Canuck webs battle for sked bread

Global Television still trailing CTV in ratings

TORONTO –The pressure’s on in what is essentially a two-horse race as Canuck media giant CanWest MediaWorks, in catch-up mode on several fronts, unveils its fall schedules for webs Global Television and newly rebranded E! on Wednesday.

CanWest’s Global Television remains a distinct second to ratings rival CTV, a division of CTVglobemedia. CTV airs 16 of the top 20 shows, including the “CSI” trio, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost” and “American Idol.”

CTV made much of its king-of-the-castle status in its own upfront presentation Monday, in which it announced the addition of six dramas and one comedy to its fall schedule.

CTV has announced plans to acquire Toronto-based Chum for C$1.7 billion ($1.6 billion), which, like CanWest, would give the web two terrestrial networks on which to schedule its fare. Until Canada’s broadcast regulator announces its decision on the move, however, CTV and Chum remain separate entities. Younger-skewing Chum recently announced its own more modest line-up for its terrestrial and cable channels, with pickups that include comic spy thriller “Chuck,” dramatic comedy “Reaper” and reality series “South Side Story.”

Adding to the headaches for CanWest MediaWorks, industryites attending the Global and E! upfront will have to step around placard-waving Canadian thesps like Wendy Crewson who, with their union ACTRA, are planning to protest the amount of U.S. fare the private broadcasters are allowed to buy while purportedly hanging Canadian drama out to dry. The union also handed out leaflets at the CTV event.

But CanWest doesn’t scare easily. The web has made aggressive buys in L.A. in recent years, with this year’s pickups including the Kelsey Grammer sitcom “Back to You,” drama “Cane,” NBC Universal’s “Bionic Woman,” “Cashmere Mafia,” “Viva Laughlin,” and legal drama “Canterbury’s Law.”

The web has gained some ground in key demographics with fare such as “House” and more recently “Heroes,” and “Brothers & Sisters” and has this year invested more heavily in indigenous programming with the likes of “Painkiller Jane” and “Da Kink in My Hair.”

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