Canucks busy at L.A. Screenings

Buyers stick with studio lines via output deals

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcasters finally got around to deal-making at the Los Angeles Screenings Thursday night.

As expected, the Canucks mostly bought along studio lines via output deals, with Canwest Global Communications drawing from the well at CBS Studios International TV, Sony Pictures Television and 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, while CTV volume buys from Warner Bros. International TV and Disney/ABC International Television to fill its primetime holes.

With smaller indie Canadian players still due to screen new pilots on studio lots Friday, the Canucks will still be mopping up leftover product even as market toppers CTV, Canwest Global and Rogers Media fly back to Toronto to prep for upfront presentations in early June.

It hasn't been an easy shopping expedition for the Canadians. They're used to getting smacked around by last minutes schedule changes and cancellations by the U.S. networks.

But their annual TV bazaar went topsy-turvy this week when CBS announced it will shift "Survivor" to Wednesdays and its "CSI" spinoffs to Friday and Sunday just as deals were done for returning U.S. shows.

Mirroring stateside TV, Canada's biggest battleground for primetime audiences and ad dollars is Thursday nights.

And Canwest Global saw its marquee "Survivor" franchise on Thursdays shift to Wednesday, where it already has Fox's "Lie to Me" at 8 p.m.

The new competition here is NBC's Undercovers" which CTV will snag through its output deal with Warner Bros. Television. This after CTV successfully took a flyer on J.J. Abrams' "Fringe" two years ago.

And CTV had "The Big Bang Theory" performing on Monday nights against Fox's "House" on Global Television, until CBS shifted its top-rated half-hour to Thursdays at 8 p.m. to jumpstart a comedy presence.

That complicates life for CTV as the Canuck network has long aired CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" an hour earlier, at 8 p.m., to make way for a simulcast of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" at 9 p.m. on its main network.

CTV, which can shift excess inventory to its secondary A Channel network, will also get a first crack at CBS' "$#*! My Dad Says" at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through its supply deal with Warner Bros. Television.

That's fine, except it's returning U.S. series that do the big numbers for Canuck broadcasters as Canadian TV viewers increasingly shun rookie U.S. network series for popular American cable fare like Showtime's "The Borgias," which CTV picked up, and the U.S. History channel's "The Kennedys," which Canwest Global snagged.

Top-rated CTV has done its best numbers with simulcasts of ABC series like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" and its "CSI" and "Law and Order" franchises.

Canwest's Global Television networks, meanwhile, has fared best with Fox's "House" and CBS' "Survivor" franchise, with rare rookie hits like Fox's "Glee" to show domestic advertisers.

Just how important are those U.S. primetime perennials? CTV is giving unprecedented pre- and post-coverage to the finale of ABC's "Lost," to include a recap special, "Lost: The End" at 9 p.m. to be followed at 11:30 p.m. by a local panel discussion on the "Lost" franchise.

Going into Thursday's buying session, Canwest Global was expected to pick up the Steven Spielberg series "Terra Nova," along with "Lonestar" and "Ride-Along" as part of a package from Twentieth Century Fox.

Also roiling the Canadians this week is ABC's new comedy block on Thursdays heating up competition for Rogers Media's Citytv stations, which air NBC's comedy block on the same night.

CTV is also contending with its popular "CSI" spinoffs moved by CBS, with "CSI: Miami" shifting from Mondays to Sundays at 10 p.m., following the reality series "Undercover Boss" that CTV already owns. And "CSI: NY" goes to Fridays at 9 p.m., where it will provide a lead-in to a Canadian crime drama traditionally at 10 p.m.

A must-get for CTV should be the Michael Chiklis-starrer "No Ordinary Family," which could come from ABC Studios along with "Off the Map," "Body of Proof" and "My Generation."

The Canadians went down to Los Angeles committed to buying fewer series at lower prices in hard times, and avoiding, when possible, bidding wars.

But a changed primetime TV landscape in Canada brought on by the increasing influence of deep-pocketed cable giants could temper discipline tonight.

Rogers Media, which is backed by mobile and cable giant Rogers Communications, continues to up its game, programming its Citytv and Omni-branded TV stations.

This comes as Canwest Global is the subject of a $2 billion takeover bid by rival Canadian cable giant Shaw Communications.

That deal awaits a series of approvals before Canwest Global can successfully emerge from court-directed creditor protection with a stronger balance sheet.

Once it does, Shaw will be eyeing the new and returning U.S. series Canwest Global picked up Thursday to drive its expanding VOD service.

Shaw already distributes Global Television to its cable subscribers, but had to negotiate side-deals for VOD and other digital rights.

Now it hopes for better leverage with Hollywood suppliers as Canwest Global negotiates for broadcast, VOD and streaming rights to new and returning U.S. shows.

Another wild card this year is how much product CTV, Canwest Global and Rogers Media leave on the table late Thursday for smaller rivals like Sun TV, Hamilton-based CHCH and other indie players to pick up.
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