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U.S. imports hold sway, but a two-way street emerges

TORONTO — American imports have long dominated Canadian TV broadcasts, but the success of recent homegrown product shows that efforts to produce more local content are growing — albeit slowly.

CTV, along with its GlobeMedia specialty nets, continues to dominate the ratings — with the web claiming 18 of the 20 top-rated programs. This year the nation’s largest private broadcaster also expanded the reach of its secondary network, A Channel, into the Atlantic and Alberta markets.

Global TV is a distant second overall, but manages to crash the top five with pickups of “House” and “Survivor.”

While import “American Idol” was the year’s top-rated show, Canadian versions of popular reality skeins, such as “Canadian Idol,” “Canada’s Next Top Model” and “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” also have done well.

CTV is preparing to say goodbye to its top-rated original comedy “Corner Gas,” which enters its sixth and final season this fall. Suzanne Boyce, prexy of creative, content and channels, says the net is developing a new series from “Gas” creator and star Brent Butt.

“We’re doing fewer shows but putting more money into them and looking to hook up with more international partners,” Boyce says. “The success of the CBS experiment has been great.”

That experiment, partly born of the writers strike, which created a Stateside demand for content with North American accents, led to the exporting of “Flashpoint,” Canada’s top-rated original drama series. It has done well enough for CBS to be picked up for a second season. CTV also is collaborating with NBC on “The Listener,” now in production.

Up and coming webs up north include the Fight Network, a channel devoted to mixed martial arts, boxing and wrestling that plans to expand into the United States.

HD has been slower to make inroads in Canada. The government has set August 2011 as the date for the kind of complete switchover to digital that the U.S. will see in February 2009. So far, HD broadcasts remain limited to major cities and specialty cable channels, with cable and satellite carriers offering far fewer HD nets than are available in the U.S.

On the Web, CTV again dominates, offering seven online channels featuring streams of more than 200 series, including American series. (Access to U.S sites that stream current TV shows is blocked from Canadian Internet connections.) Deployment of American and Canadian programs on services like iTunes remains limited.

Top 3

“American Idol” (CTV)

“Grey’s Anatomy” (CTV)

“House” (Global)

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