Canuck broadcasters add episodes for ratings

7:41 AM PST 03/19/2010 by Etan Vlessing, AP

More shows for new seasons of established properties

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcasters have hit on a new local strategy to boost ratings by commissioning more episodes for new seasons of established properties.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. went from 10 episodes to 20 for the fifth cycle of "Dragon's Den," the local version of the original British venture capital reality series, and secured an impressive 1.96 million viewers for a special season finale Thursday night.

As it prepares for a fifth cycle, the fourth season of "Dragon's Den" posted a record season average of 1.75 million viewers for the public broadcaster.

Kirstine Stewart, general manager of programming at the CBC, said Canada's "Dragon's Den" has doubled its audience each year since it bowed in October 2006 with eight episodes, a trend that suggested the risk from going to 20 episodes was low.

The latest season also faced competition from ABC's "Shark Tank," which featured two Canadian "Dragon's Den" judges, Kevin Leary and Robert Herjavec, recast by producer Mark Burnett as sharks.

"It's a show that sustains its audience and doesn't wear out like some shows can when networks try to push too much of a good thing," Stewart argued.

Elsewhere, the long-running Canadian teen drama "Degrassi" is morphing from a weekly drama into a primetime daily soap as its upcoming tenth season goes from 23 to 48 half-hour episodes.

Giving "Degrassi" more air-time in a telenovela format comes as the high school-set series bows in the U.S. this summer on TeenNick, Nickeldeon's teen channel, and migrates in Canada from the main CTV conventional network to cable channel MuchMusic.

"This series reflects the essence of MuchMusic's millennial audience, who want to see themselves in the programming they watch -- real, relevant and diverse," Brad Schwartz, senior vp and general manager of Much MTV Group, said of the latest installment of the "Degrassi" franchise, first conceived 30 years ago.

The tenth season for "Degrassi: The Next Generation" will bow with the TV movie "Degrassi Takes Manhattan."
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