the ball rolling

It’s all about “momentum, momentum, momentum,” Klymkiw said.

With three national networks, several mini-nets and dozens of digital and pay-per-view channels (never mind the U.S. fare that flows north), competish for TV auds in Canada is ultracompetitive. “We’ve got to stay flexible and ahead of the curve,” said Klymkiw.

He said the scheme grew out of lessons the pubcaster learned the hard way last year, when it kicked off a lackluster schedule with a 50th anniversary tribute that tanked.