Hockey reality show crowns CBC sked

Pubcaster plans high impact TV, counter-programming

TORONTO — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. unveiled a fall schedule in Toronto on Thursday strong on new and returning homegrown fare, a smattering of blockbuster movies, vet British soap “Coronation Street” in primetime and a uniquely Canadian take on reality television.

Pubcaster viewers can look for “Coronation Street,” which has been a Sunday staple for close to 30 years, in primetime all week and heavy promotion of firstrun pics “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

While the high profile positioning of foreign buys may seem at odds with CBC’s cultural mandate, Slawko Klymkiw, executive director of network programming, intends to use it to draw audiences to its own fare and get them hooked on the brand.

“The way we’re going to break through the clutter and compete is, one, through high impact TV to drive both huge value and audience to our big projects,” Klymkiw told Daily Variety, “and that will drive to our regular series, and two, we counter-schedule, and we have for years.”

The year is divided into six seasons: summer, early fall, late fall, Christmas, winter and hockey playoffs. “We have to, because we’re competing against such a wave of American programming, and the reality revolution,” he added.

There are just two reality series. “Making the Cut” is a hockey reality series following six NHL hopefuls, and “The Greatest Canadian” is an “American Idol”-style search for the most admired citizen, past or present, in the Great White North.

New programming includes miniseries such as the prequel to “Trudeau,” about former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau; the British/Canuck co-production “Sex Traffic”; political thriller “H2O”; and TV movies on Canuck diva Shania Twain.

Returning fare includes “DaVinci’s Inquest” and “This Hour Has 22 Minutes.”

The CBC must retain a distinctive identity and public support to stay funded. A federal election campaign is under way, with the parties on the left calling for more coin for the CBC and parties on the right asking whether Canadians are getting their money’s worth. Nine out of 10 Canadians believe the CBC is “an essential service,” brass at the pubcaster pointed out.