MONTREAL Canuck pubcaster CBC’s strategy of preeming top series in January rather than in the fall appears to be paying off, with good ratings for its ambitious slate of new homegrown series.
The Canadian network’s market share has increased to 8.1, up from 7.5 last January, and several of the new offerings are among the top-rated Canadian TV shows. Unlike PBS, CBC is publicly funded but also sells advertising.
“We’re having a really good January and it’s going into February,” says Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming at CBC. “So it’s not just the fluke of a premiere. This is sustaining.”
CBC had expected to benefit from the Writers Guild of America strike, which has resulted in fewer new episodes of hit shows on the American networks –all available in Canada — and on local commercial webs CTV and Global, which rely heavily on Hollywood series in primetime. But the American screenwriters’ strike hasn’t had as much of a positive impact as execs had expected, Layfield says.
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“People thought we’d have less competition, but it’s not a walk in the park,” she says. “The other networks haven’t rolled over and gone to bed. They still have strong new American programming on their schedules because the networks came up with reality shows much more quickly than they usually do. ‘American Idol’ is two nights of primetime every week and that’s a pretty big juggernaut.”
But CBC is even holding its ground against ‘Idol.’ The cross-cultural sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie” garnered 910,000 viewers and new sitcom “Sophie” pulled in 630,000 viewers Jan. 16, both going head to head against “Idol,” which airs on CTV here.
CBC has taken much flak for its decision to move into reality programming, or “factual programming” as its execs call it. Its new reality show, “The Week the Women Went,” based on the British series, had a boffo debut Jan. 2, pulling in 770,000 viewers. The show looks at what happens in Hardisty, Alberta, when nearly all the women leave for a week.
The other strong new performer is “The Border,” a “24”-like thriller series about a border customs and security squad in Toronto. Its ratings have hovered between 600,000 and 700,000 viewers over its first three weeks on air. These are stellar numbers given that Canuck dramas usually garner 200,000 to 300,000 viewers.
But a couple of the upstart CBC projects aren’t doing nearly as well. “JPod,” a quirky series based on Canadian author Douglas Coupland’s novel, has under-performed, starting at 472,000 and dipping way down to 250,000 for its second installment last week.
Also “MVP,” the much-talked-about sexy drama about hockey wives, girlfriends and groupies, only garnered 350,000 viewers, which has CBC execs worried.
The ratings for Canadian shows still fall way below the numbers for American imports like “CSI” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” which routinely pull in over 2 million viewers.