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Territory Reports: Canada

Canuck buyers get a case of the spends

TORONTO — Canada remains the biggest customer at the L.A. Screenings, last year spending a record C$688 million ($621 million), with CanWest MediaWorks and CTVglobemedia continuing to dominate the buys.

Both congloms have major changes in store. Those on CanWest MediaWorks’ plate include the acquisition of Alliance Atlantis Communications and the rebranding of its CH network to E! in a deal inked in late April. However, senior VP of programming and production Barbara Williams says that neither will affect her buys at this time.

The $2.07 billion Alliance Atlantis acquisition, mostly funded by investment partner Goldman Sachs, has yet to be parsed by Canada’s broadcast regulator, and the E! deal doesn’t affect the web’s L.A. programming strategy.

“We’re not looking to be replacing traditional simulcast shows with E! shows,” she says. “We’re still looking to have network shows in that time block.”

Williams believes flagship web Global is onto something. Although Global continues to trail rival CTV, Williams notes that with fare like “Survivor,” “Deal or No Deal Canada” and, most recently, “House,” it is gaining ground in the 18-49 demo.

“We’ve got stuff in every stage of the lifecycle of a show, and that’s what you’re looking for in a schedule,” she says, noting that with “Heroes,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “Shark” sticking around, there are fewer holes to fill than last year.

As to programming type, Williams says serialized drama took a real hit in the last year, with Global buys “Vanished” and “Kidnapped,” well, disappearing, so Williams predicts a resurgence in episodic drama.

Meanwhile, CTV president of programming Susanne Boyce heads to L.A. not knowing the status of CTVglobemedia’s proposed $1.26 billion purchase of Chum Ltd. CTVglobemedia’s argument at recent regulator hearings that it needs girth to compete got a chilly reception, so it appears the web may have to unload more of Chum’s terrestrial channels than it wishes.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual. Although “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The Nine” and “Smith”

didn’t survive, powerhouses like “American Idol,” “CSI” and “Law & Order” have allowed CTV to enjoy a solid ratings lead and a smaller shopping list than Global.

Boyce says she always takes a plan to market, but whether it sees daylight is another story.

“You’ve got to be prepared to throw your plan out,” she says. “You can go down looking for, say, drama, and then you find great comedy. … I respect instinct.”

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