Canadians seek hits, then run

CanWest, CTV jump buying gun before previews end

Canadian broadcasters capped off their Los Angeles Screenings on Wednesday by pulling out their wallets in a bid for potential 2007-08 primetime hits.

As in past years, industry leaders CanWest MediaWorks and CTV made the lion's share of Canadian purchases. But breaking with tradition, the rivals didn't wait until the U.S. pilot previews wrapped Wednesday afternoon before they began horse-trading with U.S. program suppliers.

Instead, CanWest and CTV jumped the gun and did volume buying late Tuesday before flying home Wednesday to begin selling their new American fare to domestic advertisers.

The Canadians also bought along studio lines: CanWest picked up product from CBS Paramount International TV, Sony Pictures Television International and 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, while rival CTV did its volume purchasing with Warner Bros. International TV and Disney/ABC International Television.

CanWest, which operates two parallel national networks in Canada — Global Television and E! — boasted 13 new dramas among the 15 new U.S. shows it picked up this week.

These included CBS Paramount's Jimmy Smits starrer "Cane" for Tuesdays; CW's "Life Is Wild," a family show shot in South Africa; and CBS' 1970s-set wife-swapping drama "Swingtown," which stars Canadian actress Molly Parker.

The Canadian broadcaster also picked up three dramas from Sony Pictures: ABC's "Cashmere Mafia," CBS' "Viva Laughlin" and Fox's "Canterbury Tales," which stars Julianna Margulies.

20th Century Fox TV provided CanWest with four dramas: NBC's "Journeyman" for Mondays, Fox's "New Amsterdam" and "K-Ville" as well as ABC's female crime-solving series "Women's Murder Club."

Having wrapped the bulk of its buying late Tuesday, CanWest also added NBC Universal's "Bionic Woman" at 9 p.m. Wednesdays and "Life" at 10 p.m. They'll follow NBC's "Deal or No Deal," which CanWest MediaWorks simulcasts at 8 p.m.

Also landing in the CanWest MediaWorks camp is USA Network's "In Plain Sight," starring Mary McCormack.

In addition to the dramas, CanWest picked up one comedy, the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton-starring sitcom "Back to You," from 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, and CBS Paramount's "Kid Nation," a reality series about 40 kids who live in a 19th century ghost town sans adult supervision.

Barb Williams, senior vp programming and production at CanWest, said the latest additions to her network schedule will complement seven returning sophomore series, including NBC's "Heroes," CBS' "Shark" and ABC's "Brothers & Sisters."

"We've got a strong list of new shows. We bought buzz shows, genres, female-skewing shows — the pieces we need to fill in our schedule," Williams said.

Rival CTV, the other big spender among the Canadians at the annual TV bazaar, chose not to announce their own slate of acquisitions in Los Angeles. CTV instead will unveil its new U.S. series at its upfront presentation in early June in Toronto.

But it emerged that CTV bought the NBC drama "Lipstick Jungle," based on the Candace Bushnell novel, from NBC Universal.

CTV also bought a slew of Disney-ABC International Television product, including ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice," for Wednesdays; "Dirty Sexy Money," also from ABC; and CW network's "Reaper."

CTV also picked up the ABC sitcom "Sam I Am," starring Christina Applegate, and FX's "Dirt."

Canada's top-rated network also is understood to have bought virtually all of the Warner Bros. International TV slate, including NBC's "Chuck," for Tuesdays and CBS' "Moonlight," a drama about private investigators that also are vampires.

Additionally, CTV picked up Warner Bros.' "Without a Trace" and "Two and a Half Men," both of whose rights previously were with CanWest.

Other Canadian buyers included Chum Ltd., which mostly did renewals in Los Angeles as it is being taken over this year by rival CTV.

Chum, which had to fill the hole left by the cancellation of CBS' "Jericho," was eyeing ABC's "Pushing Daisies" from Warner Bros. as a possible replacement.

Elsewhere, Toronto TV station SunTV bought CW's "Aliens in America" from CBS Paramount and NBC's "Dateline" for Saturday nights, while renewing "48 Hours Mystery," "60 Minutes," "Girlfriends" and "The Game."

SunTV GM Don Gaudet said this year's crop of new U.S. series reflects a lighter viewing touch compared to the more edgy serialized dramas bought by the Canadians last year.

"There's not as much heavy drama this year. And the ones that are heavy are more soapish rather (than) crime dramas and 'CSI' copycats," Gaudet said.

With their new U.S. shows in hand, the Canadians began flying home Wednesday to unveil and sell their 2007-08 primetime schedule to domestic advertisers during upfront presentations in early June.

Their haste in doing deals with U.S. program suppliers in Los Angeles is because of a tradition of simulcasting U.S. series in the same time slots they hold south of the border and then replacing U.S. commercials with Canadian ones to drive ratings and advertising revenue.
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